Friday, April 13, 2018

Broadway Theater Review: Frozen

Patti Murin, Caissie Levy, Jacob Smith. Photo: Deen vanMeer
Frozen
Music and Lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
Book by Jennifer Lee, based on her screenplay with Chris Buck
Choreography by Rob Ashford
Directed by Michael Grandage
St. James Theatre

By Lauren Yarger
The special effects, costumes and sets of Frozen are so enchanting, I was able to let it go, when it comes to the weak book transferring the latest Disney film to a Broadway stage.

When Elsa touched a wall at the St. James and triggered its transformation into a glittering ice palace, I think I was as delighted as some of little girls in the audience dressed as their favorite princesses and screaming (and there are LOTS of them, accompanied by parents carting bags full of stuffed snowmen and the like from merchandise booths in the theater.)

For those of you unfamiliar with the story by Jennifer Lee, loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," Elsa (Cassie Levy) is a princess in an Icelandic country called Arendelle. She and her spunky sister, Anna (a delightful Patti Murin), are best friends, until one night when Elsa's ability to command snow and ice almost kills the younger girl. Queen Iduna (Ann Sanders) and King Agnarr (James Brown III) call upon some woodsy (and scary looking) trolls who use magic to heal Anna and leave her without memory of the incident. Elsa's powers must be hidden, however, to keep everyone safe. The palace is closed to outsiders and Elsa retreats to a lonely existence in her room leaving Anna to wonder what she has done to alienate the sister with whom she was once close. (Before the princesses grow up, they are portrayed by young actresses who share the roles.)

When Elsa becomes queen, the kingdom's subjects are allowed into the palace for the coronation. Anna instantly falls in love with and agrees to marry Hans of the Southern Isles (John Riddle), and caught off guard, Elsa unleashes an unending winter on the kingdom and vanishes. Anna goes off to search for her sister with the help of iceman/snow-hiking expert Kristoff (Jalani Alladin) and Sven, his large reindeer (a puppet housed by Andrew Pirozzi and designed by Michael Curry.)

It's sheer theater magic when the ice palace, which Elsa creates for herself, emerges. Special Effects Designer Jeremy Chernick, Video Designer Finn Ross, Scenic and Costume Designer Christopher Oram and always excellent Lighting Designer Natasha Katz, merge geniuses to create some of the most satisfying effects on a Broadway stage yet. Snow falls, icicles jut, crystals sparkle and we are mesmerized. So let's not worry too much about the weaker elements of the show -- especially when Levy belts out a wonderful rendition of ”Let it Go,"  the tune every parent of a small child has heard played in excess of one million times since Idina Menzel first sang it for the animated film. It won the Academy Award for the songwriting team of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, who doubled the number of songs for the Broadway adaptation of the film.

Standing out in the cast are Greg Hildreth as Olaf the snowman, who merges puppetry and acting skills to create the most successful Disney sidekick character to make the transition from film to stage for the first time in forever, and Robert Creighton as the creepy and humorous Weselton.

The opening numbers of both acts, with choreography by Rob Ashford, would be included in that "weaker" element section we're not going to worry about. I also won't comment on Director Michael Grandage's casting choices that don't work -- and there are many. At the end of the day, these little audience kids are enjoying themselves and that is important. I wouldn't want you to think I have ice in my heart. I am a nice princess critic, not an evil queen.

Frozen makes snow look good -- even after the long winter of 2018 -- at the St. James Theatre, 246 West 44th St., NYC. Tickets are $82-$199: frozenthemusical.com.

Additional casting:
Kevin Del Aguila (Oaken), Timothy Hughes (Pabbie), Audrey Bennett (Young Anna), Mattea Conforti (Young Anna), Brooklyn Nelson (Young Elsa), Ayla Schwartz (Young Elsa)

Ensemble: Alicia Albright, Tracee Beazer, Wendi Bergamini, Ashley Blanchet, 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, Jacob Smith and Nicholas Ward.

Additional credits:

Sound Design by Peter Hylenski, Hair Design by David Brian Brown, Makeup Design by Anne Ford-Coates.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
-- The stage version is a bit darker than the movie. I would give it a PG rating.
-- Magic (with incantation)




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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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