Chief Connecticut Critic
Connecticut Critics Circle/ACTA
OK, folks, let’s be real. I wasn’t interested in seeing this show. Don’t get me wrong. I saw the movie, and enjoyed it, especially its message that an act of true love doesn’t have to come from Prince Charming. However, that doesn’t mean I need to see the live-action version on a Broadway stage. My general attitude towards shows like these is that they are money-making cop-outs to creating interesting and new theatrical experiences. But, I went to the “Lion King” kicking and screaming, and loved that show, so I figured I’d go check out the latest Disney confection on Broadway.
As I walked into the theatre, I eyed the swirling pink frosé machine. “No, no,” I mutter to myself. “No need to get college-coed tipsy. I shall review this ice-cold sober.” And wonder of wonders, I actually enjoyed the show! Now, this isn’t on my “must-see” list or anything, but if you’re looking for light entertainment that makes children’s eyes light up like it’s Christmas, then this is the show for you.
The plot is the same as the film with a couple of character changes: The Duke of Weselton is younger, so a potential competitor for one of the princesses’ hand in marriage; Marshmellow the monster is nowhere to be seen; and the trolls look a little more like woodland imps, dubbed “the hidden folk.” But all of the main characters are there, so the little ones won’t be disappointed.
The performers were solid overall. The standout performance goes to Patti Murin as the effervescent Anna. She embodies the character perfectly and lights up the stage with enthusiasm and spunk. I thoroughly enjoyed “Love is an Open Door,” her duet with Hans (the handsome and charming John Riddle) where the two exchange their feelings for one another upon first meeting. Her girlish glow basking in the discovery of first love made me absolutely beam; ultimately, she made the show a worthwhile venture for me. Jelani Alladin’s exuberant, determined Kristoff also was excellent and made a great match for Murin’s headstrong Anna.
I also enjoyed Jacob Smith’s featured performance as Oaken in the opening number for Act II, “Hygge.” His warm, casual approach to the audience provides a great opening to Act II, and his buoyant joy explaining the term “hygge” adds so much fun to the show. I can only assume that this number was thrown in to provide a little mild adult humor for the suffering parents in the audience, as I don’t remember “naked” people in a kick line in the movie.
The Lopez’s songs from the film are in the live show, fully intact, and well executed. Caissie Levy’s impressive vocals makes Idina Menzel sound like an amateur, even if her overall performance as Elsa was a little rigid. But, she’s playing an ice queen, so Levy’s cool demeanor made for an excellent contrast to Murin’s warmhearted Anna.
Puppetry is featured in “Frozen” in the form of Olaf, the talking snowman (voiced and operated by Greg Hildreth), who is just as lovable and earnest as his movie counterpart. I was intrigued by Sven the reindeer, operated by Andrew Pirozzi, as it appears part puppet, part human. I’d love to see how Pirozzi moved the creature.
I was interested to see how they would create Elsa’s freezing effects, and I found it to be a bit underwhelming. Most of the icy effects are video projections that appear to “transform” parts of the stage, apart from Young Elsa’s initial discovery of her powers. Elsa accidentally injures Young Anna and ices Anna and her bed – THAT was impressive. Understandably, creating such an effect is challenging, and when you have a built-in fan base, you don’t have to wow them with special effects.
Honestly, one of the best parts of the show was the little boy seated next to me in the theater. He sat on his father’s lap, with his little eyes wide and mouth agape. Watching this little boy brought home to me the point of live theater and shows like these: they provide unforgettable experiences for young people. So maybe now I will complain less about the banality of these live-action versions of Disney cartoons. I instead should take comfort in the fact that shows like these are creating the next generation of theater patrons. “Annie” made me a theater fan, so why can’t “Frozen” do the same for them?