Review: Frozen The Musical

It was inevitable that Disney's biggest cash cow of the last decade or so would get a Broadway run. Almost all of their biggest hits have now toured on Broadway at some point and were followed by live-action remakes. Though I was excited to see the movie when it came out, I've always thought Disney's Frozen was overrated. So when it made its Broadway debut back in 2018, I was not particularly eager to see it. Its Disneyland counterpart, Frozen Live at the Hyperion, relied mostly on screens to tell the story and did not encompass a fulfilling experience onstage. As a result, I was pleasantly surprised to find that while the Broadway version also uses screens to create the full effect of its snowy landscapes, it has some lovely set pieces and entertaining musical numbers, and it is quite possibly Disney's best Broadway adaptation of one of their animated features. Maybe I've been too hard on this franchise.

Most Disney on Broadway shows suffer from unnecessary padding to fill the extra hour that gets added to the 90-minute runtime of the feature films they adapt. There are often unnecessary musical numbers such as "Positoovity" from The Little Mermaid or "Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim" from Aladdin. Frozen also added some extra musical numbers to fill the extended runtime, but none of them felt egregiously out of place. In fact, several of the new songs, including "What Do You Know About Love," a duet between Anna and Kristoff, enhance the story and allow the audience to get to know the characters and their motivations better. I was amazed by how good the pacing is in this show. It opens with Anna and Elsa as children and allows just enough time to want to see more of their cute little faces before they grow up. The use of deleted lyrics from the song "We Know Better" is effective in enhancing the show with arguably superior scenes that were cut from the original film for time. The famous "Let It Go" sequence that everyone was waiting for was pushed to a later point in the show to be used as the Act 1 break, allowing the rest of the first act to gradually build up to it.

While this show uses some background projectors to create the wintry imagery, it also had beautiful set pieces used for the castle and icicles. The film version of Frozen has a scene where Anna and Kristoff walk under a tree with icicles hanging from it that look like sparkling crystals. This show uses the same effect for both that scene and Elsa's ice palace. The benefit of theater lighting makes these crystals sparkle and glitter like nobody's business in a way that simply cannot be recreated on film. These sparkling ornaments combined with Elsa's dazzling dress transformation create a stunning effect that appeals to everyone's primal urge for sparkly things. The show also uses creative techniques to portray Olaf and Sven. One of the biggest faults of the Aladdin musical is that it eliminated the beloved animal sidekicks from the film like Abu and Rajah. In this show, Olaf is accurately portrayed by a puppeteer who matches his facial expressions to the puppet similar to Avenue Q. Sven is presented as an impressive full-body reindeer suit with a skilled actor inside who walks on all fours with stilts.

The film's themes of sisterly love, fear of the unknown, and staying true to yourself shine through beautifully in this production. Anna's awkward quirks are conveyed by how comfortable she is stripping down to her corset in public. A particularly questionable scene where she dances around in nothing but a towel from an earlier version of the show was cut from the production I saw. She has more onstage chemistry with Kristoff in the musical than she did in the film thanks to its added length, and Hans' Act 2 betrayal has a little more foreshadowing than the movie did. Elsa's complexities shine through with additional songs like "Monster" and improved writing during the scene in which Anna confronts her in her ice palace. The ending scene where Anna turns to ice is difficult to replicate in person for obvious reasons, but the use of the ensemble cast, projections, and clever costume changes help bring it to life.

Despite my initial reservations, Frozen the Musical exceeded my expectations with its beautiful set pieces, entertaining musical numbers, and faithful adaptation of the film's themes and characters. The added musical numbers and scenes enhance the story, and the two-and-a-half-hour runtime seems appropriate. The use of creative techniques to portray Olaf and Sven onstage is impressive, and the talented cast brings the characters to life with their energetic performances. Overall, Frozen on Broadway is a must-see for fans of the film and musical theater enthusiasts alike. It's a testament to the power of adaptation and the magic of live theater.


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