Review: FROZEN National Tour at Durham Performing Arts Center

It may not be winter yet, but hopefully, the cold won't bother you inside DPAC anyway.

By: Sep. 16, 2022
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Review: FROZEN National Tour at Durham Performing Arts Center
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Based on Disney's 2013 Academy Award-winning animated movie musical of the same name as well as Hans Christian Andersen's 1844 fairy tale, The Snow Queen, Frozen follows two royal sisters named Anna and Elsa. At a young age, they were pulled apart by a mysterious secret. As Elsa struggles to find her voice and harness her powers within, Anna embarks on an epic adventure to bring her family together once and for all. When the film first came out, it was an enormous blockbuster, eventually becoming the highest-grossing animated movie of all time at the worldwide box office (before it was eventually dethroned by Frozen II six years later).

Shortly before Frozen's initial release, Disney Theatrical Productions president, Thomas Schumacher, got to see it, and saw its theatrical potential. Thus, discussions began on a Broadway stage adaptation. After an out-of-town tryout in Denver, Colorado the year before, the show opened at the St. James Theatre in New York on March 22nd, 2018. Commercially, it did really well, continuing to run until Broadway shutdown due to COVID-19 on March 12th, 2020. Frozen was sadly one of the very few productions that closed down permanently and didn't come back when performances all over the New York theatre district eventually resumed performances. Luckily, the show lives on through multiple productions that are currently running all over the world, including the national tour that is now at the Durham Performing Arts Center until October 2nd.

Under the direction of Michael Grandage, the stage craft on display is very top notch. Rob Ashford provides some lively choreography, most of which is performed by the ensemble. The lighting designed by Natasha Katz is colorful, successfully highlighting different moods throughout. Christopher Oram recreates the costumes from the movie while also making them look appealing in real life as well as providing some new outfits. The puppets designed by Michael Curry (specifically for Olaf and the reindeer, Sven) are very impressive. Finn Ross has created such dazzling video projections that help fill out the physical scenery (also designed by Christopher Oram). All of that put together makes for some breathtaking moments at certain points.

As for how the movie translated from screen to stage, I thought the creative team did a fairly good job of elaborating more into the story from the film's 102 minute duration to a live show that lasts two hours and 20 minutes. Jennifer Lee's book dives a little deeper into Anna and Elsa's childhoods as well as some of the story's themes. A lot of the songs from the cartoon are not only in the stage version, but Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez have also augmented their musical score with 12 brand new tunes. My favorite of the bunch might have to be 'I Can't Lose You,' which is a duet Anna and Elsa share near the beginning of Act II. The song itself actually debuted in this tour, replacing the reprise of 'For the First Time in Forever' from the film. I'm glad that happened because I think that number is a genuine improvement from the source material as it really digs into the emotions of what the sisters are fearing for each other.

Everyone in the cast does very well in their roles. Lauren Nicole Chapman makes for a funny and relatable Anna, a hopelessly optimistic extrovert who longs for connection with others. Caroline Bowman has been starring as Elsa in the tour, but she was out for the performance I attended. So her understudy, Caelan Creaser, went on. She provides some strength into her performance as the newly appointed Queen of her country, Arendelle, who was born with magical powers. Not to mention that she also belts the heck out of the Oscar-winning hit, 'Let It Go.' Dominic Dorset gives quite a tender performance as Kristoff, the hardworking ice harvester who teams up with Anna to bring summer back to Arendelle. Unlike the movie, which gave the character only one brief solo, he has more stuff to sing in the stage version, including a moving lullaby in Act II. Jeremy Davis is pretty likable as Olaf, the magical snowman who is also a bit naive. Will Savarese proves to be charming as Hans, the ambitious Prince of the Southern Isles who happens to have a secret of his own.

To all the children who are coming to see this, you should be in for a treat (especially if this happens to be your very first live theatrical show). To all the adults who are bringing their children, you should have a really good time. To all the adults who don't have children but are coming to see this anyway, you should still enjoy this immensely. This stage adaptation of Frozen stays true to the original animated film, preserving all of what you know and love about it. Which includes the message of what true love can do. Audiences of all ages should relate to it.


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