Monday, January 27, 2020

Play Review: Frozen - the Broadway Musical

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Story we know and love
Cons: Some important characters shortchanged by new songs and emphasis, one dance number questionable for kids
The Bottom Line:
Popular movie
Becomes okay musical
Fun but major flaws

Spectacular Stage Show with Weak Story

I really wasn’t too surprised when Disney chose to turn Frozen into a Broadway musical.  The songs in the movie were already Broadway worthy, and the movie was so popular that the audience for it was built in.  So when the touring production made it to the Pantages Theater here in Hollywood, I decided to go see it.  Sadly, it was actually weaker than the movie.

If you’ve seen the movie (and who hasn’t), you know the story.  It follows two sisters, Elsa and Anna.  Elsa has magical powers that create snow and turn things cold, and these powers have caused problems for her all her life.  However, her secret gets out on the day she is crowned Queen of their country of Arendelle.  When Elsa runs away, Anna tries to track her down and talk her into coming back.  Will Elsa return?  Can anything stop the summer blizzard that Elsa has created?

I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed the movie when I first went to see it, so I was looking forward to seeing what they did with it on the stage.  One of the reasons for the movie’s success was the songs, and all of those songs are present and just as fun here.  Naturally, the play has added some original songs.  Of those, I found “I Can’t Lose You” to be the best of the bunch.  This duet between Elsa and Anna near the beginning of the second act is as moving as anything we’ve seen for the characters yet.  For fun, there’s “Hygge.”  Just about everyone in the main cast gets a chance to shine.  The only reason I’m debating about getting the soundtrack is because “I Can’t Lose You” was added after the soundtrack was recorded so isn’t there.  And it’s the song I most want.  Of the songs we already love, “Let It Go” is absolutely magical, and “In Summer” was as funny as ever.  Both are staged perfectly with great additions to make you love them all the more.  And I loved what they did with the finale, which is all I will say.

However, the additional songs (and there really are a lot of them), take away from the story.  This is especially important when it comes to Anna’s love life.  We actually spend more time seeing her falling in love with Hans than we do seeing her relationship with Kristoff grow.  If you know the story, you know how important that relationship turns out to be.  Frankly, Kristoff’s character feels short changed all the way around in the play as they spend more time on the relationship between the sisters, even at a young age.  I absolutely agree that their relationship is a key one in the story, but we need more time for Kristoff as well.

Then there’s the costumes for the song “Hygge.”  As much as I enjoyed the song (which reminds me of “Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King), I didn’t appreciate the costumes, or should I say lack of costumes, that the company was wearing.  The song makes many references to a sauna, so the lack of costumes makes sense.  And for most of the song, they are wearing enough to cover anything important.  However, for the kick line at the end, they are wearing skin colored tights with nothing but branches to cover themselves and their neighbors.  The audience I was with was laughing and cheering.  However, I felt this wasn’t appropriate for a show aimed at kids.  If the target audience was adults, I wouldn’t question it nearly as much, and if they’d kept their original costumes, I would have been fine with it as well.  But this wasn’t appropriate for a show aimed at kids.  No, you don’t come close to actually seeing anything, but still – not in a play aimed at kids.

On the other hand, I’ve got to give the production credit for the effects.  This may be a stage show, but they have worked out ways to make some spectacular effects take place before our eyes.  Some of them are blink and you miss them stage magic, and it was phenomenal.  I’m including Olaf in this.  The snowman is a puppet, and he and his puppeteer are wonderful.  Likewise, the actor in the Sven costume is great.

And all the actors were wonderful.  The singing, the dancing, and the acting were all top notch.  I teared up at the places I do in the movie, so it worked overall.

Frozen has been a cultural phenomenon for so long, I know this play will be around for a long time to come.  While the play is good, it isn’t one of Disney’s best movie to Broadway adaptations.

1 comment:

  1. I loved the movie but not sure about seeing the Broadway show. I agree with you, the lack of costumes would put a negative in my mind. Kids are growing up way too fast and this is an example of why.