BWW Review: FROZEN Frenzy Sweeps the Pantages Audience
Frozen the Musical/book by Jennifer Lee/music & lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez/directed by Michael Grandage/choreographed by Rob Ashford /Hollywood Pantages Theatre/through February 2
Big screen megahit to stage megahit seems to be the norm today for a new Broadway musical especially if it starts as a Disney film. Following in the footsteps of The Lion King is Frozen, so popular with today's young and adult audiences that Frozen II is on its way. Currently onstage at the Hollywood Pantages, Frozen the Musical does have its moments, is indeed a perfect show for the holidays and will be in town at the Hollywood Pantages until February 2.
Visually stunning onstage is the snowfall and ice. Although blisteringly cold, they look so tantalizing and inviting, as in the film Doctor Zhivago. I almost yearned to be on the East Coast or in some colder climate, if only for two hours.
Plotwise Frozen is about two sisters who are princesses in the kingdom of Arendelle, Elsa (Caroline Bowman) and her younger sibling Anna (Caroline Innerbichler). Elsa unexplicably is able to freeze objects and people, and at an early age she puts Anna into a frozen state. Anna recovers as the injury was to her brain and not her heart, and is totally unaware of what has happened or about her sister's evil powers. In true Disney fashion, the parents King and Queen are lost at sea and the two girls grow up, never close, as Elsa keeps Anna at a distance, fearful that she will cause her demise. Anna tries desperately to get to know Elsa to no avail. After Elsa's coronation as Queen of Arendelle, Anna meets a Prince, named Hans (Austin Colby) and becomes engaged to him. When Anna tells Elsa of her newfound love and their plans of marriage, Elsa forbids it. When Anna disapproves, Elsa freezes the countryside and makes it eternal winter. The rest of the story is Anna's quest to find Elsa, who has locked herself away in the palace, in an attempt to try to understand the dilemma. Anna eventually falls into a frozen state, affecting her heart. Hans turns traitor, but Kristoff (Mason Reeves), who has been journeying with Anna, takes her under his wing, and of course there is a happy ending for everyone.
Added to the national tour of Frozen the Musical is a powerful song not in the original Broadway production in which the two sisters try to come to terms, showing the ins and outs of familial love "I Can't Lose You". As is, the score by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez has the over.the.top hit "Let It Go" but otherwise not an awful lot to hum as one leaves the theatre. The story is reminiscent of Wicked in which Glinda the good witch and Elphaba the wicked one, become lifelong friends with a myriad of complications. If I had to make a choice between Wicked and Frozen, for me it is definitely Wicked, but audiences, judging from the reaction I heard, love Frozen, so it is bound to remain a true commercial success, with the anticipated sequel around the corner.
Under Michael Grandage's smooth direction and with Rob Ashford's splendid choreographic moves, the cast are sensational. Bowden as Elsa has a superior voice and really brings out Elsa's fear to the max ("Monster"). Innerbichler as well makes an incredibly pleasant yet perplexed Anna, who is eternally cheerful like the aforementioned Glinda. The suuporting cast are all wonderful with kudos especially to Evan Strand and Collin Baja sharing the role of Sven the reindeer who moves around the stage with a truly magical trot...and praise also to F. Michael Haynie as the delightful Olaf, the little puppet snowman that the sisters help build as children. He is a constant reminder that Elsa and Anna will always be sisters. These characters are variations of the comic relief duo in The Lion King. Bravo to the entire ensemble!
The creative team who make the visual come to life are: Jeremy Chernick for special effects, Michael Curry for superior puppet design, Peter Hylenski for great sound, Natasha Katz for lighting design, although a bit dark for my taste, and to Christopher Oram for sensational scenic and costume design. Watch out for Elsa's amazingly quick ball gown change! Keep you eyes peeled or you may miss it.
Go see Frozen the Musical! If you are into highly advanced stage technology, this one's definitely for you. And for kids of any age, the story has a lot of heart...plus the puppets are adorable.
(photo credit: Deen Van Meer)