|The Broadway Musical|
Broadway promotional poster
by Chris Buck
Frozen is a musical with music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and book by Jennifer Lee, based on the 2013 film of the same name. The story centers on the relationship between two sisters who are princesses, Elsa and Anna. Elsa has magical powers to freeze objects and people, which she does not know how to control. After inheriting the throne, Elsa flees, inadvertently causes the kingdom to become frozen in an eternal winter, and nearly kills her sister. She must sacrifice and show true love to save the day.
Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions, the musical had a tryout at the Buell Theatre in Denver, Colorado in August 2017 and premiered on Broadway in March 2018 at the St. James Theatre to mixed reviews. A 2019 national tour is planned.
In January 2014, Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company, stated that Disney Theatrical Productions was in early development of a stage adaptation of Frozen that it planned to bring to Broadway. No date was set for the adaptation. "We're not demanding speed," Iger said. "We're demanding excellence." One of the film's producers, Peter Del Vecho, later reiterated that "these things take time." In an October 2014 interview, Thomas Schumacher, the president of Disney Theatrical Group, disclosed that discussions about a musical had begun even before the film was released almost a year earlier. He stated: "I'm already talking to directors, and I have a design concept, and we have to begin to fashion this idea. It doesn't need to be fast. It needs to be great."
The first priority [for Disney Theatrical] ... is when you have a property that is as beloved and music-based as Frozen, that has to get an enormous amount of my attention. To say, "How do we take this and make a sophisticated, adult evening of theater out of it?"
In February 2015, Schumacher confirmed that the songwriters were working on the show and that Lee would be writing the book but that "no other staffing or dates have been announced". By early 2016, Disney announced that the musical was scheduled to open on Broadway in spring 2018, with Alex Timbers as director, Peter Darling as choreographer and Stephen Oremus as music supervisor, among other creative staff. Disney also scheduled the pre-Broadway tryout in August 2017 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. In April 2016, it was reported that Betsy Wolfe had been cast as Elsa, but Disney stated that no roles had been officially cast. Anderson-Lopez told an interviewer that while "the movie only has seven-and-a-half songs ... we’ve written about 23" for the musical". The musical's first developmental lab was held over two weeks during May 2016 in New York City, with Betsy Wolfe as Elsa, Patti Murin as Anna, Okieriete Onaodowan as Kristoff, and Greg Hildreth as Olaf.
In September 2016, Disney announced a new director, Michael Grandage. It confirmed that the musical was set to open on Broadway at the St. James Theatre in spring 2018. Rob Ashford joined the creative team as choreographer. The musical "cost a reported $30 million to produce [and] churned through three choreographers, two set designers, two Elsas and two directors."
A pre-Broadway tryout ran at the Buell Theatre in Denver, Colorado, from August 17 to October 1, 2017, directed and choreographed by Grandage and Ashford. Caissie Levy and Patti Murin starred as Elsa and Anna. The cast included Jelani Alladin as Kristoff, Greg Hildreth as Olaf and John Riddle as Prince Hans. Designers included Christopher Oram (sets and costumes), Natasha Katz (lighting) and Michael Curry (puppets). Stephen Oremus served as music supervisor.
Previews on Broadway at the St. James Theatre began on February 22, 2018, with an official opening on March 22, 2018. The cast and creative team is the same as in Denver. A reported 30% of the show was rewritten between the tryout and the Broadway opening, with the musical taking a "deeper dive into the princesses' psyches" and aiming at a more adult audience; Disney research shows that 70% of the audience for its musicals are adults without children. Anderson-Lopez noted that "examining how the ... princesses' psychological scars drive them to make certain decisions was the next logical storytelling step." The onstage technology includes many lighting effects for Elsa's magic, as well as such adaptations as a full-body costume to represent the reindeer Sven, with a ballet dancer inside holding stilts in his hands and walking on tiptoe; the role is so strenuous that a second ballet dancer was hired to play it at some performances to give each dancer some days of rest.
A US national tour is scheduled for Fall of 2019, beginning in Schenectady, New York. The musical is reportedly expected to be staged at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in London's West End in 2020, although changes could be made to the score.
This summary reflects the plot as of the closing performance of the 2017 Denver production.
A narrator, one of the "hidden folk", introduces Princess Elsa of Arendelle and her playful younger sister, Anna ("Vuelie", "Let the Sun Shine On"). One night after bedtime, Elsa and Anna build the magical snowman Olaf ("A Little Bit of You"), and Elsa creates snow in their room. In their excitement, Elsa accidentally injures Anna with her cryokinetic magic. Their parents, the King and Queen, call for the aid of the colony of hidden folk, led by Grand Pabbie. He heals Anna and removes her memories of Elsa’s magic. Elsa asks for Grand Pabbie to remove her magic, but Grand Pabbie says that it is a part of her, and he gives her a vision of her future, frightening Elsa, who believes that her magic will cause death. The King and Queen isolate the sisters within the castle. Elsa shuts out Anna when Anna seeks her out ("Do You Want to Build a Snowman?"). Elsa's fear of her powers grow, and the King and Queen are powerless to help. The parents die at sea during a storm while both princesses are still young.
Ten years later, when Elsa turns twenty-one, she is to be crowned queen of Arendelle. Anna is excited for the castle's gates to open ("For the First Time in Forever") and meets the handsome Hans ("Hans of the Southern Isles"). Elsa is terrified that the kingdom's citizens might find out about her powers and fear her, while wishing to be able to reconnect with Anna ("Dangerous to Dream"). Elsa’s coronation goes smoothly, and she initiates her first contact with Anna in years. They enjoy the coronation together, with Anna talking the Duke of Weselton out of dancing with the newly crowned Queen. However, Elsa leaves Anna after her younger sister asks about keeping the gates open. Anna falls in love with Hans ("Love Is an Open Door"), who quickly proposes marriage to her, and the two share a kiss. The couple asks for Elsa's blessing, who objects because the two have only known each other for a day. After intense questioning from Anna about shutting her out from her life, Elsa accidentally unleashes her powers before the court. The Duke brands her a monster. Elsa flees the castle to the North Mountain without realizing that her suppressed magic engulfs Arendelle in an eternal winter.
Anna goes in search of Elsa, leaving Hans in charge during her absence. Up in the mountain, ice harvester Kristoff and his reindeer Sven ("Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People") find the ill-equipped Anna, still in her coronation dress. Kristoff gives her a set of winter clothes, and she leaves her dress behind. Kristoff and Anna disagree about love while crossing a bridge ("What Do You Know About Love"), with Anna saving Kristoff from falling off the bridge. Anna and Kristoff then encounter a newly created Olaf, who offers to guide them to Elsa, and sings about his love for summer ("In Summer"). A soldier arrives in Arendelle with Anna's dress from the mountain, and Hans fears for Anna's safety. He assembles a search party ("Hans of the Southern Isles" (reprise)), with the Duke sending two of his men with secret orders to kill Elsa. Meanwhile, on the North Mountain, Elsa throws off her cloak, builds an ice castle with her powers, and transforms her coronation dress into a sparkly ice gown ("Let It Go").
Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf arrive at Wandering Oaken's Trading Post to meet the owner, Oaken ("Hygge"). Anna enjoys the sauna together with its many other patrons. Kristoff convinces Oaken and his patrons to aid their journey, which enables them to get provisions, and Anna gets a winter dress.
Reaching the ice palace, Anna meets Elsa, but when she reveals what has become of Arendelle, Elsa becomes angry and frustrated, saying that she cannot fix it, and she accidentally freezes Anna's heart ("For the First Time in Forever" (reprise)). Elsa then kicks Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf out while wondering what to do ("Dangerous to Dream" (reprise)). Anna's hair begins turning white, so Kristoff takes her to meet the hidden folk, his adoptive family, who recognize Anna as the princess and think she's Kristoff's fiancée ("Fixer Upper"). Grand Pabbie reveals that Anna will freeze solid unless "an act of true love" reverses the spell. Kristoff races Anna back home so Hans can give her true love's kiss, at the sacrifice of his own hidden love for her ("Kristoff Lullaby").
Back in the ice castle, Elsa considers whether she is a monster and wonders how can she end the storm, not sure whether the storm would end or grow worse if she were dead ("Monster"). She resolves to stay alive to end the storm, but Hans and his men reach Elsa's palace, capturing Elsa. Back at the castle, Anna is delivered to Hans, but rather than kissing her, he reveals that he has been plotting to seize the throne of Arendelle by eliminating both sisters ("Hans of the Southern Isles" (reprise 2)). Hans locks Anna in a room to die, as Anna reflects on her mistakes while still holding on to the idea of love ("True Love"). Olaf frees Anna, and they venture into the blizzard outside to meet Kristoff, whom Olaf reveals is in love with her.
Outside the castle, Hans publicly charges Elsa with treason and sentences her to death. Elsa escapes her chains and flees outside as a blizzard grows ("Colder by the Minute"). Kristoff and Anna struggle to find each other. Hans confronts Elsa, claiming that she killed Anna, causing Elsa to break down. Anna finally finds Kristoff but spots Hans about to kill Elsa; she leaps in the way and freezes solid, stopping Hans. Devastated, Elsa mourns her sister, who thaws out, her sacrifice constituting "an act of true love". Realizing that her magic is controlled by love, Elsa ends the winter ("Vueille (Love Thaws)"). Anna punches Hans, and she and Kristoff become a couple. Elsa and Anna reunite without fear for the first time, as the departed King and Queen, young Elsa and young Anna appear in the background, signaling the healing of the sisters' painful past.
Characters and original cast
|Character||Original Broadway Cast (2018)|
|Oaken||Kevin Del Aguila|
|Young Anna||Audrey Bennett, Mattea Conforti|
|Young Elsa||Brooklyn Nelson, Ayla Schwartz|
|Queen Iduna||Ann Sanders|
|King Agnarr||James Brown III|
Prior to the official opening of the musical on Broadway, four singles were released digitally. The first single, "Monster", was released on February 23, 2018. The second single, "What Do You Know About Love", was released on March 2, 2018. The third single, "Dangerous to Dream", was released on March 9, 2018. The fourth and final single, "True Love", was released on March 16, 2018.
Recording sessions for the Original Broadway Cast Album began on April 9, 2018. The album was released digitally on May 11, 2018, with a physical (CD) release following on June 8, 2018. For the recording, the orchestra was expanded from 21 members to 44, including a 22-person string section. The album includes a song cut from the Broadway production as a bonus track, "When Everything Falls Apart".
Reviews of the Denver tryout were mixed but found the show promising; "fun but not transporting", said The Denver Post. Mark Shenton wrote in The Stage: "Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez have augmented their score for the original film – which featured just eight songs – to 20 songs in all now. There are occasional moments that feel padded ... but the surging power ballads that are the score's signature are stunningly delivered by [Levy and Murin]."
The Broadway show received mixed reviews. Jesse Green of The New York Times called the show "rousing, often dull, alternately dopey". He praised Levy's and Murin's performances as well as the set and lighting design but criticized the new musical numbers.
Awards and nominations
Original Broadway production
|2018||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Jelani Alladin||Nominated|
|Outstanding Puppet Design||Michael Curry||Won|
|Tony Awards||Best Musical||Disney Theatrical Productions||Nominated|
|Best Book of a Musical||Jennifer Lee||Nominated|
|Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre||Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez||Nominated|
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Disney has already announced plans to bring a musical version to Broadway, and theme-park incarnations have been hinted at.
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