Frozen - Disney Theatrical Productions

‘Frozen’ // Disney Theatrical Productions

‘Frozen’ was cool. 

With songs better-known by children than the national anthem, ‘Frozen’ has made a successful move from screen to stage in Australia. Disney Theatrical Productions, under the direction of Thomas Schumacher, took over Capitol Theatre, Sydney, with an updated musical fit for first-timers to the theatre. Thoughtful of its audience, this hit show kept its cool but still left regular theatre-goers with something to adore.

With Golden Globes, Academy Awards, BAFTAs and Producers Guild of America Awards, ‘Frozen’ may well be the film of the decade, after its 2013 release and continued raging success. For those who have lived alone in the snowy hills for the past decade, the story follows two sisters, Princess Elsa and Anna, as they find their identities among a world of unknown magic, secrets and family turmoil. The musical rendition was quickly conceived and opened on Broadway in early 2018, before closing permanently due to the pandemic. 

Direct from Broadway, the audience was greeted by the stunning set designs by Christopher Oram and complementary lighting design by six-time Tony Award-winner Natasha Katz. Strong Nordic inspiration and regality were clear in the intricate patterns carved and projected throughout the space, along with the use of royal blues, reds and purples throughout the show. These elements were a treat for theatre enthusiasts in the crowd. During the show’s climax, crystal-like snowflakes filled the stage, hung from the set and ceiling, and created depth amongst layers of smoke and cool blue lighting. 

With music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, some of the new additions were seamlessly embedded throughout, including ‘I Can’t Lose You’, which stole the show. However, some reprises came across as basic and rushed, perhaps due to the short timeframe between film and musical conception. 

That being said, the sound was strategically balanced throughout, with Technical Director, Mark Henstridge; Associate Sound Designer, Michael Waters; and Production Sound Engineer, Andrew Poppleton, taking into consideration the age of the audience and their vocalised excitement. In fact, many of the technical components were well-considered. ‘Frozen’ is, after all, a children’s show, and so the venue had ice cream and popcorn sales throughout the show, adorable but functional merchandise and salespeople roaming the audience. While many in the crowd may have been “in training” when it comes to theatre etiquette, the venue, the production team and the other attendees seemed to be understanding.

Costumes and wigs, designed by Henstridge, were brought to life by the team at Janet Hine Design. Generally, the pieces were in line with the film, or strayed only slightly, allowing the children to easily make connections and recognise their beloved characters. The statement costume and costume change came in the hit number ‘Let It Go’ and the design and execution of the piece were complemented by careful blocking and choreography. 

With many challenging special effects, an audience mix of children and theatre-lovers, and the all-seeing eye of Disney over the shoulder, Resident Director, Benjamin Osborne, has tackled the task of direction spectacularly. In collaboration with Resident Choreographer, Emma Delmenico-Smith, the need for quality musical theatre and children’s entertainment was well balanced. Precise, powerful and diverse choreography was met with blocking that pulsated seamlessly across the set. Comedic and naughty dance work in the ‘Hygge’ musical number was balanced by raw and contemporary moments in ‘Fixer Upper’. Music Direction by David Young ensured harmonious ensemble numbers and a band so flawless one could forget they were even there. 

In the leading role of Elsa was understudy Gretel Scarlett, who fit the role physically, vocally and emotionally. Scarlett performed the character with realism, allowing the audience to travel the journey with her. Perhaps a more gentle Elsa than in the film, Scarlett balanced this with killer vocals, absolutely nailing the end of ‘Let It Go’. As Elsa’s sister, Anna, Courtney Monsma was adorable. She brought charm and energy to the production that was shaped by her professionalism and strong stage presence. Monsma’s vocals were some of the standouts of the production.

As young Elsa and young Anna, both Lucy Farmborough and Faith Hendley were precise in their dance and blocking; energetic but controlled, and vocally very talented. 

Supporting roles of Olaf, Hans and Kristoff were filled by Anthony Sheppard (understudy), Thomas McGuane and Sean Sinclair, respectively. All three embodied the characters from the film and were well cast for the roles. Engaging to watch, and bursting from the stage with comedic energy, was Aljin Abella as Weselton. The character’s somewhat creepy nature was downplayed by Abella and morphed into a more palatable children’s character.

Awe-inspiring performances came from Jonathan Macmillan and Lochie McIntyre as Sven, the reindeer with attitude. Macmillan and McIntyre utilised their strong acrobatic experience to manoeuvre the exceptionally large and awkward puppet. In some scenes, the character galloped across the stage, and the physicality was remarkable. Unfortunately, the Sven puppet was a little too life-like when contrasted with the Olaf puppet, which remained true to the cartoonesque style of the film. This created a slight disconnect between the aesthetic direction of the show.  

An ensemble of some 22 performers held the show and covered numerous roles. From the village people to trolls, to Oaken’s family, the various costume changes and intricate dance numbers made the show. In particular, Blake Appelqvist as Oaken was a crowd favourite. His act-opening number ‘Hygge’ had many audience members in fits of laughter, and it was wonderfully executed.

‘Frozen’ is inspired by a children’s movie, and therefore, as a musical, runs the risk of an identity crisis. As a professional production under the guidance of Disney Theatrical Productions, the piece was able to balance the need for professionalism and musical theatre craftsmanship with the audience of young children in attendance. It was the first musical experience for many in the crowd, and this was acknowledged within the welcoming announcement. Thoughtful, and well-executed, ‘Frozen’ was a great first theatre show for Australia’s young people.

‘Frozen’ performs until 23 May 2021 at Capitol Theatre, Sydney, and it will continue its magic at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne, once COVID restrictions ease. For more information visit the official ‘Frozen: The Musical’ website

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