Review: Trapasso’s ‘Troll Play’ serves up icy fun with colorful cast

Kreable Young | Staff Photographer
Children’s School acted out its annual “Troll Play” Tuesday, Old First Night, in Smith Wilkes Hall to celebrate Chautauqua’s 140th birthday.

It’s been 12 years since the Children’s School debuted its annual “Troll Play,” in honor of Chautauqua’s birthday and to raise money for Old First Night.

For a show that’s evolved over the years, it’s safe to say that the revised script has maintained its original spirit — even with an older, weathered troll.

Master of ceremonies Tiffany Clementi-Hammes set the stage with pep: the troll is getting old, losing his penchant for robbing unsuspecting persons of the ambrosia, Flavor Ice. Chautauquans know this troll: weary, mean, bushy-haired. But Clementi-Hammes warned the child audience — this “troll does not bite. He only steals.” Near retirement, the in-the-winter-of-life troll requires minions and future ice-cream thieves to continue his lifelong obsession.

But before, music.

Kids sung in choir-like form to music director Gretchen Hathaway’s guitar strumming and vocals. Parents joined in the choreography for the songs “Love Grows (One by One),” and the rhythmic “Skin-A-Ma-Rink-Rinky-Dink,” with Clementi-Hammes showing the audience her crowd-awakening talent. Hathaway led the group in a cheerful “We Love Chautauqua,” riffing off a Bye Bye Birdie staple. She finished with an appropriate commemoration for Old First Night.

“Does anyone know how old Chautauqua is?” she asked.

“Forty-a-hundred?” 5-year-old Michael Sammarco asked.

“One hundred forty,” 4-year-old Samuel Rapoport corrected.

The audience joined in for the “Happy Birthday [Chautauqua] Song” before the actors took centerstage.

As a troll equal in age to the Institution, Trapasso gave the crowd a memorable performance. His “woe is me” persona was as dark and colorful as the paint lathered across his face, down his arms and legs. Although the egg-laying duet — with pianist Ben Rosen providing a likable Scott Joplin — with his hunchback girlfriend (John Denton) was a little sparse, Trapasso held up his shtick as Old Thunder Bridge, scaring children sufficiently into joining his ice-cream frenzy. Parents be warned.

It was director and playwright Denton who gave spectators a masterful depiction of the Troll’s all-too-loyal babe. Also on costume design, Denton strutted around the Smith Wilkes Hall stage in a yellow gown and a clown wig fit for the Ringling Bros. Circus. His diction was point-blank, and his eclectic energy bolstering. Other than Denton’s fiery monologues and his Romantic poetry, he provided a fitting support to Trapasso’s lead.

But what is a troll without his lot?

With Denton’s assistance, the great, multi-colored egg was hatched, fellow little trolls following one-by-one, ready for mischief in fitting style. This included 5-year-old Mimi Clark, with her breakout performance as troll-in-training. Clark and company rushed the adult audience, obtaining the icy treats held by their reserving parents. Clementi-Hammes, overseeing, was pleased with the work.

“The old man troll had trained them well,” she said to the audience.

At the end of the libretto, with little trolls set to take the place of Trapasso’s lot, Clementi-Hammes invited the eager audience to finally “learn to love Chautauqua, and dance.” Parents and kids flocked to the floor to dance to Pharrell’s “Happy,” ushering in a new wave of trolls and trollettes to preserve the tradition until next year’s performance.

With a cast and crew that included Clara Shelton (props), Bobbi and Clarissa Savage (production), Kate Zarou (props) and Pie Kasbar (composition), the 12th annual Children’s School “Troll Play” was a heart-warming success and a treat for all ages. Although Chautauquans will have to wait for another time for ice cream.