Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Also see Gil's recent review of The Glass Menagerie
The plot is almost entirely faithful to the film. Sisters Elsa and Anna are two princesses who live in a Scandinavian kingdom. When they were very young, their sisterly bond was torn when Elsa was unable to control her magical powers of transforming things into ice, almost killing her sister. After being sheltered from the outside world and from each other for many years, in order to protect Anna from her sister's powers, and now orphaned, when Elsa is coronated as queen she finds she is unable to control her powers, which sends the kingdom into turmoil and tests the bond of the sisters once again.
All of the catchy film songs by composer-lyricists Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, including "Let It Go," which won a 2014 Oscar for Best Original Song, and the comical duet "Love Is an Open Door," are included in the stage adaptation. Bookwriter Jennifer Lee, who wrote the screenplay for the film, has added some nice touches to flesh out the supporting characters and to quickly whisk us from one location to the next. However, the new songs never rise to the memorable ones from the movie, and the second act opener, "Hygge," is incredibly odd.
The national tour cast are great. Caroline Bowman projects just the right level of conflicted feelings as Elsa, with a powerful singing voice that hits every single memorable note of "Let It Go" while also making the character and the song entirely her own. Likewise, Lauren Nicole Chapman is perfect as Anna, making the outgoing but quirky and awkward young woman seem even more three dimensional than she was in the film, with perfect comic timing and physical comedy skills that get big laughs.
As the lovable snowman Olaf, Jeremy Davis is humorous and perfectly goofy (the puppet design by Michael Curry is great). Dominic Dorset is endearing as the handsome ice-seller Kristoff, who helps Anna on her journey, with warm vocals and an abundance of charm. Will Savarese has a beautiful singing voice and is appropriately sincere as Hans, the man who falls for Anna, and is entirely believable when his character's flaws are revealed. In smaller roles, Evan Duff is fun as the pompous Duke Weselton, Tyler Jimenez and Taylor Marie Daniel are great as the leaders of the hidden folk, and Collin Baja does an amazing job realistically bringing the reindeer Sven to life. Also, Aria Kane and Sydney Elise Russell are enchanting as the younger Anna and Elsa, respectively, and Jack Brewer does what he can to make some sense out of "Hygge."
Michael Grandage's direction manages to balance the need to keep the show enchanting for younger audience members while also keeping adults engaged. The choreography by Rob Ashford is bright and fun. The scenery (Christopher Oram), video projections (Finn Ross), special effects (Jeremy Chernick), and lighting (Natasha Katz) create eye-popping imagery, from the dark, rich halls of the palace to the ice bridge that Anna and Kristoff have to navigate and the ice castle that Elsa builds in seconds from her powers. Oram's costume designs mirror the film designs while also adding some nice original touches, including an impressive design for Sven.
The stage adaptation of Frozen has a feel-good story with a driving plot, memorable songs, and endearing characters. While the plot is an almost exact rehash of the film, seeing the magical film locations, along with Olaf the snowman and Swen the reindeer, beautifully brought to life on stage with eye-popping imagery and designs makes this Disney stage adaptation a crowd-pleaser.
Frozen runs through March 5, 2023, at ASU Gammage, 1200 S. Forest Avenue, Tempe AZ. For tickets and information, please visit www.asugammage.com or call 480-965-3434. For more information on the tour, visit frozenthemusical.com.
Director: Michael Grandage