REVIEWER RATING: ★★★.5
Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s 1844 fairy tale The Snow Queen, Disney’s 2013 blockbuster film Frozen won two Academy Awards and remains one of the top 20 highest grossing films of all time, taking almost US$1.3 billion (A$1.73 billion) globally in box office revenue.
Frozen’s life as a stage musical began in Denver in 2017, before it debuted on Broadway in 2018 and earned three Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical. Now, Frozen has arrived at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre, with Australia becoming the first market outside of North America to stage Disney Theatrical Productions’ latest offering.
Directed by Michael Grandage, Frozen on stage differs somewhat from the film with which millions of Australians are familiar. Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, who penned the movie’s music, have added 12 new songs to the stage version to sit alongside film favourites such as ‘Let it go’. Jennifer Lee, who co-directed the film and wrote the screenplay, is the book writer here, but that book has deleted some characters while adding others.
That said, Frozen remains the story of two young princesses. Older sister Elsa (Jemma Rix) is crowned queen and her innate magical powers unintentionally thrust the kingdom of Arendelle into an eternal winter, and she flees. Her younger sister, Anna (Courtney Monsma), embarks on a journey in search of Elsa and to save Arendelle. It’s a journey mired by challenges, but through its trials, Anna remains steadfast.
Frozen is a musical that foregrounds themes that include the unwavering bond between siblings, the transformative power of love, and the importance of celebrating and recognising the value in one’s individuality. Pivotal to its score is ‘Let it go’, once aptly described as “an incredible anthem of liberation”, and its clarion call to live a life unshackled by fear and to refuse to kowtow to expectations. These are message always resonant with audiences of all ages.
Expectations are high for the visual aspects of Frozen, given both the source material and Disney Theatrical Productions’ track record for translating the magic of Disney film works for the stage. Jeremy Chernick has created some wonderful effects in efforts to inject this production with a similar level of visual wow factor. As it turns out, some of the simplest moments (including the “freezing” of the ensemble, depicted through a combination of movement and carefully designed lighting choices) are often the most successful.
Arendelle and its surrounds are beautifully realised thanks to Christopher Oram’s scenic design, while his lavish Nordic-inspired costumes look superb on opening night, demonstrating Disney’s characteristic attention to detail. As is usually the case with Disney stage productions, its puppets (designed here by Michael Curry) are incredible. Meanwhile, lighting choices by Natasha Katz evoke a palpable sense of temperature while augmenting the visual impact of the production design and playing an integral role in creating the ‘magic’ of Frozen.
Frozen affords some of Australia’s finest talent the chance to remind audiences of the tremendous depth of skills. Playing Elsa, Rix further cements her status as one of Australia’s foremost musical theatre performers. Her vocals have power and she has a rich tone; it means that Act I climax, ‘Let it go’, is the showstopping moment one hopes for it to be and elevates Act II’s dark and introspective ‘Monster’ to a further highlight moment. Rix acts the role wonderfully, too, delivering an Elsa who is strong but is also anxious and conflicted.
Following her pre-COVID 19 breakout performance as Katherine Howard in SIX, Monsma returns to the stage and is also outstanding here as Elsa’s spritely younger sister, Anna. Her portrayal of the character is as an appropriately effervescent but naïve young woman, and her lovely soprano has depth. Monsma and Rix are a formidable team.
The entire cast, in fact, is in fine form, including Chloe Delle-Vedove and Deena Cheong-Foo, tasked with the roles of young Anna and young Elsa respectively. Both are genuinely delightful in the show’s earlier moments. Elsewhere, Sean Sinclair confirms he’s a bona-fide triple threat with his excellent take on ice harvester Kristoff, while Thomas McGuane is an ideal fit for the charming but dubious Prince Hans. As the kind and blithe magical snowman Olaf, Matt Lee is on point.
Judging by the audience response on opening night, Frozen is likely to be a hit with Sydneysiders of all ages. It’s a highly entertaining and visually impressive stage iteration of one of the world’s most loved family films of the last decade, performed here by some of the best musical theatre artists in the country.
Photo credit: Lisa Tomasetti
FROZEN – SEASON DETAILS
Dates: Currently playing until 21 March 2021.
Venue: Capitol Theatre, Sydney (13 Campbell Street, Haymarket)
For more information on tickets, click here.