Review: Frozen Live at the Hyperion

It took me quite a while to get over the fact that Disney's California Adventure shut down their stellar Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular show that contained my absolute favorite Princess Jasmine solo to replace it with more Frozen hype. Frozen is not one of my favorites, but I tried to keep an open mind when I entered the newly renovated Hyperion Theater for Frozen Live. Gone was the beautiful Arabian architecture surrounding the stage in favor of a basic screen setup designed for CGI background projections to transform it into any Arendelle locale. I personally prefer the concrete sets of Aladdin that looked like you could reach right into them and enter the world of Agrabah. Hiding Arendelle behind a CGI mask only served as a reminder that the digital age is taking even more artistry away from us than just traditional animation.

Despite my caveats, I enjoyed the performance I saw yesterday due largely to the performers themselves. The actresses who played Anna and Elsa were on point and seemed to know their characters on an intimate level. My favorite song was "Love's an Open Door," which I made sure to record a full video of. The beautiful dancing and costumes from Elsa's coronation ball in the background gave this scene a "wow" factor that "Let It Go," which should have been a showstopper, lacked. I was not particularly impressed by seeing Elsa stand on a rotating staircase while surrounded by fake CGI projections. The only part of this scene that was even remotely impressive was an ice chandelier that came down over the audience for two seconds before immediately retracting to its hidden position on the ceiling. This was probably an attempt to be the new version of "A Whole New World" from Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular in which Aladdin and Jasmine flew high above the audience on a magic carpet and waved down at them. Suffice to say, it's pretty obvious which of these two ceiling effects was more impressive.

The show was roughly an hour long and had many of the same pacing issues as the original film. It jumped from one song to another, which started to feel tedious when it came to some of the more pointless numbers such as "In Summer" and "Fixer Upper" toward the middle of the show. I stand by my theory that the filmmakers chose the wrong songs for the film because "More Than Just the Spare," "Life's Too Short," and its corresponding act three reprise do a lot more to further develop the characters and plot than these filler songs. Of course, that goes back to my issues with Frozen itself, and none of that could have been helped by the time they were ready to adapt it for the theme parks. That said, I think the show could have benefited from its shorter time frame by cutting one of the filler numbers like "Fixer Upper" to make time for the scene where Elsa gets captured, which was cute from the stage show, and more of Hans' betrayal. Someone who attends this show and hasn't seen the movie would probably get confused by having all of these important scenes squished into the last ten minutes.

Another poor attempt that Frozen Live made to mimic Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular was audience interaction. In Aladdin, the parade Genie summons during "Prince Ali" walks down the aisles onto the stage, forcing the audience to turn around and see what impressive float or dancer is coming next. Here, the guests from Elsa's coronation exit into the aisles when Elsa's ice powers are revealed, and then they sort of stand there awkwardly for a while until their cue to leave. In a later scene, Hans asks some of the ensemble members to hand out cloaks to the audience to help them with Elsa's cold winter magic. Even though they marched out into the aisles with the cloaks, they didn't actually pass any around or even seem to interact with the audience much. I realize this is probably due to the possibility of people not wanting to give the cloaks back for the next show, but it cheapened the "audience participation" effect for me. Besides, I could have really used a cloak because that theater was absolutely freezing!

No trip to Arendelle would be complete without a visit to the two royal sisters, so we made sure to stop by and see them before the show. I had met Anna before, but this was my first time meeting Elsa. It was interesting to meet a Disney Princess who isn't all smiles and boundless excitement. Of course, that might be due to the fact that Elsa is the only who became queen in her first movie. She was cordial to me, but in a nervous and introverted way that reminded me of myself when I try to start friendly conversations with people while worrying in the back of my mind that I might say something wrong. Overall, it was another fun day at Disneyland with a good friend, but I will always mourn the loss of the Hyperion Theater's phenomenal Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular. Even though the Broadway play is still running, it could never compare to the masterful artistry of the version that was once at Disney's California Adventure before Frozen Live took over.


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