Everybody knows what they are getting when Disney puts a show on stage. And that’s not just the story – in this case a fairy tale about a magical queen and her sister – and the songs, but what every scene will be. I’m not sure it’s the best introduction to theatre, but Disney does bring its films to the stage very well.
In the case of Frozen, the book, by the film’s writer Jennifer Lee, is sweet and has some surprises. This fairy tale focuses on two female leads and there’s some complexity in their characters. They make nice roles for Samantha Barks and Stephanie McKeon. And the romantic interest isn’t what you might expect – or maybe it is, Prince Charming has had a bad rep for a quite a while, after all. Regardless, there are strong supporting roles for Obioma Ugoala and Oliver Ormson (the latter very much a cartoon villain) that carry a moral well… if not lightly.
The songs, with music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, are simple but are effective: pleasant rather than memorable (though many younger fans are likely to disagree with this) but with a good mix of power ballads (which Barks does very well with) and waltzes. The latter are a nice touch. We want some old-fashioned costumes, after all, and Christopher Oram’s work here is lovely. The humour is better than might be expected, the snowman Olaf (Craig Gallivan, with puppet design from Michael Curry) has a good number.
Make no mistake that Frozen is a kids’ show to its core. So, for me, it’s the staging and the special effects, designed by Jeremy Chernick, that are the first highlight. Oram’s scenic design is impressive and Finn Ross’ video work adds immeasurably. The kids really do want to see the film on stage. There’s a superb reveal and, after that, the appearance of Elsa’s pig tail gets its own squeal of delight.
A quick pace is adopted by director Michael Grandage that hides potential dull moments. Rob Ashford’s engaging and inventive choreography is the second high point. Using the ensemble to create atmosphere or even suggest scenery – an especially strong moment – makes a nice contrast to high-tech touches. Frozen looks expensive and it sure to leave (younger) members of the audience breathless. For me, its genuinely theatrical touches are even more exciting.
Photos by Johan Persson