A likable transfer for the animated phenomenon will please fans but an extended running time highlights a thin plot
Want to know the real star of Frozen? That would be Sven, the reindeer.
Sven doesnt speak. He doesnt sing. If were being honest, he could use a haircut. But when he lumbers limberly across the stage, courtesy of the dancer Andrew Pirozzi, he is pure theatre and pure magic. His scenes are some of the few moments when Frozen, adapted from the 2013 Disney hit, the highest-grossing animated movie of all time, seems not just translated to the stage, but transformed by and for it.
Broadways Frozen is a good show. With its music, its dance, its flurry of likable leads, and snowball after snowball of son and lumire, some of it newfangled, some of it stretching back to 19th-century melodrama, it offers most of the pleasures that we count on Broadway musicals to provide. But even with the addition of a dozen new songs by the composers Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, an enhanced book by Jennifer Lee, and the interventions of director Michael Grandage and scenic and costume designer Christopher Oram, it rarely feels like more than the movie and sometimes it feels like less.
The story is more or less the same. Elsa and Anna, princesses of fairytale Arendelle, are bed-bouncing childhood besties until Elsas magical superstorm powers separate them. Elsa conceals those powers until her coronation, when an emotional outburst accidentally plunges the kingdom into nonstop blizzard conditions. So plucky Anna (Patti Murin), helped by ice-seller Kristoff (Jelani Alladin) and his shaggy friend Sven, sets off to find Elsa (Caissie Levy) and rescue Arendelle before the kingdom runs out of glugg.
Frozen, like the recent Moana, isnt a love story. Or rather it is a love story, but the love is sororal, not romantic. Its about two women finding their place in the world Elsas culminating outfit is a sparkly white pantsuit but even acknowledging the immense charm of Murin and the stateliness of Levy, this Elsa and Anna feel less like real women and more like storyboards with great wigs. Anna is giddy and impulsive, Elsa closed off to the point of pathology. Thats it. Musical theater places a greater emphasis on character than most works of animation, even sophisticated works like the Frozen film, so while it seems at least a little wrongheaded to ask a show based on a cartoon for more interiority, more dimensionality, thats whats needed.
Jelani Alladin and Andrew Pirozzi in Frozen: The Musical. Photograph: Deen van Meer Part of the problem is that the women arent given all that much to do. The central action is a quest narrative, but its a quest thats easily accomplished. Anna climbs a mountain in search of Elsa; Elsa descends it to find Anna. They dont encounter much in the way of obstacles no wolves here, no snow monster, one friendly bunraku-style snowman and when they do gain a boon its pretty much by accident. Without the gorgeous distractions of computer animation, the story feels thin.
The new songs are capable and one of them, Monster, sung by Levy, neatly transfers Elsa from one psychological state to another, but none of them stick with the tongue-to-frozen-flagpole ferocity of Let It Go or Love Is an Open Door or even Do You Want to Build a Snowman. The uptempo duet between Anna and Kristoff, You Dont Know About Love, just isnt as compelling as her earlier duet with Hans (a clever John Riddle). The other number devoted to the pair, Fixer Upper, has been reassigned to the hidden folk, based on the Scandinavian Hulduflk, and it is way too giddy for them. If youre going to go to all of the trouble to embed the Broadway version with figures from actual Nordic mythology, why freight them with such a goofball song?
None of this seemed to rattle the legions of little girls in the audience who had dressed as Elsa or the few who had come as Anna. (No Svens. Yet.) Frozen could be more inventive, more imaginative, more vital, more necessary. But as those little girls would almost certainly say, let it go.
Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2018/mar/22/frozen-review-disney-hit-arrives-on-broadway-with-mixed-results