Frozen mania has taken over Hollywood! The much-anticipated sequel to the classic 2013 film is playing at Disney’s El Capitan Theatre, and just down the street, the stage adaption of the first film finally made its tour debut at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. The North American tour opens with the show’s nine-week engagement at the Pantages, meaning Angelenos are the first people to see the show outside of Broadway (and Denver, where it was conceived). It’s a cool show in more ways than one that does not disappoint.
Like all the Broadway adaptations of Disney films that came before it (Beauty and The Beast, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King and Aladdin, to name a few), the stage production remains fairly true to the film, expanding on the story with additional songs. Written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the couple who wrote the music for the films, the new songs are great filler, though the best numbers are still the ones we know and love from the movie. Unfortunately the latter are in the first act, so the second act drags a bit.
The second half of the show opens with a bizarre new song called “Hygge” centered around Oaken, the shopkeeper Anna and Kristoff visit on their way to finding Elsa. The scene in the film was memorable but minor, and its stretch into an act-opening number feels forced, even if it’s staged around a funny visual — Oaken’s large family repeatedly going out and in of their sauna, appearing to be nude. The illusion was interesting, but leaves the viewer wondering why that many people would be in a tiny sauna naked or what they were doing in there. For a family show, it’s just strange. To this end, the lovable trolls from film are represented by very fit nymph-type creatures here, which seems an odd choice and a gratuitous somewhat Vegas-y attempt to display more male six-packs and female breasts on stage.
Overall, the tour cast is top notch — Caroline Bowman, who played Elsa, belts “Let It Go” perfectly, but that’s no surprise as she’s taken on another one of Idina Menzel’s famous roles in the past, Elphaba in Wicked, on Broadway. Another Caroline — Caroline Innerbichler — plays Anna, building on the sweet kookiness of the role and making for a very funny, relatable, and three-dimensional character.
Anna comes off flakey in the film (not only does she want to marry someone she just met, but she puts him in charge of her entire kingdom). But Innerbichler brings a zany Zooey Deschanel-style likeability to Anna that makes you root for her. The little girls who play the young Elsa and Anna are even charismatic especially Stella R. Cobb as Young Anna; she steals the show with skilled comedic timing and a confidence that belied her years.
Of course some Disney magic from the animated film has to be reinterpreted for the stage, especially the characters of Olaf and Sven (the reindeer). Here, Olaf is a puppet controlled by a visible performer, actor F. Michael Haynie, who’s quite great in the part and quickly makes you forget his human appearance. Sven is an actual person in the reindeer costume, and the actor inside — Collin Baja — is no doubt a gymnast or dancer to be able to pull off the animalistic maneuvers as easily as he does. Fans of Disney on Broadway will definitely see a big difference in the technology used to bring Olaf and Sven to life, verses techniques from Beauty and The Beast in the ’90s, for example.
Frozen‘s got a lot going for it, but its visual elements are the best part on stage. The movie is beautifully animated, and audiences should expect no less on stage from Disney’s Broadway adaptation. The sets are striking and elaborate, and the costumes bring the world of Arendelle to life. Of course the highlight in terms of theatrics has to be “Let It Go,” which includes Elsa’s dress reveal just as does in the film. It’s a jaw-dropping moment that plays even better in real life, as does the “snow” fall, which covers the entire audience with white flakes as it concludes, and will leave L.A. audiences with a brisk, feel-good winter wonderland experience no matter what the temps may be outside the theater.
Hollywood Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; through February 2, 2020. For more information and tickets, visit FrozenTheMusical.com/Tour or call (323) 468-1770.