Review: Disney's Frozen by touring company
by Vanessa Hoang Hughes

Disney’s animated film Frozen is a core memory for me and for the rest of Gen Z. It was released in 2013, and I’ve been a die-hard fan ever since. I have many fond memories of singing and twirling around to “Let it Go” in front of the TV when I was small. The movie shaped our childhoods. A cultural and social phenomenon, Frozen was inevitably turned into a Broadway musical. It went on tour all around the country and eventually arrived at Bass Concert Hall here in Austin.

 

Caroline Bowman, Lauren Nicole chaplin (photo by Matthew Murphy)

 

Frozen the Musical tells of Anna and Elsa, two royal sisters of Arendelle, best buddies until Elsa’s ice powers nearly killed her sister. Elsa shuts everyone out, for fear of her own powers, but one day she finally opens the gates and the public learns her secret. Elsa escapes into the mountains, leaving Arendelle in an eternal winter. Anna’s quest to find her sister and set things right teaches her the value of love and what it means to be a sister. Frozen, with its quirky characters, witty dialogue, and toe-tapping songs, is a show for people of all ages.

 

Jennifer Lee wrote the book and Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez did the music. In this touring show Michael Grandage’s direction paired with Rob Ashford’s choreography to create great pacing and picture-perfect moments in every scene. We of Gen Z may have short attention spans, but I can declare that this show did not have a single boring moment. The scenes that required a heartfelt slow-down had a pleasant simplicity that provided nice breathers from all those flashing lights and catchy songs.

 

One of the most spectacular scenes was the penultimate number, “Colder by the Minute.” The ensemble appeared as normal villagers dressed in white coats, then transformed into the rushing snow swirling around Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and Hans during the suspenseful search. This scene was the best moment of Act Two.

 

(photo by Deen van Meer)

 

Any Broadway touring show will have excellent performances, and this one is no exception. Caroline Bowman as Elsa stunned the audience with her vocals and commanding stage presence. What deserves even more applause is her heartfelt portrayal of Elsa as a person, much more moving than the depiction in the movie. Bowman takes Elsa past the exterior layer of the troubled snow queen, pushes back the veil, and reveals a guilt-ridden sister. She’s both a daughter doing her best to honor her parents and a scared little girl who wishes everything in life would go back to the way it used to be.

 

Belinda Allyn played Anna with lots of charm and silliness while still maintaining her authenticity. Hers is a role that could easily slip into annoying, over-the-top caricature, but Allyn managed to maintain a healthy balance of humor and humanity. She portrayed the relatable girlish feeling of just wanting to find love, even if that love comes from questionable people.

 

Emma Origenes and Savannah Lumar were delightful as young Anna and Elsa. Emma’s energetic and hilarious portrayal of the footloose Anna brought a smile to everyone’s face. Evan Duff’s stage time as the Duke of Weselton, although brief, was a highlight of Act One. Duff made his first entrance with a smile and a goofy shimmy, making the very most of his character.

 

Renée Reud and Brian Martin as Bulda and Pabbie the mystical trolls played hilarious parent personalities in “Fixer Upper,” backed by exciting choreography and discotheque lighting. Martin’s powerful voice rang throughout the theater with traditional Norwegian chants, a great addition to the score. Preston Perez played a deceptively charming Hans and even made me think for a second that he was Anna’s true love. Oaken, the jolly shop owner whom Kristoff and Anna meet at the beginning of their journey, was hilariously portrayed by Jack Brewer. His charming performance of the song, “Hyyge” (Danish for a cozy life, pronounced “Hyu-guh”) was a charming start to Act Two.

 

Colin Bass, Jeremy Davis (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Jeremy Davis was a crowd favorite with his performance as the loveable snowman Olaf. He delivered each familiar line with great clarity, yet still made the role his own with unique inflections and surprising choices. Nicholas Edwards gave us an endearing Kristoff, very similar to the film’s Kristoff. His companion Sven was expertly puppeteered by Dan Plehal.

 

Scenic and costume designer Christopher Oram’s set was finely crafted. The intense colors and detail perfectly matched the movie’s magical feel. A screen at deep center stage, only  partially visible most of the time, offered beautiful imagery of sky, lakes, mountains, and trees. The screen enhanced the scenes without seeming a lazy replacement for a real set. The live aspects, of which there were plenty, took iconic scenes off a screen and made them live right before the audience’s eyes. One of the most stunning scenic transitions was Elsa’s icy snow-pocalypse. Natasha Katz’s dazzling lights and the live orchestra’s suspenseful music filled the air as we were transported into a world where glowing ice crystals and snowflakes lined the stage.

 

And the costuming! Oram’s flowing ball gowns, fine tailored suits, and fuzzy winter coats elevated the original looks with personal embellishments and colors. One of the most amusing was that of Olaf’s puppeteer, who wore a tall white hat topped with an adorable orange pom-pom. Michael Curry’s design of the Olaf puppet kept the cartoony design that all Frozen fans know and love. On the other hand, the life-size puppet for Sven the reindeer with its enormous life-like antlers and frost-covered fur was astonishingly detailed, an impressive work of art.

 

(photo by Deen van Meer)

  

At its core, Frozen is a story about true love. Those two words are repeated throughout the production but manifest their real meaning only at the end. Elsa's heart is thawed by Anna’s sacrifice for her sister,  not by a kiss from a man. I think that’s what drew me so much to this story when I was a small child. The concept of sisterhood rising above romance was something I couldn’t learn from watching Cinderella, which coined the phrase “evil stepsisters,” or Rapunzel, where the villain was the woman closest to the protagonist. In contrast, in Frozen the real villain isn’t some evil character, but rather Elsa’s own self-doubt. It literally freezes everyone out.

 

Frozen the Musical showcased the love and joy from the original film with its witty dialogue and eye-catching choreography; the familiar songs and fresh compositions made excited kids bounce around in their booster seats and grown adults cheer as if they were six years old again.


Disney's Frozen
touring company

Tuesdays-Sundays,
June 05 - June 16, 2024
Bass Concert Hall
2350 Robert Dedman Drive
Austin, TX, 78712

June 5 - 20, 2024

Bass Concert Hall, University of Texas, Austin