Taking to the stage at the newly refurbished Theatre Royal Drury Lane, the musical version of Disney’s Frozen is sure to be a hit, but does it live up to the 2013 film’s standard, or does it live in its cold shadow?
A lot of care has gone into the staging of Frozen, from the confines of Arendelle castle to the dazzling crystalline beauty of Elsa’s snow palace. The show uses Finn Ross‘s razor-sharp projections over the physical staging by set designer Christopher Oram to send crystals of snow scintillating over the once sunny kingdom, sending us into an everlasting icy winter.
If you have seen the film, and let’s be honest, who hasn’t, then you are not in for too many surprises. Still, the few there are will amuse, such as the new song Hygge, a fun song about getting cosy in winter, featuring a string of ‘nude’ Swedish sauna-goes dancing across the stage, playfully whipping each other with twigs.
True to the film, the opening act features young Elsa and Anna, played by one of several youth performers. They race through four songs together as the show explains Elsa’s powers and the need for her isolation, a chilly foreshadowing of the isolation we have all endured, perhaps? Certainly, this show was kept locked up for 18 months thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Once the adults take the stage, Stephanie McKeon plays a daring, slightly vulnerable Anna. At the same time, Samantha Barks gives Elsa the perfect combination of poise and magnificence to let us know who’s queen. Barks performs Let It Go with heartfelt power as the standout song of the show.
Although, as we mentioned, there are new songs by the original lyricists Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the script itself, by Jennifer Lee, the film’s writer and co-director, seems a little timid. It retains many of the more popular jokes from the movie but does not deliver any new insight into the characters, motivations, or background.
Olaf is, of course, still part of the performance as a puppet that is controlled and voiced by Craig Gallivan. His performance is excellent, but he has little of himself about the role, keeping very close to the original character’s mannerisms and tone.
A driving force for why Frozen was such a hit in 2013 was removing the need for a romantic love aspect to the film, which remains true for the stage show. Anna and Elsa are there for each other. The remainder of the cast ends up being there merely to support them in their struggles. Obioma Ugoala plays Kristoff with great charm, with Sven the Reindeer (Mikayla Jade/Ashley Birchall) proving to be very amusing through mannerisms; we’d have loved to have seen more from both characters. The dastardly Prince Hans (Oliver Ormson) elicited hisses from the young audience, very much in keeping with British theatre standards.
We can’t say that you will discover anything new about Frozen from the theatre production, but if you are already a fan, you’ll love the interpretation and the additional songs that join this inevitable hit show together. Dress up as your favourite character, go and have fun, and expect to be sold a soft plush toy on the way out as Disney does what it does best.
Book your tickets now here.