BWW Interview: Jeremy Morse Talks Bringing Disney Magic Across the Country with FROZEN
For the first time
in forever, Frozen has hit the road! After kicking of a national tour in Schenectady, Disney's mega-hit crossed the country to open at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles- where it plays through February 2. From there, the musical travels to Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Salt Lake City, and many more stops along the way.
Frozen, a full-length stage work told in two acts, is the first and only incarnation of the tale that expands upon and deepens its indelible plot and themes through new songs and story material from the film's creators; in fact, this new stage production features more than twice as much music as the film. Like the Disney Theatrical Broadway musicals that have come before it, it is a full evening of theatre running over two hours.
What's it like bringing Disney's newest musical to a brand-new audience? Jeremy Morse, who plays the conniving Duke of Weselton, just checked in with BroadwayWorld to tell us all about chilling out on the West Coast with the Frozen cast!
I know that you've been in LA for just over a month. How's it all going so far?
The show is going wonderfully. Yeah, it's been a really fun, exciting month out here. Busy, very, very busy with the holidays and we got the opportunity to perform at the Rose Parade.
I just watched the performance!
It was potentially the longest day of my life. [Laughs] It was really fun- we had a 3am bus call, so we were all getting up around 2am to meet at the theatre, and then to van over to our staging area where we had a rehearsal from 4:30 in the morning until 5:30 in the morning, which was crazy. But it was really, really fun and really awesome. But it's been exciting.
Actually, right now, we're coming into this time where post-holidays, post-New Year, we're going to settle into the show. So, it's definitely not a lull; we're busy and understudies are having understudy rehearsals. But it's been going really well. And this is my second time in LA, I was here a little over a year ago with Waitress the Musical. I've been getting to explore the city. My parents came up for the holidays and my wife has been here with me for pretty much the entire time, so it's been a great- like, it feels like home.
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Have you noticed, either in this show or Waitress, any kind of different energy with West Coast audiences?
I feel like West Coast audiences are very similar to East Coast audiences in the way that they flock to theatre. I feel like I experienced similar crowds in Seattle and Portland and San Francisco. They're people who have a broad excitement about theatre, and people come to see shows in droves. I remember we were very sold out with Waitress as well, and I feel like whenever I look out at the end of a show during curtain call, the theatre is just packed. And not just packed with adorable little girls in Anna and Elsa costumes, and sometimes boys in Hans costumes, which is always kind of funny to me because Hans isn't such a good guy. [Laughs]
I guess they didn't catch on...
What's such a fun thing to hear is friends who see the show is: there aren't just people with their kids here; but there's also adults coming to see the show because they're excited about musical theatre, and they're loving Frozen as well, which is not surprising, but may be surprising to some people that the show is not just for kids, but it's entertaining for everybody.
What do you like most about being back on the road? It hasn't been that long.
No. I mean, I finished in August with Waitress. Got married in September, and then two days later started rehearsal for this.
You've been busy!
The road is... I really do like it. I love the opportunity to explore the United States. But not only just exploring different cultures from the different foods in areas in what cultural attractions are popular in every city and checking those out. I mean, for me, it's definitely food and drink; I love finding an awesome Speakeasy at night to go have a really cool craft cocktail. I love finding a nice restaurant and going to that with my wife. And every couple of weeks, we pretend celebrate some sort of holiday with a meal, or some sort of anniversary. And that's a really, really fun way to explore all these cities.
And beyond that, also, all these different theatres that we get to go into! I did a series on Instagram during Waitress where I would always, during sound check, I would run to the back of the house and I'd take a picture from the top center of the mezzanine or the balcony, the furthest point down into the theatre, and just seeing the different architecture of every single house is so cool. And I would always do some research about when the theatre was built, who built it, how it's changed from its construction through renovations, through repurposing, and how it got to where it is today.
Let's talk about Wesleton a little bit.
Is he bad, is he misunderstood? What is in your head when you're playing him every night?
He's not a bad guy. I don't think anybody who plays a villain, with maybe a few exceptions, thinks that they're a bad guy. This is a man who has come from land afar via ship to meet this new Queen, and there's this huge opportunity to continue to renegotiate a trade deal with Elsa. And for him to come out on top here with bragging rights, to go back to his beautiful land of Weasel Town and come out on top and be able to be like, "Look, I just did this for our country. I just renegotiated this deal. We are better off than we were before, and I believe that I should get more land. I should be paid more; I should have more!" He's looking to step up in the sweet, sweet land of Weselton. And, when he arrives, he's expecting to be greeted in a courteous fashion. He's met with the resistance. You know, he's a pompous man, he's very overly confident, and it's worked for him. And here, it's met with resistance from Anna and Elsa. Which is really- he's embarrassed.
Wow, you've really humanized him...
With any villain, you absolutely have to humanize him, because it adds depth to the situation of character. The audience isn't hearing all of this stuff; it just helps with storytelling. It adds dimension, and yeah, that's what I got. [Laughs]
Do you have a personal favorite moment in the show?
I actually love "Hans of the Seven Isles Reprise" and the blanket scene beforehand. We're all on stage, and we spent a lot of time upping the stakes of this scene to make it like a dramatic scene in the rehearsal studio. And I have so much fun on stage acting this, what we've created. Also, semi-comedic as well, but with Austin [Colby] who plays Hans, and the entire ensemble who's giving us all of this awesome, "we are scared to death" energy. For me to do, that might be the most fun.
And then, as I'm thinking this through, Weselton also has a tango, and selfishly I love doing that tango, because it's such a silly moment.
No, that's a great moment!
But the moment that I love the most, I think, and it's so cheesy, because everyone screams every night... it's the dress moment in, "Let it Go," and I've watched it so many times from the wing, and it's not only because it's such a cool moment out in the house, but getting to see all the mechanics backstage and how exciting that is, and everything that goes into it is just awesome. Like, the magic that goes behind the Disney magic, it's truly spectacular.
Now that you're a part of the Disney family, I was wondering if you could pick three Disney characters that you feel like you personally identify with or particularly love.
Oh, wow. I feel like I'm not Lefou, but I do, I want to play Lefou at some point in Beauty and the Beast.
I can see it!
A character that I love so much (me and my wife) is Moana. And I love- well, there's two characters that I'm obsessed with; Maui. I just love Maui and I love the song, "You're Welcome," so much. I dream of learning that and learning that song and doing it on auditions, because it would be so absurd for me to do that. And then also, Tamatoa, the crab.
I'm just currently obsessed with that movie. So, Maui, Tomatoa, and Lefou. Let me think of anything else, I'm blanking on the Disney. I've got my Disney Plus subscription, I'm just going to look at some movies as a refresher. Yeah, but I mean, "Shiny" just cracked me up so much every single time. Oh! It's funny I'm drawn towards Disney villains right now, but in Aladdin, Iago is a character that I've always freaking loved so much.
Have you seen Frozen 2 yet?
I have, yes!
What did you think?
When we all saw it, we went as a cast in Schenectady and our company, Disney, treated us to tickets and it was just us going to see this late-night show, which was so special. I feel like when we saw the movie, we were all looking at these characters on screen and whenever Elsa would do something, we'd all look over at Caroline Bowman and be like, "Oh my God! This is you! You're doing this in the sequel!" [Laughs] Which was hilarious and made it extra special. We had so much fun. I really, really liked it. And I feel like Josh Gad as Olaf was such a comedic highlight.
I'm sure that there are people out there who will say, "I'm done with Frozen. I've already seen the sequel, and I don't need to see the musical." What would you say to those people? Why is the tour worth seeing?
I think there's something so incredibly different and magical about live theatre, compared to watching a movie. Movies are great, and they're an incredible medium. There is something exciting in transporting and transformative about going into, buying tickets, sitting in a seat and watching people in real life telling a story. No one performance of Frozen is exactly the same as another. There're little differences, and it's live action. And the spectacle of the stage version is thrilling and beautiful to watch. Some things that you will not get from watching the movie.
And there's also differences in our stage version from the movie, and not sweeping, but there's things that are different, and there is more music. And the tour has debuted a new song, which is not in the movie, so you're going to get to experience- I mean, if you love theatre in any way, if you love musicals, and you liked Frozen at all, you should come and see the musical because it is incredibly entertaining.
And I mean, I've always loved live theatre and I like movies, but going to see a show is...I'm just trying to think of the first show that I ever saw on Broadway. It was Chicago, and it blew my mind, just that all these people are on stage, although this is from my perspective where I'm watching like, "You can do this and make a living and do this for one or two thousand people every single day. Sometimes twice a day." And it's just really powerful. And watching the kids react. You should come if you're an adult, but if you have any sort of child who liked Frozen, or theatre or music, or even if they don't, come and see the show because they all lose their minds the entire show, because it's so freaking magical.