Updated: Jun 1
Segerstrom's Frozen Chills with Soaring Vocals and Incredible Special Effects!
Disney’s “Frozen,” the hit Broadway musical tour loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, “The Snow Queen,” opened Thursday at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, bringing to life a faithful and fun production onstage that is sure to melt your heart.
“Frozen” is actually a perfect theatrical extravaganza. It’s a whole lot of Disney, a little Lloyd-Webber, a little John Williams, a ton of spectacle, and an icy tale of Nordic adventure, mixed with that cryokinetic magic elixir, L-O-V-E.
You may remember, when “Frozen” first hit cinemas almost a decade ago, it was a revolution for Disney. The film not only returned the House of Mouse to the animation heights it last reached in the ’90s with hits like “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast,” it also presented something audiences hadn’t seen in a Disney movie before: two sister princesses, each fighting to find her own “happily ever after” without needing the help of any Prince Charming.
That story, penned by the film’s screenwriter and co-director Jennifer Lee, remains the same in her book for the stage adaptation, coming across just as groundbreaking as before while a packed Costa Mesa audience cheers on the two strong female leads.
Anna and Elsa (the two young magnetic actresses in rotation for Young Anna and Young Elsa on the day of performance was Aria Kane as the feisty redhead and Sydney Elise Russell as her suffering sister; alternately Saheli Khan and Mackenzie Mercer) are still polar-opposite royal siblings whose lives are turned into turmoil during their childhood when a young Elsa unleashes her long-suppressed powers to manipulate ice and snow — she can freeze you quite literally, with a twist of her tiny hand. The problem is, Elsa does not know how to control it. When she whacks her little sister too hard during fun in the magic snow, Elsa is condemned to a permanent time out, while Anna is left to wonder where her best friend went and why.
Though Anna is cured (and her memories of her sister’s powers wiped), Elsa’s parents shut up the palace gates, slap gloves on their precocious older daughter, and warn her to keep her powers to herself. “Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let it show,” becomes the little sorceress’s mantra.
Both young actresses shine in the show’s opening scenes and numbers, “Let the Sun Shine On,” “A Little Bit of You, and Ms. Kane in the transition to young adulthood (with Lauren Nichole Chapman and Caroline Bowman taking over as Anna and Elsa, respectively) powers through the show’s themed musical number with major-movie-recognition, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” It’s one of those songs that's not only clever-cute but treacly-trite, and when the irresistible Ms. Kane’s vivacity gets the play rolling, and she passes the baton to an exuberant and endearing Ms. Chapman, that spirit remains infectious.
Of course, as Disney parents do, the king and queen have by then died tragically at sea, leaving their daughters to grow up alone and setting the stage for a catastrophic reemergence of Elsa’s repressed powers on the very day she’s supposed to be crowned Arendelle’s queen. Knowing her powers could become a deadly aberration, Elsa flees to the ice mountains and there builds her own ice castle kingdom. Alas, unknown to her, she has also managed to make Arendelle into one giant popsickle.
In order to save her sister and her country, Anna takes off on her own to rescue Elsa. Along the way she meets her requisite allies, practical prince Hans (Will Savarese, who is very hard to kick to the curb even after his character’s true motives are revealed), Kristoff (Dominic Dorset in a very charismatic turn) a regular mountain guy and purveyor of fine ice blocks, and his companion Sven (Collin Baja for this performance; alternately Dan Plehal) the reindeer — and with its eerie lifelike appearance, this spectacular “uncanny valley” puppet beast can rival anything from “The Lion King.”
But for many the real star of the show is Olaf the Snowman (puppeteered by the hilarious Jeremy Davis) who definitely gets his share of ad-libs and punchlines. Even his own song: “In Summer.” One potentially divisive change you may not have noticed though — the rock trolls are now mystical Hidden Folk, creatures from Scandinavian folklore summoned by a tribal chant. They’re explained in a way that feels woven into the story rather than added for exposition, though their glowing eyes, tattered clothes and floating tails? might take some getting used to.
There’s so much to revel in this wintry mix: The ensemble is bright and buoyant, with the regal Caroline Bowman belting her heart out as Elsa and the adorable Lauren Nicole Chapman charming the lederhosen off everyone as Anna. The stage is a lush Scandinavian paradise, a vibrant winter wonderland brought to sumptuous life by set-and-costume designer Christopher Oram, and Mickey Mouse’s bottomless coffers, and literally every song is a genuine delight.
There’s also a bit more padding to the show than in the movie. “Frozen,” the movie, runs about 90 minutes. The stage musical is two hours and 20 minutes long, including the intermission. Lopez and Anderson-Lopez’s songs are not only serviceable and sweet but intoxicating. Animations and projections seem to continually swirl across various screens and surfaces. And when Director Grandage and special-effects designer Jeremy Chernick alight on those palpable, physical gestures to create the story’s enchantments, whooshes of exhilaration ripple through the audience like one of Elsa’s icy blasts. That’s when the screens and pixels do the visual splendor in true theater magic, bringing to mind several of Disney’s resort shows.
Songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez’s beloved score has more than doubled from the movie, with 12 new songs blending seamlessly with favorites like “Love Is an Open Door” and “For the First Time in Forever” (say goodbye to “Frozen Heart” — that’s been cut).
Considering the audiences for this show largely consist of a sea of pre-teen girls, the Act II opener “Hygge” might be the most risqué Disney has ever gotten in a musical, with villagers enjoying a “nude” trip to the spa. Later, Elsa’s earth-shattering anthem “Monster” will have you questioning good vs. evil, while Anna and Elsa’s 11 o’clock heartbreaker “I Can’t Lose You” will have you reaching for the tissues.
Ms. Chapman effortlessly conveys Anna’s sweetness and spunk, and the comedic brilliance she displays throughout gives “Frozen” some of its best moments. She’s easily the heart of the show. When singing, she’s bright and beautiful; when acting, earnest and endearing in every scene. She’s not just a hero you want to have on your side — she’s also a role model for young women.
Ms. Bowman, meanwhile, does the seemingly impossible: she lets you feel every moment of Elsa’s sadness and fear without ever appearing weak. She’s a princess (in pants!) who is flawed, but no longer apologizing for those flaws, and embodies that strength in the character.
And then there’s what she does with “Let It Go.” When the first notes on the song start playing, a wave of anticipation rolls through the audience. By the time that note comes — accompanied by one of the most dazzling costume changes you’ll see on any stage — it’ll take everything in your power not to jump for joy.
SEGERSTROM CENTER FOR THE ARTS AND DISNEY THEATRICAL PRODUCTIONS PRESENTS, DISNEY’S FROZEN, THE HIT BROADWAY MUSICAL; Music & Lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez; Book by Jennifer Lee; Directed by Michael Grandage; Choreographed by Rob Ashford; Music Supervision & Arrangements by Stephen Oremus; Orchestrations by Dave Metzger; Executive Music Producer Chris Montan; Music Coordinators Michael Keller & Michael Aarons; Additional Dance Arranger David Chase; Music Director Faith Seetoo; Scenic & Costume Designer Christopher Oram; Lighting Designer Natasha Katz; Sound Designer Peter Hylenski; Hair Designer David Brian Brown; Makeup Designer Anne Ford-Coates; Special Effects Designer Jeremy Chernick; Video Designer Finn Ross; Puppet Designer Michael Curry; Production Stage Manager Paige Grant.
WITH: Caroline Bowman; Lauren Nicole Chapman; Jeremy Davis; Dominic Dorset; Will Savarese; Collin Baja; Evan Duff; Dan Plehal; Aria Kane; Saheli Khan; Mackenzie Mercer; Sydney Elise Russell; Belinda Allyn; Kate Bailey; Jack Brewer; Caelan Creaser; Taylor Marie Daniel; Kristen Smith Davis; Colby Dezelick; C.K. Edwards; Michael Everett; Berklea Going; Natalie Goodin; Tyler Jimenez; Dustin Layton; Tatyana Lubov; Adrianna Rose Lyons; Kyle Lamar Mitchell; Tony Neidenbach; Jessie Peltier; Brian Steven Shaw; Caleb Summers; Daniel Switzer; Zach Trimmer; Natalie Wisdom; Peli Naomi Woods.
“DISNEY’S FROZEN” runs February 1st through February 19th with performances on Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30PM; Thursday, February 2nd at 2PM; Saturdays at 2PM and 7:30PM, and Sundays at 1PM and 6:30PM at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Segerstrom Hall, 600 Town Center Dr, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Tickets may be purchased at www.scfta.org.
Arts & Entertainment Reviewer
The Show Report