Disney has had amazing success on Broadway starting with its production of Beauty and the Beast in 1994, which ran an astonishing 13 years. Then there was – and still is – The Lion King. And most recently they produced Alladin. But all Disney musicals are not created equal, The Little Mermaid and Tarzan are among the less successful. Their latest production, Frozen, falls somewhere in-between.
The stage version of Frozen, of course, is based on the 2013 hit movie where the two princesses of the kingdom of Arendelle (what we might call a principality today, like Monaco) are separated as children after it becomes clear to their parents that they cannot prevent Anna from accidentally being harmed by Elsa’s extraordinary powers.
Shortly thereafter, the king and queen die in a shipwreck, and the sisters grow up never seeing or hearing each other (not even a text). The day of Elsa’s coronation arrives and when she opens the castle gates to celebrate she is reunited with Anna. At the party, Anna meets the handsome Prince Hans, falls in love immediately and decides to marry. Elsa disapproves and things get out of hand – out of Elsa’s hands that is, as she freezes the entire town with a flick of a wrist. You’ll have to see the show (or remember the movie) to know how it ends, but rest assured, things thaw out.
The special effects in the film were extraordinary, yet on stage they are only occasionally as startling. The costumes are beautiful and the casting is beautifully color-blind. There are 12 new songs in the show, in addition to several carryovers from the movie, from the estimable husband and wife team of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. “What Do You Know About Love” stands out as a winner from among the new songs.
Caissie Levy (the older sister Elsa) has a powerful voice. Patti Murin (the younger sister Anna) is boyishly charming and girlishly endearing. Taken together they remind me of the sister act in Wicked, a connection underscored by the best song in the show (and film), “Let It Go,” sung in the movie by Idina Menzel the original Elphaba. Unfortunately, the comparison ends there. A special shout-out, though, to Greg Hildreth as Olaf the snowman (a Julie Taymor touch) and to Helani Alladin (the ice salesman Krisoff) who bring needed comic relief to the Nordic chill. Also to the charismatic John Riddle (Prince Hans) who has a winning way with a love song as well as being light on his feet in a nimble dance routine with Anna.
What Frozen does have is a zealous following. The audience is in rapture from the very beginning. The fans even applaud costume changes. We saw this last season to a lesser extent with the line of young girls waiting at the stage door of the musical Anastasia. But Frozen is in a class of its own with tickets selling well into the summer and beyond.
George A. Wachtel is president of Audience Research & Analysis, a New York City-based market research firm specializing in arts and entertainment.
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