What's all this Hullabaloo?

Youth performing arts theater presents Frozen Jr.

Indian Mound Mall in Heath is subdued around 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 5. Straggling shoppers and Santa’s visitors roam the halls, preparing for 7 p.m. closing time, as heavy metal gates fall to the ground at every storefront. 

Yet, listening closely, past the faint radio and the vacuum cleaner devouring cinnamon sugar dust spilled across the carpet from Auntie Anne’s pretzels, one can hear an assortment of voices. 

Singing and laughter. 

The excited sounds flow from Hullabaloo Performing Arts Theatre, tucked inside the mall. 

Inside the 65,000-square-foot, 200-seat auditorium, Hullabaloo founder and director Christina Barth, 62, calls to the youth actors and actresses, practicing and preparing for their winter musical: Frozen Jr.

“Alright, guys, let's start with the remainder of Act 1,” she says, while the light from a spotlight pointed to the stage floats above where she stands, illuminating her hair's deep blue color.

Barth founded Hullabaloo eight years ago, fulfilling a “lifelong dream,” she said. Today, the group performs six shows each year, including Frozen, and provides “affordable performing arts experiences” to children across central Ohio.

Each play or musical has four weeks dedicated to rehearsals. The fifth week is tech rehearsals, which adds lights, music and costumes to the experience. For Frozen, the group first read through the script together in early November. 

Frozen Jr. opened Friday, Dec. 8, and will continue with shows on Dec. 15, 16 and 17. 

Frozen is a beloved Disney tale that follows two sisters, Anna and Elsa of Arendelle, played respectively by 15-year-old AJ Sanders and 16-year-old Daphne Osborne. 

Osborne wears a blonde wig with a thick, long braid that falls over her shoulder. She’s been a part of Hullabaloo for three years and loves acting and singing. 

“I was interested in the performing arts but wasn't sure where to go,” Osborne said. That's how she “found Hullabaloo.”

Her eyes are glued to the stage as characters Anna, Kristoff and Olaf sing.

“I like musicals more because I get to sing,” she said during a recent rehearsal, “but there was a play we put on where I was the butler and looked like Mark Twain. That was fun.” 

When Sanders exits stage right, she joins a small group of kids in the front row.

They sit and laugh with one another, the younger kids surrounding Sanders and Noah Miller, 14, who plays Kristoff. 

Hullabaloo is not only a performing arts theater but also a family. Sanders said she loves “when our shows have little kids. I think they look up to the older kids, and I get to be a mentor to them.” 

Sander's fingers twirl the synthetic ginger hair at the bottom of her braid.

AJ Sanders (left), 15, portrays Anna, and Daphne Osborne (right), 16, portrays Elsa.

AJ Sanders (left), 15, portrays Anna, and Daphne Osborne (right), 16, portrays Elsa.

Queen Elsa belts Let it Go during a rehearsal.

Queen Elsa belts Let it Go during a rehearsal.

Noah Miller, 14, plays Kristoff, one of the lead protagonists.

Noah Miller, 14, plays Kristoff, one of the lead protagonists.

Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf are on stage for Olaf's signature song In Summer.

Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf are on stage for Olaf's signature song In Summer.

Elsa's big climb.

Elsa's big climb.

Olaf rescues Anna.

Olaf rescues Anna.

Barth gives the ensemble stage directions.

Barth gives the ensemble stage directions.

Miller and Sanders watch the girls in sleek iridescent skirts rush across the stage, acting as the snow Elsa conjures.

The two share a quiet conversation, resting from their last scene. They cheer Osborne on as she climbs a set of stairs while belting out the song Let It Go, and the ensemble turns her in circles.

Sanders sits, admiring her co-star and listening to her sing. Unlike Osborne, Sanders and Miller both agree they enjoy plays more than musicals.

“I appreciate that in plays, I can build on the character,” Sanders said. She's been a member of Hullabaloo for the last two years and enjoys “depicting feelings and emotions, and making my character unique to me.”

Miller, who joined Hullabaloo in early 2023, agreed. 

“In plays, you can mold and build off of your character,” Miller said. “Kristoff is already Kristoff in this musical. He has specific traits, but I like creating traits.”

Barth’s voice breaks into their conversation. 

“Come on guys!” she says to the townspeople on stage. “It’s snowing. You’re cold.” 

The ensemble rubs their shoulders, faking shivers in the iced-over Arendelle.

Barth is a lifelong performer who traveled around the world for years before settling in Ohio with her husband and two sons.

“The practice of performing arts makes a well-rounded person,” Barth said. “It's one of the reasons I began this theater, along with the need for an accessible and affordable space for kids to express themselves."

Hullabaloo has rehearsals Monday through Friday leading up to show time. The only expense, besides time, is the cost of the script.

On stage, the children shine and laugh with one another. 

Stella Day, 10, is new to Hullabaloo this year and said she was grateful for the group. 

“Christina teaches us and understands us,” Day said. “You also make a lot of friends here.”

10-year-old Gunner Wilson, playing the much older Duke of Weselton, joined Hullabaloo to “be like ‘The Rock,’” he said. 

“They’re putting makeup on me to look all old,” he said. “I’m excited.” 

On stage, the children giggle and make faces at one another. 

“When someone isn’t part of the winter show but comes back in the spring or fall, it’s like a family reunion,” Miller added. 

At the end of rehearsal, nearing 10 p.m., the kids flee from the stage, scrambling to undo costumes and stow away props. They've perfected a five-minute transition.

Sanders approaches Barth to say goodnight after everyone has left and is pulled in for a quick embrace.

"AJ was always one of the quietest girls. She would barely say a word and now look at her," Barth notes as she squeezes Sander's shoulders.  

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The Hullabaloo Performing Arts Theatre will perform Frozen Jr. on Friday, Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. There will be two showtimes on Saturday, Dec. 16, at 2 and 7 p.m. The final show will be at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17.

Ticket prices:
Adults (19 and over)  - $12
Seniors (over 65) - $10
Youths (18 and under) - $8  

Brin Glass writes for TheReportingProject.org, the nonprofit news organization of the Denison University Journalism Program, which is funded in part by the Mellon Foundation and donations from readers.