Review: Disney's FROZEN, A Welcome Back Treat to the Theatre

Disney’s 'Frozen' plays at the Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands, until March 19, 2023.

By: Feb. 26, 2023
Review: Disney's FROZEN, A Welcome Back Treat to the Theatre
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Singapore--On the gala premiere of Disney's "Frozen," the film-to-stage adaptation of the hit animated film, co-presenters Disney Theatrical Productions and Base Entertainment Asia, on a voice-over, welcomed the audiences back to the theatre, which closed for more than 12 months due to COVID-19. The recorded message, along these lines, said, "Welcome back to the theatre, especially those who are watching a theatrical performance for the first time."

Whether you're a kid or a kid at heart visiting the Sands Theatre at the Marina Bay Sands for the first time or a regular theatergoer raring to go back to experience a live performance in person, "Frozen" is a sweet welcome treat and a feast to the senses:

-Its production design (Christopher Oram-sets and costumes, Finn Ross-video projections, and Natasha Katz-lighting) is stunning and never runs out of surprises;

-Its musical numbers--a mix of familiar songs from the film and 12 new ones (Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez)--work better as a holistic score on stage than on the Broadway cast recordings; and

-Its principal casts' performances, delivered by notable "Frozen" alums from the West End, North American, and Australian touring productions, are precise and skillful, yet heartfelt.

Darker Choices

For the longtime fans of "Frozen," this stage adaptation follows the film's main storyline, highlighting the strong bond of sisterhood between Elsa (Jemma Rix) and Anna (Sarah O'Connor) and the whole Kingdom of Arendelle at a freezing point that needs some saving, both written by Jennifer Lee, but with some changes.

These revisions are mainly pleasant additions but sometimes darker or more for the adults than kids' creative choices--having said that, a few of these choices are pretty alarming to parents with kids in tow.

Here, snowman Olaf (Matt Lee) and the reindeer Sven (Yvan Karlsson and Evan Strand) are brought to life by actor-puppeteers--and what a delight when they're on stage.

Kristoff's (Brendan Xavier) troll pals in the film are now Huldufólk, elves from Icelandic and Faroese folklore, who live in a parallel world alongside humans.

On the darker side of things, in the song "Monster," partly sung by Elsa, the snow queen, at some point, contemplates committing suicide: "Do I kill the monster? Father, you know what's best for me; If I die, will they be free?"

And in another instance, Oaken, the owner of a trading post and sauna, has his happy song, "Hygge," which opens Act Two and features burlesque-inspired chorus dancers enjoying their trip to Oaken's sought-after establishment.

Setting aside the darker turns of the production, what truly mesmerizes us is not the multitude of Swarovski crystals and the augmented realities of snow storms and an ice and snow-made fortress in "Let It Go," which closes Act One in epic proportions, but that of Rob Ashford's inventive and multi-layered stage movements and choreography, which enables the storytelling to move at a quicker pace, sans the stage spectacles.

In a recent media call we attended, Sarah O'Connor, who plays Anna in the West End and Singapore, recalls Ashford's awe-inspiring stage movements, particularly during the scene where a catastrophic storm capsizes Elsa and Anna's parents' ship in the Dark Sea. She said, "I was taken aback by the storm, which was created by the fluid body movements by the company of actors on stage.

"We're so used to smoke and mirrors as set pieces, but these are human bodies depicting a deadly storm. I gasped at the sight; it was incredibly moving and powerful [to which we agree]."

Spirited Portrayals

Concurrent "Frozen" productions worldwide have been packed with incredible actor-singers who breathe life into countless kids' favorite animated characters from the film. The musical's premiere production in Singapore boasts of versatile, powerful vocals and earnest portrayals courtesy of Jemma Rix (Elsa), Sarah O'Connor (Anna), Thomas McGuane (Hans), Matt Lee (Olaf), and child actors in the gala premiere, Elle Chew Enya (Young Anna) and Yuri Mohihara (Young Elsa).

Brendan Xavier (Kristoff), who has been announced to play the Beast in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" next, deserves a special mention. Xavier's ice sales agent Kristoff's solo spot with the lovable Sven, "Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People," is interpreted with such delectable vocal, at times amusing, variations. Along with two other new songs, "Kristoff Lullaby" and "What do You Know About Love?" sung with Anna, Kristoff's expanded character is depicted on stage with much more ounces of spirit and depth than his animated counterpart.

Directed by British theater director Michael Grandage, Disney's "Frozen" continues to play at the Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands, until March 19, 2023. Accompanied by a 21-piece live orchestra led by music director David Young, this international touring production of Disney's "Frozen" is its only stop in Southeast Asia.

Welcome back to the theatre!

Photos: Disney Theatrical Productions and Base Entertainment Asia


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