|Patti Murin, Caissie Levy, Jacob Smith. Photo: Deen vanMeer|
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.
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.
Sound Design by Peter Hylenski, Hair Design by David Brian Brown, Makeup Design by Anne Ford-Coates.
-- The stage version is a bit darker than the movie. I would give it a PG rating.
-- Magic (with incantation)