Thoughts from the Publisher | A chat with a Disney on Ice performer
January 8, 2020
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A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend opening night of the stage musical Frozen. The opulence of the Hollywood Pantages Theatre certainly added to the experience, as did taking my friend Wendy with me.
Although I’ve never seen the movie, the reason I had high expectations of the show was because I have had the chance to see Disney on Ice several times, and many of those ice-skating extravaganzas featured some of the story-line of the animated movie Frozen in an elegant, poignant manner – including falling “snow” on the rink. I just knew the stage play would be awesome.
Although the actors with leading roles and beautiful singing voices were well-deservedly the main focuses of the show, one of my favorite characters in the musical was Sven, the reindeer. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was just a mechanical animal or if it was portrayed by an actor or two in a suit; turned out the latter was the case. Getting such a kick out of the character, I was so excited when during intermission I ran into two sisters of Collin Baja, the fellow who played Sven that night (two actors, Baja and Evan Strand, switch days for the taxing role). The gals were so excited to see their brother doing what he had rehearsed for so intensely.
About a week after I saw the show, I was contacted by the publicity department for the show and was asked if I would like to interview one of the actors. I said, “heck yes!” hence, this column’s focus. When I asked which actor/character I would be speaking with, I was told that it would be Evan Strand, the man who shared the role as Sven. I was raring to go for that interview!
To prepare for the phone interview, and to make sure I wasn’t asking Strand questions I could find answers to ahead of time, I went on the internet and Googled him. There I found a plethora of information, including his resume’ that listed ballet, martial arts (2nd degree black belt), pole vaulting and stilt walking as some of his talents–– and I discovered some great pictures of him. He’s so handsome. Yesterday morning I made the call.
Chatting with Strand was so much fun. He was very candid with me. One of the first things I asked–– him being what I call “cuter than Christmas”–– I wanted to know what he learned about himself wearing a costume and not being able to rely on facial expressions or true body language to communicate with his audience.
“I had to learn to communicate from the waist down, it was a game changer for me.”
When I inquired as to whether or not his reindeer costume was uncomfortable, he assured me that it was not, as it was constructed to be quite breathable.
Because I was so mesmerized by the set, scenery and props, I asked him what he thought of all that. He replied that he was enthralled by the background video wall. When I asked him to elaborate, he said that he was told that the wall was constructed of “75 million pixels and cost $1 million.”
Curious as to the inclusion of stilt walking as one of his talents, I teased him about it. He told me that he found a pair of stilts back stage years ago during one of his jobs and was told that he could have them. Practicing, and becoming quite adept at it, years ago he put on his stilts and patriotic costume and “crashed” the Huntington Beach 4 of July parade. He told me that at first the parade’s powers-that-be did not want him just showing up expecting to walk around during the event.
“Now they don’t seem to mind, I just show up and they let me go.”
Strand shared with me that his parents have been very supportive of him since he first began working toward a dancing/acting career. To emphasize that statement, he said, “[for] Jan. 26, my mom has put together a group of 95 people to come see the show.” I asked if they would all be wearing t-shirts bearing his likeness, he said, “don’t say that!”
I then threatened to track down his mom and give her the suggestion.
After an amazing 45-minute chat, we ended our conversation, and I thanked him for being so gracious and generous with his time. I feel blessed to have had the chance to speak with him.
To experience this positively magical theatre production:
Hollywood Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles; 8 pm Tuesdays-Fridays, 2pm and 8pm Saturdays, 1pm and 7 pm Sundays, through Feb. 2 (see website for holiday exceptions); ticket pricing $39-$239; contact information: (800) 982-2787, contact BroadwayinHollywood.com or Ticketmaster.com.