REVIEW: FROZEN at the Buell Theater
of the Denver Center
by Noah Jordan
There’s a buzz in the lobby of the Denver Center for Performing Arts. People of all shapes, sizes, and ages are crowded around and anxiously chatting about their expectations for the opening night of Disney Theatrical Productions Broadway bound production of FROZEN.
“I saw it when it first got here, and I’ve heard they’ve already changed a ton,” says one woman to another.
“Well you know the big number already leaked online, and I heard the dress didn’t work a few nights ago,” the woman responds with her own piece of gossip.
This is only one of a few conversations, as many of the people milling around the lobby have already seen one of the early previews of the show or scoured the Internet for any teeny-tiny glimpse of something that would give them some sort of insight into the show. That being said, for the having been such a tight-lipped production, it truly is amazing that a bootleg clip from an early preview lasted as long as it did on the web. But I digress.
Back in 2013 FROZEN became nothing short of a cult craze for little girls, little boys, and even some adults who caught the “Frozen” fever. You couldn’t escape the echoing belt of “Let It Goooo” in malls, cars, playgrounds, anywhere and everywhere. Then the world latched on to the notorious “Adele Dazeem” blunder made by John Travolta at the 2014 Oscars which in turn made for endless fodder in the form of social media memes and gifs only continuing the phenomenon. But at the end of the day, it all makes complete sense seeing that FROZEN has grossed over a billion dollars worldwide, and is one of the highest if not the highest grossing animated film of all time. That being said, why wouldn’t Disney want to take a stab at bringing this cult favorite to the stage? It worked well for them with THE LION KING, right?
FROZEN, the Broadway musical features music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and a book by Jennifer Lee. The musical includes all your favorite tunes, as well as quite a few new ones for viewers to enjoy. At the helm of the production is director Michael Grandage, who early on made a bold decision to cast the show completely colorblind. To which the Internet had a lot to say such as, “how will we explain this our children?” To which this writer would respond, “the same way you can explain how Elsa has white hair and ice powers, while her sister has red hair and no powers.” Hmmm…me thinks there was some foul play in the castle. But anyway … at the end of the day our two leads, Cassie Levy and Patti Murin are tackling the roles of Elsa and Anna, and both are very capable performers who are nothing short of what you would “expect” to see the sisters look like. Our leading men, John Riddle and Jelani Alladin take on the roles of Hans and Kristoff, with Alladin being the only “leading player” subject to colorblind casting.
In keeping with the movie’s storyline, we open on young Anna and Elsa (played wonderfully by
Mattea Conforti and Brooklyn Nelson) playing around with Elsa’s powers when she accidentally freezes Anna. In an effort to gain control of young Elsa’s powers, their parents (Ann Sanders and James Brown III) close off the castle, and call upon Pabbie (Timothy Hughes) to heal Anna and erase all her memories of magic and the incident. Thus, Else becomes and shut in and we begin our tale with the first song we all recognize, “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?”
Fast forward, and it’s the day of Elsa’s coronation. The palace is open and of course things don’t go as expected. Elsa reveals her powers and so on and so forth. You know the story…
From start to finish the show is visually stunning. The costumes and the set both designed by Christopher Oram are intricately designed and flow well from scene to scene. The ever popular “Let It Go” is pretty much everything you want it to be. Big, beautiful and full of belt. Bravo, Levy. However; the most impressive award goes to Sven the Reindeer. Yes, I said it. The reindeer is the most impressive part. Michael Curry creates a human powered puppet that is not so easily operated by Andrew Pirozzi. When Sven is onstage you can’t help but glance over and watch the tiny movements that make him for lack of better words … to cool. Kudos, to both Curry and Pirozzi. Let’s hope Pirozzi’s standby Adam Jepsen gets the proper prep because Sven is no easy role to just “pop” into. On the flip side, Olaf though fun to watch lacks the same unique puppet creation; however, Greg Hildreth more than makes up for it with his great comedic timing, and charm. When it comes down to it, there’s really nothing bad you can say about the performances. Each and every member of the cast is great and do a great job in their respective positions. So I say that’s a win.
Another great piece of the show aside from the cast, is finally being able to enjoy the show without hearing only the handful of songs we’ve already heard a million times. Yes, they are all still there as I mentioned before and the cast does a particularly nice job of adding their own subtle touches to switch things up a bit, but we are also treated to some pretty noteworthy new songs such as, “Monster,” a another great song for Else or “True Love,” a song that finally allows Anna a solo moment in the spotlight, and finally the act two opener, “Hygge,” which you’ll just have to see for yourself to enjoy.
At the end of the day, while Disney Theatrical Productions version of FROZEN will certainly fill many seats when it makes its stop at the St. James Theatre next year, I wonder if the average American family has the budget to round the up the whole family, fly to New York City, and pay Broadway prices, or will that same average American family round up the gang, head over to Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure, purchase a park hopper ticket and see a condensed one-hour version of their same favorite show while also experiencing EVERYTHING else the parks have to offer for about the same price.
Did Disney do themselves a bit of a disservice by having a sit down show in its park AND a Broadway production? Only time will tell.
“Frozen” plays in the Buell Theater at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts through Oct. 1 (www.denvercenter.org), then at the St. James Theatre on Broadway from February 2018 (www.frozenthemusical.com).
PHOTO CREDIT: Deen van Meer