LEBANON TWP., NJ - The holiday season is when we tend to hear all sorts of stories about magical flying reindeer.
But Sven The Reindeer took a much more practical approach, making a road trip from the Deep South to appear in ShowKids Invitational Theatre’s “Frozen Jr.”
Presentations will be held at Voorhees High School in Lebanon Township the weekends of Jan. 18-19 and 25-26.
“Most people think of flying reindeer coming from the North Pole this time of the year,” said Phillipsburg resident Kristin Gallagher, a ShowKids Invitational Theatre (SKIT) costume designer. “We brought our reindeer up from Florida in a van.”
It’s been an interesting odyssey for SKIT and Sven, whose elaborate costume will be worn by Riley Conaty during the six “Frozen Jr.” shows.
Sven’s journey to Jersey began several months ago when Krisy Nasto, one of three SKIT choreographers for the production, was perusing online sites trying to secure a top-of-the-line Sven costume.
She was encouraged when she located one available at the Maplewood Performing Arts Theatre, assuming the venue was in the Essex County town of Maplewood. However, it turned out the theatre is in Maplewood, Fla., which created several logistical hurdles.
SKIT director/producer Carolyn B. Newman was informed by the Florida company that, besides the costume rental cost of $650, the shipping fee would be almost $1,000, a prohibitive amount for the SKIT budget.
But new hope arose when Gallagher found out her sister-in-law, Diana Kelly, was driving down to Florida during the New Jersey Teachers Convention in early November to visit Gallagher’s mother in Jupiter. And it just so happened Sven was merely a few miles away.
Kelly offered to haul Sven back north in her Honda Pilot but then discovered the huge two-piece costume wouldn’t fit in the car along with her children and luggage.
But Gallagher had another idea. She and her husband, Jack, own a condominium in Clearwater, where Jack stays while spending a considerable amount of time working in Florida. She asked him for assistance in the matter and he delivered, literally.
“He really came to our rescue,” said Gallagher.
Jack, who was in Florida at the time, volunteered to rent a mini-van and met the Maplewood Theatre representative in Orlando the first weekend in December. They managed to squeeze Sven into the vehicle and the reindeer soon was on his way to Warren County.
Jack stopped in Santee, S.C. the first night of the trip and the next day he made it to Washington, D.C.
One of the Gallaghers’ daughters, Ashley, is a former SKIT cast member and now producer for an ABC-TV affiliate there, and they got together and gave Sven a tour of the nation’s capital. Among the sites they saw were the Washington Monument and White House.
The following day Jack met Kristin at Philadelphia’s Market Street Station. They transferred Sven into Kristin’s Honda Pilot and she finished the trip, bringing Sven to their home, where the reindeer was able to relax a bit and put his hooves up in the bedroom of their other daughter Katie, a University of Tampa freshman.
Kristin feels the experience in securing Sven’s appearance in “Frozen Jr.” is well worth the effort.
“The costume is so lifelike and beautifully-detailed,” she said. “It has amazing facial expressions and even the fur is gorgeous. We’re so happy we were able to make this happen, especially after it looked like it might not for a while. And, as usual, it’s a credit to SKIT for making the extra effort in giving everyone the best show possible.”
Tickets for SKIT’s “Frozen Jr.” can be obtained via the organization’s website at showkids.org.