Frozen: The Broadway Musical
St. James Theatre, New York City, (866) 870-2717
Disney’s shareholders should be pleased, said Charles McNulty in the Los Angeles Times. The new Broadway adaptation of the highest-grossing animated musical in history is competent enough that it’s “bound to add many more millions to the company’s coffers.” Granted, the talent was there to do something more. Nearly a dozen new songs were added by Oscar winners Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and two “captivating” actresses signed on to play the tale’s Scandinavian princesses, Elsa and Anna—loving sisters who are forcibly separated when Elsa discovers she has the ability to discharge icy blasts from her fingertips. “But thundersnow hasn’t struck twice.” Though “relentlessly perky,” the stage show is only “moderately entertaining”—it will satisfy old fans but find few new ones.
That said, “there’s much to revel in,” said Sara Holdren in NYMag.com. “The stage is a lush Scandinavian paradise,” and “the ensemble is bright and buoyant, with the regal Caissie Levy belting her heart out as Elsa and the adorable Patti Murin charming the lederhosen off everyone as Anna.” But the show is 50 minutes longer than the movie, and the padding shows in an opening act that drags in the run-up to its climax, Levy’s “genuinely electric” rendition of the hit ballad “Let It Go.” The second act feels freer, opening with a number that adds “a heaping helping of sublime silliness,” including a kickline of bodysuited sauna bathers.
But such larkiness highlights a problem “baked into the story’s DNA,” said Jesse Green in The New York Times. For about 20 minutes, Frozen has the look and feel of a drama about family estrangement, as Elsa grows up confined by her sense of duty and the younger Anna, saddened by their separation, turns rebellious. But director Michael Grandage’s obvious desire to do justice to that story clashes with his mandate to supply merchandisable Disney razzle-dazzle. (It should surprise no one that toy versions of the puppets used for Olaf the snowman and Sven the reindeer are available for purchase in the lobby.) Disney, with all its resources, has the capacity to produce stage adaptations truly worth seeing. The question is, “Does it want to create serious, coherent modern musicals?” For now, it seems satisfied making “cartoons that hedge all bets.”