They play it safe. While the film was Disney's non-traditional take on the time-honoured princess tale - with spirited sisters finding their way back to each other instead of marrying handsome princes - this is not a daring reinvention of the material, but a repackaging of the film for the stage. It's the surest way to please the movie's faithful fans. Although darker than its predecessor in tone and design (sets and costumes are by Olivier winner Christopher Oram), this new Frozen is brisk and entertaining for most of its two hours and 20 minutes, with the same characters that won the hearts of filmgoers brought to three-dimensional life.
FROZEN Broadway Reviews
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Grandage is a director accustomed to Shakespeare and therefore to people trapped by secrets - even in the midst of glittering sets and impressive snow tricks, the bond between the sisters effectively and literally takes the spotlight. Fans of the movie will be pleased to find Anna and Elsa safe in Levy and Murin's gloved hands, and doubters may just find their hearts thawed.
Grandage is incredibly well-served by a cast of terrific actors and singers, led by the phenomenal Caissie Levy as Elsa. She brings real complexity to her powerful vocals. She doesn't just belt her songs out, she performs them with a voice rich in emotion. In this way the over-familiar Let it Go, that ends the first act, is made to feel fresh. The song soars. She is perfectly partnered with the more vulnerable Patti Murin as Elsa's sister Anna. A strong bond clearly exists between the actors as well as their characters. There's also adorable work from Andrew Pirozzi as the agile reindeer Sven and Greg Hildreth as a puppeteer snowman Olaf, while Timothy Hughes brings a formidable physicality to the character of Pabbie.
"Frozen" likely won't have many repeat customers, but its agreeable competence will satisfy hardcore fans who are curious to understand more about the plucky, climate-meddling heroines who devise their own happy ending through sisterly solidarity.
Review: Disney's 'Frozen' opens on Broadway with a warm sister bond — and Elsa gives her all with 'Let it Go'
Vastly improved from its rocky Denver tryout, director Michael Grandage's heavily sold production of Disney's "Frozen" is set to open here Thursday night, replete with richer storytelling, less extraneous comedy and with its crucial pair of sisters, who in Denver seemed all iced up in some chilly corner of the castle, finally letting go enough emotionally to thaw the center of their mutually dependent story.
Disney powers-that-be, along with director Michael Grandage, have basically plopped the cartoon about two sisters estranged by and bound by magic onto the stage. Playing it so safe is like wearing boots for a spin at a skating rink. You won't fall down - but you won't dazzle either.
Directed by Tony-winning Michael Grandage (Red), the stage Frozen, opening tonight, doesn't consistently live up to "Let It Go," its book by Jennifer Lee (Zootopia) often feeling rushed, more concerned with hitting the movie's beats come hell or cold water than taking the time to just enjoy the characters that the audience is primed to love.
Winning over the uninitiated, though, may be a tougher task for the eagerly anticipated musical that had its official opening Thursday night at the St. James Theatre. What may prevent "Frozen" from appealing to more sophisticated theater crowds is the unfulfilled promise of the plot. We're teased in this venture with the idea of an animated story wrought in three dimensions with more psychological subtlety than is the custom in Disney musicals. Because "Frozen" attempts to traverse the tender and intimate terrain of trauma and loss of love. But it never achieves that necessary climax - paradoxical in a show of this title - when a spectator's heart is able to melt.
The theater's legendary powers notwithstanding, there's no way that the all-too-solid stage of the St. James Theater can approximate the technical virtuosity of a movie setting. Rather, the magic of the theater comes from its power to open up the world of the imagination. Emerging from the dancing lights of the aurora borealis (as fashioned by lighting designer Natasha Katz) projected on the scrim (by video designer Finn Ross), Christopher Oram's sets are highly stylized and very theatrical, if not transporting.
Full disclosure: "Frozen" is not my favorite Disney princess movie. Loved the message and the song, but the story seemed pretty convoluted even by Disney standards. As a musical, the plotting remains weak, but there is a special magic that only live theatre can produce, and it's working a charming spell on the Broadway stage.
Forget girl power, sisterly love and the high-belt clarion call of "Let It Go." Anxiety over the handling of a precious gift is the theme that comes through loudest in "Frozen," the sometimes rousing, often dull, alternately dopey and anguished Disney musical that opened on Broadway on Thursday.
The Broadway version, though, is the virtual opposite: a play-it-by-the-book rendering of the story that, in refusing to take any real risks, ends up undermining the story's core message -- namely, that sometimes you've got to "let it go," and let your freak flag fly. For a show about magic and wonder, there's shockingly little on display here.
Broadway's Frozen is a good show. With its music, its dance, its flurry of likable leads, and snowball after snowball of son and lumière, some of it newfangled, some of it stretching back to 19th-century melodrama, it offers most of the pleasures that we count on Broadway musicals to provide. But even with the addition of a dozen new songs by the composers Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, an enhanced book by Jennifer Lee, and the interventions of director Michael Grandage and scenic and costume designer Christopher Oram, it rarely feels like more than the movie and sometimes it feels like less.
In addition to Oram's monumental icescapes, Finn Ross' video and projection design gives the impression that the St. James stage, proscenium and beyond is freezing before our very eyes. Kudos, too, to Jeremy Chernick's special effects and Peter Hylenski's sound design, which, when it isn't blasting out Levy's high notes, manages to make us believe that a new ice age is upon us.
It would be one thing if Frozen's stiffness were in the service of a deeper take on the material, but its already shaky plot seems even less secure, too thin a rope to support the musical's dutiful climb up the narrative mountain. While the best songs from the movie-including "Love Is an Open Door," an ebullient duet for Anna and her dashing suitor, Hans (John Riddle)-still pop, the new ones are less strong; aside from an incongruous but zippy comic number at a sauna, they feel like heavy filler, especially in the busy and slushy finale.
There at the end are two women leading the company into their bows, playing two characters not needing men to complete them, who are confident in themselves and loving of each other. Elsa and Anna are leaders and examples. That exhibition of female power-still, sadly, a radical concept in Hollywood and on Broadway-is to be welcomed, and particularly for young girls and boys to see, but this musical feels oddly frozen in its delivery of it.
The continued popularity of "Frozen" (which grossed $1.2 billion when it debuted at the movies in 2013 and has morphed into a phenomenon) probably explains why it has been adapted for the Broadway stage in such a straightforward, shallow and unimaginative manner, creating a disappointing and empty product.
Under the direction of Michael Grandage, Frozen doesn't entirely go wrong, but it does evince signs of the struggle to establish a consistent, unifying tone and to settle on a center in a story inherently bifurcated by having two heroines kept apart for most of the action. It ends up being merely adequate, a bland facsimile when it should have been something memorable in its own right.