It has the ‘wow’ factor in terms of stagecraft. A seemingly impossibly long ice bridge fills the stage in the second half. The key moments from the motion picture are recreated remarkably well, with Elsa (Samantha Barks) using her (albeit unwanted) ability to create ice and snow quite convincingly as the production goes into the interval with the musical’s best-known number, ‘Let It Go’. The target audience is fully aware of the story, having seen the motion picture, and indeed any and all of the songs and dialogue from the movie that have made it into the stage show. Sometimes more than a few of them are unable to hold themselves back, and perhaps the only thing Frozen has in common with The Rocky Horror Picture Show is that a substantial number of audience members turn up to the theatre in costumes commensurate with the show.
The level of detail in the backstory in the first half is borderline overkill. That said, this production can hardly be accused of character underdevelopment – even that speaking snowman who likes summer (yep, it’s the Disney Corporation at its finest), Olaf (Craig Gallivan) is someone the audience gets to know very well. Gallivan’s was the stand-out performance for me, executing the triple ‘threat’ (singing, acting and dancing) whilst in seemingly effortless control of a large and elaborate puppet.
While the film is done and dusted in 102 minutes, the stage musical takes considerably longer to tell the same story. I’m not convinced all the padding that goes on is strictly necessary. Still, expectations are high, and the production must, I suppose, do its best to give its audiences the best possible return on their investment. There are significantly more songs here than in the movie, which admittedly gives the musical the ability to use showtunes to underline feelings and emotions in the way in which stage shows do best, highlighting quite how powerful – overwhelming, even – the bond between, say, Elsa and her sister Anna (Stephanie McKeon), is despite challenges.
The costume change at the end of the first act is, in a word, remarkable. I’d say more about it, but it would be giving too much away. Let’s just say much of the audience applauds mid-song for a reason. Oliver Ormson’s Hans is believable enough to elicit boos and hisses when the prince’s actual intentions become clear, something I suspect only happens in the show in Britain, thanks to the pantomime tradition. He handles it with good grace, particularly when the hissing is reprised at curtain call: in this day and age, it’s both satisfying and unsurprising that the supposed knight in shining armour ends up being surplus to requirements.
Love is the answer, as the song from a generation ago says. When this show declares that “love is an open door”, it means it: expressions of love are public and sisterly far more than they are ever sensual or romantic. It is, after all, a family-friendly show. Oh, and there’s something eerily relevant about Elsa going into self-isolation to protect everyone else from something out of her control. Anna and Elsa have younger selves (on press night, Summer Betson and Sasha Watson-Lord respectively), which no doubt helped younger members of the audience connect with the production all the more.
There’s a ruggedness to Obioma Ugoala’s Kristoff which suits the character perfectly, while Mikayla Jade brings the reindeer Sven to life in ways that makes one forget there’s a life-size costume on stage performing almost impossible physical manoeuvres. I trust she has a good chiropractor. The large ensemble scenes are brilliantly executed, with Rob Ashford’s choreography adding much to the atmosphere of celebration and jubilation that a ‘coronation day’ in the first half and a happy musical theatre ending in the second require. There are some icy patches, so to speak, but for the most part, this is a decent and wholesome experience.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Prepare to fall in love with Disney’s Frozen all over again, as the brand-new theatrical experience is now open at London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
Incredible special effects, stunning costumes and jaw-dropping scenery bring Elsa and Anna’s journey to life in a whole new way. And with all the beloved songs from the movie – as well as a few surprises from the writers behind Let it Go – you’ll be transported to Arendelle from the moment the curtain rises.
Frozen is brought to the stage by an award-winning creative team, with direction by Tony® and Olivier Award winner Michael Grandage and a book by Academy® and BAFTA Award winner Jennifer Lee. The show features the cherished songs from the original film alongside new songs by Grammy® and Academy Award-winning writers Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.
Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Catherine Street, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5JF