Levy, Patti Muran
by Julia Polinsky
Speaking as the one and only American who never saw Frozen: The
Movie, it was good to come on Frozen: The Broadway Musical from
cold, so to speak. Surprise! No surprises! Basic, fantastically successful
Disney format. Simple-ish story (absent parents, child who masters obstacles,
grows up, and recognizes self-worth, with some boy-meets-girl thrown in);
superb production values; banal songs except for Power Anthem; and did I
mention superb production values?
The Disney juggernaut has so completely rolled over American
popular culture that it would be foolish of them to depart from the expected.
Certainly, with a movie like Frozen (about $1.2 billion worldwide
grosses, in case you were wondering) you just don’t make a Broadway adaptation
that would mess with that kind of success.
Apparently, Disney did mess with their giant success, but did it
with the original film’s composer/lyricists Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and
author Jennifer Lee. Director Michael Grandage, tasked with making Frozen: The
Broadway Musical the same as but different from Frozen: The Most
Successful Disney Animated Film Ever, makes some odd choices and
interesting changes to the tale of Elsa and her powers.
The king and queen of Arendelle have two young daughters, Elsa
(Brooklyn Nelson) and Anna (Audrey Bennett). Elsa, the elder, can magically
summon and manage cold, ice, and snow anywhere, any time. Her little sister
begs for a snowman in their bedroom; Elsa obliges; disaster for Anna follows.
The Queen calls the Hidden People, who come and heal Anna but take away all her
memory of Elsa’s powers. The parents go on a “two-week” journey and are
predictably lost at sea. The orphaned Elsa and Anna are raised separately,
quarantined in the castle.
Patti Muran, John Riddle
Years later, on coronation day, the castle opens to outsiders, and
the adult Elsa (Caissie Levy) and Anna (Patti Murin) welcome visitors to
Arendelle for the first time in years. Anna meets visiting Prince Hans (John
Riddle), falls in love, and about five minutes later, gets engaged. Queen Elsa
objects to the engagement, unleashes her chilling powers, scares the hell out
of her people, and exiles herself from her newly frosted realm to a remote,
hidden ice castle. Safe and alone, Elsa belts out the power anthem to end them
Anna wants Elsa back, and searches through the frozen kingdom,
guided by ice seller Kristoff (Jelani Alladin), his faithful reindeer, Sven
(Andrew Pirozzi), and a snowman (Greg Hildreth, in a performance so charming it
sparkles). In the end, of course, good triumphs, evil is vanquished, and true
love solves all problems, perhaps not quite in the way you expect, which saves
the show from utter banality.
Jellini Aladdin Kristof and friend
Other things that boost the show? Performances from the leads are
simply splendid. Caissie Levy gives an outstanding, chills-inducing,
career-making performance as cold-but-fiery Elsa. Patti Murin makes a terrific
perky-bubbly, goodhearted, slightly addled Anna. John Riddle’s Hans hits all
the right notes, in every sense. Jelani Alladin as Kristoff does such a superb
job, he doesn’t even get upstaged by the warm, fuzzy reindeer or cute snowman.
(Disney critters and non-human characters basically exist to upstage “their”
humans and sell merchandise; snowman and reindeer toys are for sale in the
aisles at intermission.)
John Riddle and cast
Gorgeous scenic design by Christopher Oram mostly emphasizes the
dark side of this story. The frozen world of Frozen looks craggy and
scary, barring the gorgeous curtain of crystals in Elsa’s northern fortress of
solitude. His costume design burrows into that same darkness, differing from
most Disney in the lack of candy-bright colors, not to mention naked torsos and
inexplicable tails on the Hidden People.
Jellini Aladdin Kristof and cast Photos
by Deen VanMeer
Choreography by Rob Ashford falls short of his usual standard,
except in the visually stunning “Fixer Upper” and the out-of-the-blue
second-act opener, “Hygge,” with a chorus line of “nude” denizens of the local
sauna dancing with carefully placed birch branches. Sound design by Peter
Hylenski, video design by Finn Ross, and lighting design by Natasha Katz are
The simple, manipulative, and slightly confusing plot, cute
sidekicks, and one-dimensional main characters make for a decent kiddie show in
best Disney fashion. Fairly banal songs tell the story, establish character,
etc., but mostly sound so much alike that it’s a relief when Elsa belts out her
transformational power anthem, surely one of the best first-act closers on
Suspend your higher faculties, forget that it’s all corporate
strategy designed to empty your wallet, don’t look for coherent story, and the
show’s enjoyable as hell. Take a kid, and try to see the magic through a
child’s eyes. Disney Does Fun. Let it go, and let ‘em.
W. 44th St.
– Sat 10am–8pm
Tuesday-Saturday 8pm; Wednesday, Saturday, 2pm, Sunday 3pm