When I heard they were adapting Disney’s hit film Frozen to the Broadway stage, I had high expectations. After all, most Disney stage adaptations significantly expand the scope and complexity of their sources, and given that Frozen was already Disney’s most intricate and nuanced film to date, I was expecting something of Wicked-level scale and ambition. Unfortunately, what we actually got resembled a Vegas extravanganza-style encapsulation more than the typical Broadway expansion of a Disney film. I honestly think there was less dialogue, and certainly less narrative detail and emotional nuance, in this Broadway show than there was in the film.
Four of the new songs (the four that were released as promotional singles ahead of the cast album) are up to the level of the original film songs. Elsa’s tormented solos “Dangerous to Dream” and “Monster” bring her anguish to vivid life, the duet “What Do You Know About Love?” encapsulates all of Anna and Kristoff’s initial interactions in single song sequence, and Anna’s quietly melancholy “True Love” is a suitably heart-tugging Eleven-O’Clock number. However, the other new songs leave something to be desired. “A Little Bit of You, A Little Bit of Me” for Elsa and Anna as children is intensely annoying and sets entirely the wrong tone as an opening number, and “Hygge”, with its nonsense-word title and grotesque staging, is the first bona fide Floppo Number to be seen in a Disney production to date.
Of the leads, Caissie Levy is marvelous as Elsa…her rendition of “Let It Go”, while not as vocally intense as Idina Menzel’s, paints an even more complex range of emotions. Unfortunately, in the role of Anna, Patti Murin seems to think she’s still in Lysistrata Jones, giving a broadly comic, vulgar performance that doesn’t fit the character in the slightest. The supporting cast (with one exception that I’ll get to later on) are competent, but don’t match the level of personality and individuality shown by their screen counterparts.
Even the staging is uneven: while there are times when it is genuinely impressive, certain moments are disastrously inadequate at replicating the visual feats of the film. In particular, the choice of have Olaf portrayed as a puppet worked by a visible female puppeteer doesn’t really work at all. This approach had worked in an earlier Robert Lopez show, Avenue Q, but that was because the conceit was consistently integrated throughout the production: with everything else in Frozen presented more or less realistically, the Olaf puppet just looks awkward and wrong (and at the very least, they could have chosen a puppeteer that somewhat resembled the character, as they did in Avenue Q).
Also, while the decision to end the show with an exultant reprise of “Let It Go” makes sense, it prevents the show from tying up several loose ends that were resolved much more successfully in the movie. Indeed, the show seems to be relying heavily on the assumption that everyone in the audience has already seen the film, which is not generally a good sign in any adaptation.
Overall, I was severely disappointed with this adaptation…frankly, in this case, the movie is better-written and more intelligent, and makes for a better viewing experience on every level, which means there’s really no reason for this stage version to exist. I can somewhat recommend the cast album, albeit with reservations, as the best of the new songs are worth hearing, but the show itself is not worth paying to see unless you have small children with you, and frankly, Disney’s Broadway fare used to be above that.