Review #2 of 2: Disney's Frozen by touring company
by Brian Paul Scipione

Caroline Bowman, Laura Nicole Chapman (photo by Matthew Murphy)I’ve never seen the movie Frozen. Chalk it up there with all of my other Disney cinematic crimes of neglect which began when I, with adolescent bravado, opted not to see The Little Mermaid. I did know and love the song “Let It Go,” a complete banger. I must also admit I hadn’t seen The Lion King movie before I saw the Broadway version and I wasn’t too lost.


Frozen, on the other hand, is a different story. There is no doubt that Disney cartoon movie musicals are tailor-made for subsequent production under the proscenium arch. So much so, that it is no surprise that countless wags on the internet have created lists ranking the mainstream musical efforts of the famous mouse. In general, The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast are consistently tussling for first place while Frozen nearly always ranks near last place and at best never coming up any higher than fifth.


The general consensus is that the production felt rushed into being in order to capitalize on the film’s immense popularity. The Disney company would have an easy time rebuffing this accusation, considering that it took five years, three chorographers, two directors, two set designers, two different leading stars, and reputedly a budget of more than $30 million before the musical had its Broadway debut at the St. James Theatre on March 22, 2018. While it certainly had time to more than recoup its investment, because of the COVID-19 pandemic the production closed after just less than two years. It has yet to re-open on Broadway but the U.S. national tour starring Caroline Bowman launched on November 10, 2019.


As a neophyte I was unaware of the extensive changes between the film and the stage version. Die-hard fans have found many of these alterations controversial. The order of the songs changed, new ones were added, characters and scenes disappeared or were replaced, character motivations changed, and even the folklore behind the story was altered.


So this is where I can now admit that while I enjoyed this musical production very much, I wasn’t quite sure what was going on or even who I was supposed to be rooting for. Oh sure, the basic plot of two princess sisters, one with uncontrollable magic and one without, is quite clear. The rules of the world they inhabit are not.


Caroline Bowman (photo by Matthew Murphy)


When a hero goes on a quest, the hero goes towards something with a goal of returning either victorious or at least a little bit wiser. The characters here do a lot of running away while getting dubious support from those they meet along the way. In this way, Frozen is not too far removed from its icy cousin Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale and his other problem plays. There is a lot of contrition, unexplained magic, and plot-convenient off-stage death at sea. A host of personalities are merely off-handedly helpful. One of the tropes added to the stage version is Elsa’s contemplation of suicide. “O that this too solid flesh would melt,’ indeed.


Whatever is happening on the stage, the score and voices are magnificent, with Bowman’s extraordinary goose-bump-inciting voice leading the way. There's great puppetry, dancing, comic relief, and special effects throughout, Including the best use of a green screen in recent memory. The projected images were not mere background; in combination with the adroit lighting and special effects, they added added to the setting. The snowstorms were hyper-realistic. Sound design, on the other hand is far from seamless. It has the cacophonous effect of a Hollywood action movie, roaring for attention without the merest hint of subtlety.


While I never quite figured out how the writers felt about their characters, I was glad to see that Elsa and Anna were granted a sort of reprieve in the end. I am told that a lot of these mysteries are revealed in the animated sequel Frozen 2.


However, I am unlikely to see it unless it too gets the Broadway treatment.


Disney's Frozen
touring company

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