Minnesota’s Children’s Theatre’s “The Abominables”:

A Frozen Treat for the Whole Family!

From the moment the lights went down and the curtain went up, this world-premiere Children’s Theatre production instantly felt like home. Promoted as “Minnesota’s First Hockey Musical”, “The Abominables” makes light of the stereotypes those of us living in the Land of 10,000 Lakes know all too well. Even if you know next to nothing about the beloved winter sport, you’ll still find yourself cracking a smile at the play’s satirical portrayal of sports moms and feel convicted upon listening to “Minnesota Nice”, a perky ditty about the passive-aggressiveness hiding underneath our “You betcha!’s.” The lyrics (written by the late Michael Friedman) aren’t quite Broadway quality- the aforementioned song frequently rhymed “nice” with itself and sometimes didn’t rhyme at all- but what they lack in poetry, they make up for in dry humor, and the melodies themselves (also composed by Friedman) are reminiscent of “Into the Woods”, despite the fact that the subject matter of “The Abominables” is worlds apart from that of Stephen Sondheim’s classic fairytale-gone-awry.

Despite its status as a children’s play, “The Abominables” carries themes that theatregoers of any age can relate to and take to heart. It tells the story of eighth-grader Mitch Munson (Henry Constable), whose dreams of making the A-team for hockey are dashed upon the arrival of a new kid in town- star player Harry (Ryan Colbert), who just happens to be a mythical Yeti, adopted from the snowy Himalayas by mountaineers Judy (Elise Benson) and Hank (Bradley Greenwald). Like any middle schooler, Mitch can be an insufferable brat- he blames Harry for his humiliating backslide to the B-team and tells him as much, fuming that “You’re not even human- why don’t you go back to Yeti land where you came from?” In the end, however, Mitch and Harry make peace upon realizing they have more in common than they thought, and both boys and their families learn the valuable lesson that “hockey isn’t just about winning- it’s about losing, too”.

The humor is family-friendly, but some jokes were clearly intended for an older audience: when Judy and Hank list both “the Taj Mahal at sunrise” and “shaking hands with Al Gore” among their most pivotal life experiences, the under-10 crowd might not grasp exactly what’s so funny, but they’ll laugh along with their parents anyway. Cultural allusions such as praise for Justin Bieber in a parody of the Canadian national anthem and the rally cry “We’ll make Minnesota hockey great again!” may leave us in stitches, but one can’t help but wonder if such jokes will make the musical seem dated and irrelevant in 20 years, when the Trump presidency will be in history books and children will see Bieber as someone their parents listened to, if they’re even familiar with the pop star at all. Even if “The Abominables” doesn’t prove to be timeless, its message of overcoming xenophobia is certainly timely, and it’s a memorable final project for the recently departed Friedman. It is definitely worthwhile to see this original musical before the curtain falls for the final time on October 15.