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BWW REVIEW: The Touring Production of FROZEN: THE MUSICAL Arrives In Sydney


BWW REVIEW: The Touring Production of FROZEN: THE MUSICAL Arrives In Sydney

Thursday 10th December 2020, 8pm, Capitol Theatre

FROZEN: THE MUSICAL serves up a treat for young audiences, thrilled to see their animated heroines come to life. Disney Theatrical Productions brings the touring production (Directed by Michael Grandage) of the Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (both music and lyrics) and Jennifer Lee's (Book) stage adaptation of the 2013 hit Disney animated feature film to the Sydney stage.

BWW REVIEW: The Touring Production of FROZEN: THE MUSICAL Arrives In Sydney
Australian Cast of FROZEN THE MUSICAL (Photo: Lisa Tomasetti)

Most children, their associated adults, and the young at heart will know the story of sisters Anna (Courtney Monsma) and Elsa (Jemma Rix) of Arendelle and quite possibly the music, particularly, that song, very well (some parent may say too well), as the multi-Academy, Golden Globe and BAFTA award winning movie seemed to be on constant repeat in some households. For those that missed the hype in 2013, FROZEN, loosely based on Danish Han Christian Andersen's 19th century fairy tale "The Snow Queen", presents a rather progressive take on the classic Disney princess story as it is no longer a prince that saves the day but the strength sisterly love. Elder sister Elsa has somewhat unpredictable powers to freeze things, so her parents have shut her away, leaving her little sister bewildered at the separation following her mind being wiped of all knowledge of her sister' magic. When Elsa eventually takes the throne as Queen of the remote Nordic kingdom the sisters meet again but an erratic declaration of love for a smooth-talking prince of no consequence, Hans (Thomas McGuane), by Anna, derails the festivities and sets off a chilly chain of events. That creates a reason for a quest where the younger princess meets a rustic ice-harvester Kristoff (Sean Sinclair), and his faithful reindeer Sven (played on alternate nights by Jonathan MacMillan and Lochie McIntyre), and the amusing manifestation of Anna and Elsa's childhood imagination, the naive but wise snowman Olaf (Matt Lee).

BWW REVIEW: The Touring Production of FROZEN: THE MUSICAL Arrives In Sydney
Courtney Monsma as Anna and Thomas McGuane as Hans (Photo: Lisa Tomasetti)

The stage show stays relatively close to the movie a few modifications for a more aware world and accounting for the limitations of a stage production. The movie's colony of Trolls becomes the "Hidden Folk" led by Pabbie (Jakob Ambrose) and Bulda (Jayme-Lee Hanekom) and Elsa's creation of a great ice monster becomes an internalized question of her own character. There is also a refreshing colorblind casting, something that originated with the Broadway production, that gives a more inclusive feel to the work.

BWW REVIEW: The Touring Production of FROZEN: THE MUSICAL Arrives In Sydney
Sean Sinclair as Kristoff and Lochie McIntyre as Sven (Photo: Lisa Tomasetti)

The performances from the Australian cast are wonderful as they bring the fan favorite characters to life. Jemma Rix, familiar with playing magically troubled leading ladies, lends a gravitas to Elsa and delivers a beautiful rendition of Let It Go, filled with emotion and realization. Courtney Monsma is fabulously delightful as the cheeky younger sister Anna as she manages to play to a grown-up audience as well as the youngsters with an ease that ensures the subtle innuendo sails over their heads. She ensures there is an honesty and truth behind her portrayal of the young princess and her smile lights up the stage. Sean Sinclair, as rugged Kristoff exudes a goofiness whilst still retaining a pure sincerity and his trusty reindeer friend Sven is delivered with adorable body puppetry (cast list did not state whether Macmillan or McIntyre were inside the shaggy suit on opening night). Rounding out the core cast, Matt Lee gives life to the captivating rod puppet expression of snowman Olaf. The puppet lifts Olaf off the animated screen and presents a perfect three-dimensional expression while Lee, visible throughout and dressed in appropriate Nordic attire, echoes Olaf's expressions beautifully as he gives him voice, as well as movement.

BWW REVIEW: The Touring Production of FROZEN: THE MUSICAL Arrives In Sydney
Jemma Rix as Elsa (Photo: Lisa Tomasetti)

While Elsa's frozen palace is beautiful in its crystal glory, the majority of the touring set, designed by Christopher Oram, for the production is however where the work is let down. Relying on CGI projections and the rear screen the magic of Elsa's powers feels lost particularly when shards of ice are drawn in from the wings instead of rising through the floor. The center revolve has also been omitted for this production reducing the visual impact of vertical variety. Ambient light in the auditorium also felt too bright for the effects of the drop in proscenium turning to ice to be fully felt. The change to the precariousness of the iced bridge in What Do You Know About Love? also causes the understanding of the danger of the journey to be greatly diminished, changing from life threatening because of nature to merely a hazard because they are clumsy in the slick ice. The saving grace to the issues with the set and restaging is however is Oram's costume design which draws heavily on the movie and Nordic inspiration with the showstopper piece being Elsa's dress when she finally gives in to her truth and reveals a gown worth of the shimmering ice palace she inhabits.

BWW REVIEW: The Touring Production of FROZEN: THE MUSICAL Arrives In Sydney
Jemma Rix as Elsa, Matt Lee as Olaf and Courtney Monsma as Anna (Photo: Lisa Tomasetti)

FROZEN THE MUSICAL is a delightful treat for families looking for something to do this summer as by the sounds of children seated near your BroadwayWorld reviewer, the little ones were captivated. It is also wonderful to see main stage big musicals return to the stage following the pandemic led lockdown that shut down live performance worldwide.

A footnote mention: The staff and management at Capitol Theatre are doing an exceptional job at taking extra care to ensure that it is safe to return to the theatre with timed seating (read your tickets) to avoid people having to pass other patrons in a row, mandatory masks (please wear them properly) when not enjoying a beverage or snack at your seat, and end of show departure management procedures where patrons are asked to remain seated till given the clearance for their row to exit.

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