A Sneak Peek at ‘Frozen’ on Broadway
New songs! Deeper characters! An almost endless credit card bill! Disney's new show has it all.
It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for since the first time you heard “Let It Go”: Frozen has come to Broadway. The show — with new songs written by the original composers — started previews in New York last month, and is scheduled to open March 22.
Fulfilling a promise I made to my then-4-year-old son during his Frozen phase, we snagged tickets to a recent preview performance. It was his first Broadway show, and while he’s no longer interested in singing along with Anna and Elsa (he leaves that to his 3-year-old brother), he was entranced from the moment we walked into the St. James Theatre.
If you’ve got a fanatic in your house (and who doesn’t?), here’s what you need to know about the show.
What Is It?
The masterful folks at Disney have taken the wildly popular movie and given it the Broadway treatment that was always its destiny.
The main composer, Robert Lopez, is famous for Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon, and wrote the songs with his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Broadway icon Idina Menzel voiced Elsa in the movie.
And Disney has literally printed money from other Broadway versions of its popular movies, from Beauty and the Beast to Aladdin. So a Broadway run was never in question.
The new show features more songs, an expanded book — Elsa gets some depth! — and the traditional song-and-dance routine Broadway is famous for.
In other words, this is every little girl’s dream come true, and a gold mine for Disney. (Full disclosure: I am a musical theater nerd and was totally into it.)
For a show set in a mythical Scandinavian country, the cast is refreshingly diverse: both the king and Kristoff are played by African-American actors, and the entire company feels reasonably representative. Sven the reindeer, as in the movie, is silent, but the Lion King-inspired puppet for the character (complete with blinking eyes) is a cool spectacle.
Olaf the snowman is also a puppet, handled by an actor (Greg Hildreth) who appealingly draws your eye to him.
Both of Anna’s love interests, Hans and Kristoff, get a lot more to do than in the movie, deepening both characters. As Hans, John Riddle is smooth, charming, and sneakily vulnerable. He gets a new song that fills him out a bit.
Jelani Alladin, making his Broadway debut as Kristoff, puts in an athletic performance while exuding so much charisma that you totally believe the newly-engaged Anna would be thinking twice about her match. He and Anna, played by Patti Murin, have an adorable chemistry, to the point where you just plain forget about Hans.
But let’s be honest: you want to hear about Anna and Elsa. Murin’s performance has plenty of Kristen Bell moments, but she still bringing a freshness to the role. She’s lovely and goofy and totally appealing.
Caissie Levy, who plays Elsa, gets the best songs, the best costumes, and all the cool effects. She’s brilliant as she moves between the controlled persona she knows she must project as the new queen and the half-terrified, half-thrilled feelings of power as she unleashes what she’s kept hidden for so long. When Elsa agonizes over her fate, Levy makes her much more sympathetic than the movie version.
As for the obvious next question — how does she make the ice castle appear? — I won’t ruin it for you. But it’s cool.
Be Prepared to Spend Money
Broadway tickets are expensive, and for good reason. So far, Frozen isn’t commanding Hamilton money, but tickets through Ticketmaster start at $145, and prices from third-party sellers can be much higher. Make sure you’re accounting for the cost of getting to New York, or staying overnight, too.
Then there’s the swag. From embroidered Elsa gloves to a scepter pendant, the Disney merchandisers haven’t missed a beat. Your kids will want a blue-tongue-inducing lollipop from the bar, and a glow-in-the-dark souvenir cup (parents can get a double serving of wine or one of the signature cocktails, starting at $21). Just hand over your credit card and don’t think about it.
Is It Worth It?
For a Frozen fan, undoubtedly. Most of the new songs are terrific — “What Do You Know About Love?” and “Hygge,” a silly number that’s a paean to all things cozy, are the standouts — and the stagecraft is top notch. Not surprisingly, “Let It Go,” which closes the first act, is a true showstopper: the audience gasped audibly during several of the big moments, and Levy’s singing is sensational. The crowd at our Friday night performance gave the cast a well-deserved standing ovation.
All that said, the show is two and a half hours, including a 15-minute intermission, and younger kids might not be able to sit through it. This show certainly isn’t going anywhere — Beauty and the Beast played in New York for years, and The Lion King and Aladdin are still on Broadway and touring — so you can wait until your fans get a little older. Any national tour is sure to come through Philly, too.
But if your child has his or her heart set, and is old enough to appreciate it (Disney puts the minimum age at 8), go. As an introduction to Broadway, it doesn’t get much better.
Lead photograph by Deen van Meer, courtesy of the Disney Theatrical Group.