Of the future artists, designers and dancers that arise from Boston University’s College of Fine Arts, one graduate’s career is heating up as he takes on a frozen yet lovable character — Olaf.
Greg Hildreth played Olaf in Disney’s $30 million production of “Frozen: The Broadway Musical.” He recently finished his last performance as the character on Feb. 17 after performing as Olaf for a year at the St. James Theatre in New York City.
Hildreth performed as the iconic Disney character in front of as many 1,700 people at a time during sold-out shows while carrying and maneuvering a large, complex puppet.
“Frozen” was not Hildreth’s first stint on Broadway. The Boston native also played Jean-Michel in the 2013 production of “Cinderella” and had four different roles across two other shows, as well.
Hildreth said his time as Olaf was one of his favorite experiences.
“Playing Olaf was a huge thrill, and I feel honored to be a part of a lot of young people’s first broadway experience,” Hildreth said.
Jim Petosa, director of CFA’s School of Theater and a professor of directing and dramatic criticism, said he admired Hildreth’s spirit and natural talent in the arts.
“Greg throws himself into every role he does, but he always does it with an almost childlike sense of wonder and respect for the mystery of the art form,” Petosa said. “His generosity of spirit is infectious in the best of ways.”
Hildreth said his passion for theater and musicals, which has been growing since he was five years old, allowed him to obtain a role in “Frozen” as well as on the hit TV shows “The Good Wife” and “The Americans.”
According to Hildreth, he took part in developmental labs and workshops to prepare for “Frozen” along with the rest of the show’s cast. The production team held practices at the Buell Theatre in Denver, he said, which helped the creative team change portions of the musical to prepare for opening night.
When he was at BU, Hildreth said he loved working crew at the Huntington Theatre Mainstage, a theater on Huntington Avenue affiliated with BU, when he was a freshman.
“They trusted me to be a spotlight operator,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Hildreth said he enjoyed witnessing the creative process from his position up in the booth at the Huntington.
“I learned a lot about theater from my stage crew assignments,” Hildreth said.
Hildreth said his classical training in acting at BU helped broaden his horizons and ability to get a job after graduation. Learning from passionate professors and taking advantage of opportunities has proven to have a great influence over his growing career, he said.
Judy Braha is the program head of MFA directing and an assistant professor of directing at CFA. She said BU’s School of Theatre provides opportunities for students to experiment with different areas of the creative field and receive assistance for their professional work.
“[Students] can get credit for outside experiences, be they internships [or] working in theaters outside the university, … and begin their bridge-building early in their training,” she said.
Now that Hildreth has finished his time playing Olaf, he said he plans to volunteer at the 52nd Street Project, an after-school theater program for young people in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood in New York City.
Hildreth said he will be joined by other theatrical artists and will mentor children between ages nine and 18, helping to open up opportunities for future actors.
Hildreth said he can’t wait to get to work at “one of his favorite places on Earth,” and to continue doing what he loves.