Currently in previews, Frozen On Broadway is preparing for a grand opening next month and I had the privilege of seeing the show while visiting New York this past week. Going into it, I was hesitant about the show because I’m not the biggest fan of the movie. But being the good Disney and theater enthusiast that I am, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see the show. I’m so glad I took the chance.
Frozen The Musical features the same basic plot that the movie does: Elsa secludes herself from Anna and everyone else as a child and when she is old enough to have a coronation, Elsa lets her ice powers loose and then runs away. Anna chases after her, Hans uses Anna to grab for power, and all the other cast we know and/or love are featured in the musical version of the hit Disney story.
But for all the similarities, the Broadway newcomer fills in gaps in the story that were missing and brings the story to life in a way that the animated version never could.
The musical shows us more of Anna and Elsa’s parents, Anna and Elsa as children, and plot points before the king and queen of Arendelle are met with their fatal doom. More generally, the musical humanizes the lead characters and lets us see their emotional states throughout the show. But that’s enough generalizing, let’s get into specifics, shall we?
Long story short, they did an excellent job casting for the show. My personal favorite was Patti Murin, who plays out Anna’s whimsical, carefree attitude perfectly. In both acting and singing, Murin stays true to her character and exceeds expectations in doing so. Murin’s co-lead, Caissie Levy, portrays Elsa just as flawlessly. Levy’s singing voice is second to none and is perfect for the many powerful, show-stopping ballads that feature her character.
Casting performers for a musical based on such a widely popular Disney movie could not have been easy, especially when the animated-version voice actors were not strangers to Broadway themselves (Idina Menzel is a tough act to follow). The challenge is overcome smoothly for Levy, Murin, and the rest of the company, however, as they take on their new roles.
Due to still being in previews, the cast did still have some hiccups throughout the show. The most notable was Olaf, portrayed by Greg Hildreth with a puppet resembling the animated snowman. Hildreth was by no means bad at the role, but there is certainly a learning curve to acting with a puppet. It’s an additional thing to control on stage. I’m confident he’ll learn quickly and be able to bring the huggable, summer-loving snowman to his full potential in no time.
The rest of the cast was as great as those mentioned. For a full cast list, click here.
The movie itself included an incredible soundtrack that we still can’t seem to let go years later. Like the cast, following after the success of those songs, providing a new take on them, and adding new musical numbers was surely quite the challenge. The show once again did it amazingly. The most well-known song from the movie, “Let It Go,” is the last song before intermission and reminded me of a Defying Gravity type ending for the first act. The style of the song was changed to fit more for a live performance on Broadway and to fit Levy’s singing voice. I personally liked this new version better than Menzel’s original.
“Do You Want To Build A Snowman” also got a revamp and new take, which was well-incorporated throughout all of the opening scenes. Of course, other hits like “Love Is An Open Door” and “In Summer” are included and highlight the great music that was already written for Frozen.
Even better than the classic Frozen hits are the new songs written just for the musical. “Monster,” featuring Levy, has already been making its rounds through the viral Internet since the show released a video of it earlier this month. “Dangerous To Dream” is another already-released song from the show, sung by Levy during Elsa’s coronation. “What Do You Know About Love” is the Anna/Kristoff duet we have all been waiting for and there’s a new number featuring Oaken that brings a lot of laughs.
Set Design & Special Effects
This is where the Broadway production soared above expectations and did what only it could and an animated film can only dream of doing. The special effects bring Elsa’s ice powers to life in more ways than one that are convincingly real. The stage design sets the scene and transports the audience into Arendelle throughout the show and during the intermission. The images featured here are the scenes displayed during the pre-show (aurora) and during intermission (Oaken’s house and sauna).
These are just two examples of the set design and by far not the best in the show. But of course, they are all I could take pictures of so you’ll have to go see the show yourself to see the rest!
I was a little disappointed with the merchandise offerings for the show, though I’m hopeful it will increase once the show opens and as times goes on. A lot of the available merchandise I saw was standard Frozen apparel and collectibles (from the movie) that are available at Disney stores and parks. They had Olaf and Sven plushes that are very similar to the ones already sold anywhere Disney is selling anything, with the unique aspect being a Frozen On Broadway logo on the feet of the characters.
The apparel (t-shirts, etc.) was also lacking, with no designs to really go crazy for. I did see someone wearing a special jacket resembling Kristoff’s that is apparently available during previews and/or is limited edition. I didn’t see it on any merchandise stands – the audience member I saw wearing it said it cost $80.
They did have several specialty, show-themed alcoholic drinks, and one non-alcoholic drink, that come in a souvenir cup. The drinks aren’t anything special and the themes are mostly in the name and seem to be made up (I got the “Heart of Arendelle” and it was okay but nothing exciting).
A note (and caution) on children
Because this is Frozen, there are unsurprisingly going to be many more young children at this show than likely at all the other Broadway shows combined on any given night. It’s understandable that kids want to see the show and parents want to take them, but I urge families to really consider whether or not the child can handle sitting quietly for two and a half hours before buying them a ticket.
There were no issues during the first act when I saw the show. After intermission ended, however, it seemed like all the young kids (read: toddlers) became restless and cranky – and they were vocal about it. Sitting in the mezzanine, front row, there were multiple kids screaming behind me. This made it very hard to hear what was being said and sung on stage. I missed the bulk of one of the songs during the second act (one of the new ones written for Anna) because of screaming kids.
It’s disrespectful and inappropriate to not even take a crying child out of the theater, but that was not understood by the parents at the show with upset kids. If you’re taking children to any Broadway or other professional production, be prepared to leave if they start making noise. If you don’t want to miss the show doing that, I urge you to leave the kid(s) at home. If they’re that upset, they probably aren’t going to truly enjoy the production anyways and a babysitter for a few hours is going to be cheaper than their ticket anyways.
Parents: This is is full-length (two and half hour-long) Broadway show. If your young one couldn’t sit through Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, or any other show, they shouldn’t be seeing Frozen yet.
All in all, I loved Frozen The Musical. It has clearly been well-written, exceptionally cast, and given the attention to detail it needs and deserves. I mentioned earlier I’m not a huge fan of the movie, so this may not mean much, but I definitely thought the musical was better than the original film. It makes me long for a live-action film as well, but the musical will do for now.
For more information and to purchase tickets, click here. Opening night is March 22nd.