By Tulis McCall
Frozen is a perfect confection. It is a fairy tale come to live in the present, physical world, where it has little business being, but what the heck. Who couldn’t use a little uplift – especially in these times of callousness and ignorance and all the stuff that makes you want to crawl under the covers until the plague passes. Besides, who could not use a boatload of special effects??? Frozen is a whole lot of Disney, a little Lloyd-Webber, a little John Williams, a ton of spectacle, and a boat load of that magic elixir, l-o-v-e.
What is remarkable is that this is a story of two sisters, both of whom are heroes. Heroines?(unlike the Hans Christian Anderson story The Snow Queen on which this is based and had one whing-ding of a mean sister) Like the classic examples in Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, these two Royals get the call to a challenge and each faces it in her own way. In a land too far away to visit, Arendelle, the Princess Elsa (Caissie Levy) has been born with a gift that is challenging. She can freeze you, literally, with a swoop of her tiny hand. While this gift is cool (you should pardon the pun), it is not so good when it is out of control. 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 her sister Anna (Patti Murin) is left to wonder where her best friend went and why. Add to this the death of their parents and you have two little heroes, each alone, waiting for their lives to begin.
Begin they do when three years later Elsa is released from her seclusion long enough to be crowned queen and throw not only the doors to the palace open, but a helluva party for the immediate world. Elsa the Queen wears gloves all the time to prevent her from touching anything and turning it to ice. Anna, traveling a distant parallel path, falls in love with open doors, her people, and one sweet (or so we think) Prince Hans (John Riddle). The two dance their way into being engaged, and this is when the poo hits the pan. Elsa may be afflicted but she knows when her sister is making a b-i-g-m-i-s-t-a-k-e. Her upset and refusal to bless the engagement grows exponentially until the entire kingdom of Arendelle is buried in snow and ice – it is f-r-o-z-e-n. Elsa sees what her behavior is creating ad flees for the northern most mountain anywhere. This is the hero who retreats.
In order to save her sister and her country, Ana takes off on her own to rescue Elsa. This is the hero who accepts the challenge. Along the way she meets the requisite allies (heroes ain’t nuthin’ without peeps). Kristoff (Jelani Alladin) a regular mountain guy and purveyor of fine ice blocks, his companion Sven (Andrew Pirozzi) the REINDEER (and this is one spectacular beast) and completing the quartet is Olaf the Snowman (Greg Hildreth) who is the very one the two girls created as children. He is now come to life and eager to please.
This all works out just fine, with a couple of twists. As the ancient ones warned Elsa, “Fear is the enemy.” And love is of course the answer. But this is not ye old “true love” where the damsel in distress gets saved by the gentleman caller. Oh no. This love is all about sisters. Oh, the men are there – the good and the bad. And the hilarious in the form of Duke of Weselton (Robert Creighton) who is so oily he nearly oozes. His quick tango with the chorus had the audience barking laughs. It was however, too short . If you are going to play fast and loose with the story line, the least you could do is give the comic relief a bit more room in the tent. When is someone going to write a Broadway musical for Creighton to carry on his own? (Full disclosure – I am a big fan.)
And the writers do play fast and loose. The basic plot is there but the order of side events is ass over teakettle in case you care, which no one seemed to. There are also several numbers that serve no purpose other than to kill time for a scene or costume change. Nude sauna participants? Seriously? More than one item that could be surgically removed without missing a beat in the actual story.
That being said, this is a timely show for the #MeToo and the #TimesUp era. Amazing that the movie came out 5 years ago. Women risking their lives for one another is a theme we could use more of because guess what? It happens every day. And the audience agrees. This audience was in full throat at every calamity, each special effect (BRILLIANT!), and every blazing song (Levy and Murin have some serious pipes). They roared their approval at every triumph and were ready to accept the challenge Elsa proclaimed:
Let it go…
Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand in the light of day
Let the storm rage on
Not for nuthin’ but on the night in question I saw more booster seats than I have ever seen at a show. Let us not forget, however, the busloads of adults who were there so that “the kids would see the show.”
PS – more than half of the kids I saw were of the male persuasion. And many of them with their fathers. Start them on the right track while they are young. Yes indeedy.
FROZEN – Directed by Michael Grandage, music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez and book by Jennifer Lee
WITH Caissie Levy (Elsa), Patti Murin (Anna), Jelani Alladin (Kristoff), Greg Hildreth (Olaf), John Riddle (Hans), Robert Creighton (Weselton), Kevin Del Aguila (Oaken), Timothy Hughes (Pabbie), Andrew Pirozzi (Sven), Audrey Bennett and Mattea Conforti (Young Anna), Brooklyn Nelson and Ayla Schwartz (Young Elsa). Alicia Albright, Tracee Beazer, Wendi Bergamini, Ashley Blanchet, James Brown III, Claire Camp, Lauren Nicole Chapman, Spencer Clark, Jeremy Davis, Kali Grinder, Ashley Elizabeth Hale, Zach Hess, Donald Jones, Jr., Nina Lafarga, Ross Lekites, Austin Lesch, Synthia Link, Travis Patton, Adam Perry, Jeff Pew, Olivia Phillip, Noah J. Ricketts, Ann Sanders, Jacob Smith and Nicholas Ward.
Scenic and costume design – Christopher Oram, lighting design – Natasha Katz, sound design by – Peter Hylenski, video design – Finn Ross, puppet design by Michael Curry, hair design by David Brian Brown, makeup design by Anne Ford-Coates and special effects design by Jeremy Chernick.
Music Supervisor – Stephen Oremus is music supervisor; Dave Metzger (orchestrations), Chris Montan (executive music producer), David Chase (additional dance arrangements) and Brian Usifer (music director).
Disney Theatrical Productions under the direction of Thomas Schumacher presents FROZEN at the historic St. James Theatre (246 West 44th Street). Tickets