Even if you have not seen the movie Frozen you have heard “Let it Go.” The movie’s power ballad was inescapable after the release in 2013. The movie went on to make millions, win Academy Awards and, most recently, it spawned a big-budget Broadway musical. The Walt Disney Company knows a good opportunity when it sees one and, after seeing the show in New York last month, it’s hard to argue with their logic. Frozen is a faithful adaption: the magic, the music and the story are all brought to life with exquisite detail and expert performances.
The Frozen story is originally drawn from Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen” and follows sisters Anna and Elsa, the latter of which has the power to create snow and ice. When Elsa becomes queen of Arendelle and accidentally turns the kingdom to an ice town (Parks and Rec anyone?) Elsa flees the kingdom and Anna sets off to find her.
The movie version of Frozen was essentially a movie musical so it comes as no surprise that the movie translates well to the stage. The show includes the music from the movie but is filled out with new material. Adding new music to a beloved story is a risk that may not pay off (ahem, Aladdin) but in the case of Frozen the new musical numbers feel like a natural fit. For example, “A Little Bit of You” and “Hygge” are fun and serve as a showcase for the talented young performers and ensemble cast. And then there is the moment for which the entire audience has been waiting. The audible gasp when the audience hears the opening strains of “Let it Go” illustrates the exact reason live theater is so important. The collective, immediate experience of a performer inspiring joy right before your eyes is impossible to replicate in any other medium.
|Caissie Levy as Elsa and Patti Murin as Anna|
Of course no matter how good the music, the book and the design, it all falls flat if the actors tasked with bringing the story to life are not up to the task. Caissie Levy has the weight of “Let it Go” on her shoulders but you would not know it to look at her. Her Elsa navigates the arc from fear to confidence to contentment with poise. On top of that, Levy’s voice is impeccable, smooth and strong; she belts the high notes without belying any of the difficulty inherent in that task. And while Elsa has the biggest moment of the show, it is actually Anna who has more stage time, so it is perfect that Patti Murin is tailor-made for the role. Murin imbues Anna with a bubbly brightness and the head and heart of a modern princess. Jelani Alladin and Greg Hildreth, as Kristoff and Olaf, have great comedic timing, always appreciated in a show where the meat of the story is not rooted in comedy, and the ensemble is made up of a talented group of singers and dancers.