Review: Broadway Across Canada's Presentation of DISNEY'S FROZEN at Ottawa's National Arts Centre

Children have been anxiously awaiting this chance to see their beloved characters come to life in this magical production.

By: Feb. 23, 2024
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Lauren Nicole Chapman as Anna and Company.
Frozen North American Tour. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

It was heartwarming to see so many little Elsa and Annas in attendance at the National Arts Centre yesterday evening for Broadway Across Canada’s opening night performance of Disney’s Frozen. Children in the Ottawa-Gatineau area have been anxiously awaiting this moment to see their beloved princesses, Anna and Elsa, as well as the adorable but goofy Olaf, heroic Kristoff and his trusty reindeer, Sven, come to life on stage in this spectacular and, dare I say, even magical show.

This production is extremely well cast, from the young princesses (Annie Piper Braverman and Emma Origenes, alternating as Young Anna, and Erin Choi and Savannah Lumar, alternating as Young Elsa) to their adult counterparts (Lauren Nicole Chapman as Anna and Caroline Bowman as Elsa), as well as Kristoff (Dominic Dorset), Hans (Jack Brewer on opening night) and, perhaps especially, Olaf (Jeremy Davis). Davis is so in tune with his character, that after performing Olaf’s signature song, “In Summer”, as he recovered his breath, so did Olaf, with perfectly synchronized intakes of air. Evan Duff’s performance of the Duke of Weselton was outstanding – he completely embodied the role and gave the audience an exuberant performance. All of the actors had good stage presence and charisma that helped bring their characters to life. The puppets used for Sven (Collin Baja and Dan Plehal, alternating) and Olaf, designed by Michael Curry, convey subtle movements to make them seem exceptionally lifelike. When Kristoff sings “Reindeer Are Better Than People”, Sven perks his ears up; near the end, Sven gives Kristoff a reproachful look after the latter leaves Anna with the castle guards, speaking volumes to the talent of both the designer and the actor inside.

Dominic Dorset as Kristoff and Dan Plehal as Sven. 
Frozen North American Tour. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The costumes (designed by Christopher Oram) were mostly spot on to the movie, most notably the coronation outfits, Elsa’s “Let It Go” dress, and Anna’s winter garb obtained from Oaken’s (Alexander Mendoza on opening night) Big Summer Blowout Sale. One thing that stands out in this musical is the lighting and special effects (Natasha Katz and Jeremy Chernick). In multiple instances, the timing of the actors’ gestures, the music and the lights must be perfect, or the scene risks losing its magic.

Fans of the movie should be aware that the musical is not a carbon copy, and some elements have been changed. The trolls of the film have been replaced with “hidden folk”, based on huldufólk (elvish beings who live in nature, according to Icelandic and Faroese folklore). The wolf scene has been eliminated, making the musical less scary for its littlest fans. However, certain settings have been meticulously recreated for the stage, such as the “Let It Go” and “In Summer” scenes. Some songs have been added to allow for expanded dance numbers, such as “Hygge”, as well as more character development, such as the glib bantering between Kristoff and Anna in “What Do You Know About Love?”, and one of my personal favourites, “Monster”, where Elsa contemplates her future, a poignant moment in the musical that also showcases Bowman’s vocal prowess as much as in the more famous “Let It Go” number. There are also a few sexual innuendos throughout the show that will fly over the little ones’ heads, as they are clearly intended for the adults in the audience.

I have had the pleasure of seeing this show twice before on Broadway, which made it even more fun to witness the audience’s chuckles in reaction to comedic bits, and audible gasps during moments of pure magic, such as Elsa’s “Let It Go” costume change, and at Anna’s moment of truth near the end of the show.

Caroline Bowman as Elsa and the Company of Frozen North American Tour.
Photo by Deenvan Meer. ©Disney.

As much as I love Frozen’s message, it has always irked me that the moment Elsa achieves self-realization, she becomes the epitome of a sexy princess trope, replete in a glittery dress with a plunging neckline and enormously large slit. While "the dress" is still present in the musical, Elsa later emerges into a bedazzled pantsuit, which better aligns with her character. Even if it doesn’t completely shed tired stereotypes, with its message of female empowerment, Frozen paved the way for future stories featuring “normal looking” but no less extraordinary heroines, like Moana and Mirabel, and I am grateful for that.

Broadway Across Canada’s presentation of Disney’s Frozen is on stage through March 3rd at the National Arts Centre. Click the link below to purchase tickets or click here for more information. Stay tuned for Broadway Across Canada’s 2024-2025 season lineup to be announced this spring.


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