Regional Reviews: Seattle
Director Michael Grandage takes a firm grip on the reins of this show, which features a solidly well-crafted book by Jennifer Lee (who wrote the screenplay for the animated film), Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez' songs from the film score (including the Oscar winning best song "Let It Go"), plus a dozen more they wrote for Broadway and one new song for the tour, "I Can't Lose You."
The story itself, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," follows two princesses, Elsa and her younger sister Anna, from Arendelle, a Norwegian-inspired kingdom. As children, Anna, who has the gift to control ice and snow, accidentally injures Anna while playing, leading their parents to close off the castle to protect Arendelle and to separate the girls within its walls. During Elsa and Anna's teen years, King Agnarr and Queen Iduna are lost at sea. At Elsa's coronation, Anna is swept off her feet by Hans, a handsome prince from the southern isles, and she agrees to an engagement. Elsa is wary and forbids their union, then Anna accidentally exposes her sister's powers to the kingdom. Elsa runs away and creates an ice palace, not realizing she has left Arendelle in a perpetual winter.
Anna sets off to find Elsa, along with Kristoff, an ice harvester, his loyal reindeer Sven, and a magical snowman named Olaf. The balance of the story concerns the sisters' struggles to come together, defeat an unexpected adversary, and remove Arendelle from deep-freeze. A lot of story, a load of songsand maybe a bit overlong for some wee folk and others, though at two hour plus intermission it's shorter and less padded than similar shows.
Caroline Bowman as Elsa makes a strong impression vocally on "Let it Go," "Dangerous to Dream," and her act two showcase ballad "Monster," and she layers her performance with strength, pathos and bravado. Caroline Innerbichler as Anna is just as strong, endowing her role with goofiness, good-heartedness, and just plain finesse. The pair are utterly believable as sisters, and "I Can't Lose You" proves a very worthy addition to the story, giving the actresses a great moment to reconnect after much time apart. Their counterparts (on opening night) Jaiden Klein (Young Elsa) and Arwen Monzon-Sanders (Young Anna) are charming and the transition between the two pairs is perfectly handled during "For the First Time in Forever."
Mason Reeves makes a most congenial impression as Kristoff, whether solo ("Reindeer(s) Are Better than People"), playing beautifully off both Anna (their duet "What Do You Know About Love?" is a highlight) and Sven the Reindeer (played on opening night by the sterling Evan Strand), and his notable dance skills are shown often handsomely in the act two number "Colder by the Minute" with the ensemble. As Prince Hans, Austin Colby portrays a charming rake in the best Jack Cassidy tradition in his introductory solo "Hans of the Southern Isles" and with Ms. Innerbichler on "Love Is an Open Door."
F. Michael Haynie combines wonder vocals with perfect puppetry as Olaf, especially on his delightful solo "In Summer." Michael Milkanin as Oaken, the shopkeeper Anna and company meet on their travels, manages to kick act two off in high-gear with a nonsense-word song (in the best Sherman Brothers tradition) called "Hygge." Jeremy Morse is a snarky, simpering delight (and a damn good dancer) as the vacuous Duke of Weselton, and Tyler Jimenez and Brit West as Pabbie and Bulda, leaders of the Hidden People, rock the house in "Fixer Upper." The full ensemble of this company is extraordinary.
Choreographer Rob Ashford delivers some of his best work on this huge, demanding show. The set and costume designs by Christopher Oram are opulent and in perfect sync with Natasha Katz' excellent lighting design. Peter Hylenski's sound design mostly manages the task of providing the large Paramount Theatre audience with balanced and crisp audio. Special effects designer Jeremy Chernick and video designer Finn Ross have made sure all the Disney pizzazz and Imagineering are in full force, and hearty kudos to puppet designer Michael Curry for bringing Olaf to physical life. Music supervision and arrangements by Stephen Oremus and orchestrations by David Metzger deliver ear candy at its richest, and I offer a hearty shout-out to our hometown heroine, musical director Faith Seetoo, for her mellifluous artistry.
Frozen runs through March 1, 2020, at the Paramount Theatre, 9th and Pine, Seattle WA. For showtimes, tickets and other information, visit Seattle Theatre Group online at www.stgpresents.org. For more information on the tour, visit frozenthemusical.com/tour/.