When they aren’t redefining a cult movie franchise, taking over our living rooms with an exceptional streaming service, or melting our hearts with adorable cuteness, Disney can usually be found repurposing their huge archive of family content for other mediums. In this case, I’m not talking about another live-action remake, but their latest transformation of a hit animation on the West End stage – Frozen!
While the show has been a huge hit Stateside since it began in 2018, this week marks its West End première. The grandeur of the Theatre Royal feels like the perfect home for such an expansive adventure, and as the show progresses it becomes clear from its enormity that any other venue would have struggled to house it. Christopher Oram’s set design is truly magnificent in both style and sheer quantity, much of it pulled directly from the film. As we follow Anna and Elsa’s journey of sisterhood, the stage folds like origami around its performers, its slick shifts from scene to scene imitating the cinematic structure of the Book (Jennifer Lee) with lighting (Neil Austin) used expertly to pull our focus and transform the atmosphere in an instant.
But what is Frozen without its frosty magic, and this production certainly does add a whole host of dazzling stage tricks to convey Elsa’s growing powers. Though the icy illusions enchant gasps from the audience, it quickly feels somewhat limited and just a little flat given the huge amount of Disney Dollar that Mickey has thrown at it – a little snow here some well-timed props there – beautiful but nothing that is cutting edge. All that aside, there are certainly dizzying moments where you can’t help but get swept away, and for those admiring little ones who come dressed in their costumes, it must feel like a fairyland.
Provided by the same musical spouses that wrote the hit numbers of the 2013 film, (Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez) the additional Music and Lyrics keep with the overall aesthetic of the show, helping to cement its place as a full stage musical. Much like with the original film, however, it all feels a little underwhelming and samey – with the show’s most notable hits (‘Let It Go’ and ‘Love Is An Open Door’) sticking out like sore thumbs. A whole new feature song ‘Hygge’ expands upon everyone’s favourite Sauna owner, adding a few very funny moments but adding nothing to the story, pulling the breaks for a few minutes to revel in… well nothing. The spellbinding performances from the cast are exceptional and perfectly suited to each role; Stephanie McKeon is a show-stealer as the quirky Anna, Samantha Barks takes on Elsa’s vocals with goose-pimply goodness, and Craig Gallivan brings puppet Olaf to life with a striking vibrance!
In all elements, the show treads a very fine line; on the one hand, the iconic imagery must be preserved for the movie’s adoring fans, whilst on the other, they must be forged into real walking and talking people – not an easy task for something which began as an animation. And in this regard, where the Lion King Musical leant into its own style of design elements to redefine its look, it feels as though the Frozen team played it a little safe, leaning more towards a Disney On Ice caricature performance and avoiding any true grit. Creatively it’s a missed opportunity, but one I’m sure will be off with the droves of audiences that will be coming to see this big stage spectacular for a one-of-a-kind experience!
Frozen the Musical is now playing at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, with tickets currently available until late 2022. For more information and to book, visit Frozen the Musical website.