Around ten years ago the world was thrown into a frenzy as the Disney animated musical movie Frozen starring Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel was released. This movie almost instantly gained me viral status with young children all around the world performing some of the show’s most iconic songs at any opportunity possible. Many people may not be aware that this movie was an animated adaptation of the Hans Christina Anderson story ‘The Snow Queen’ published all the way back in 1844. Another one of Hans’s fairy tales has recently become a source of controversy with the little mermaid casting a POC as the lead character in the latest version of the movie. As well as arguing the place of Halle Bailey in the movie (which in our opinion is a ridiculous debate as they are talking about a fictional mermaid so skin colour should be the last thing that confuses people) but also die-hard fans are discovering the supposed gay undertones of the original story. It has been suggested that the original message of the story was a metaphor for unrequited gay love between the author and another man who got married to a woman. I for one are excited to see the newest adaptation of the little mermaid when it hits screens in May 2023!
Having travelled to various theatres across the UK, I have to admit that the magnificent theatre royal is one of the fanciest venues I have ever been to! The extremely fancy and royal location not only made the experience of heading to the theatre even more luxurious and enjoyable but also made sense with the narrative of Frozen as the majority of the story takes place within the walls of the Arendelle palace! Not only this but the venue is also beautifully decorated with wonderful art and iconic costumes from the show itself which is fantastic to see. From a theatre fan perspective, it is great to see the costumes being showcased as this is an element of musical production that is not as appreciated as it should be! Talking about costumes, the next thing you will notice about the audience in frozen is that it is crammed full of young children (understandably so) who were all mostly dressed as the wonderfully sparkly queen Elsa. I do think however those parents should be aware before making the journey to this show that this production of Frozen is not a replica of the movie as there are new and original musical numbers scattered throughout the show. However, from the reaction from the audience, the kids did not seem fazed by the new numbers as the story is exactly the same!
The show is opened by a young version of the sisters Anna and Elsa who were wonderfully fun and entertaining who start the show rolling perfectly. I thought that the actress who played the headstrong and brash version of the young princess Anna was hilarious with the young performer showing a tremendous amount of confidence essentially purposely acting like a total fool on stage! After the opening moments, these characters quickly age to see them going from wanting to play and be best friends to having to deal with real-world issues such as romance and the idea of power. We get to the point when Anna falls in love with Prince Hans (played by Oliver Ormson) when they perform the super fun song “love is an open door.” The two voices worked beautifully together and managed to capture the energetic and adorable nature of the song while also including one of the most unique dance breaks I have personally ever seen! As the original movie was animated, I was a little intrigued by how this production would bring the anthropomorphised snowman Olaf to life and it turns out it would be through the medium of ventriloquism controlled by the incredibly Craig Sullivan. Similar to the likes of Avenue Q, both the puppet and Craig were live on stage where both were physically reacting to what was going on! The highlight of this role would have to be the song “In Summer” which was a comedic song about how Olaf believes he would cope in the hotter weather without the realisation that he would in fact melt. The explosions of staging and props created an almost ‘post-card’ scene that was hilariously performed by Craig. I also thought that the Sven puppet was absolutely incredible which left me perplexed every time it graced the stage!
Being the first song from a Disney animated musical to reach the billboard top 100, the pressure was on for ‘let it go’ to be an incredible spectacle and it surpassed all of my expectations! The fact that this number was used right at the end of act one was perfect as it is not only the most well-known song from the original frozen movie but also builds to a very dramatic point in Elsa’s character development. The song takes everyone on a journey from the queen’s overwhelming fear to unashamed confidence that projects a fantastic sense of empowerment to every single person in the audience! As expected from this powerhouse of musical theatre Samatha barks delivered her usual brand of phenomenal vocals that in my opinion was on the same level of the original version by Idina Menzel! On top of the excellent performance by Samatha, it was the theatrics that really helped to elevate this performance to meteoric levels! This number contains astonishing levitating cloaks, a magical and iconic dress reveal (that left me speechless) and some of the greatest projections I have ever seen! I was instantly pushed onto the edge of my seat as the audience watched this magical sequence taking place. As ‘let it go’ is such a famous song I was initially concerned that the venue would be filled with the vocal stylings of hundreds of young children singing along but due to the spectacle on the stage the audience was stunned into silence. It might seem slightly hyperbolic but this performance by Samatha Barks was worth the every penny paid for this west-end spectacular!
As previously discussed, this musical production is not an exact recreation of the Disney movie as there are numerous new songs and adaptations to characters. Even ten years after the original movie was produced, people continue to quote the wonderfully eccentric Oaken, especially his joyous “big summer blowout” catchphrase! In this stagged musical version Oaken is played by the wonderful Jak Skelly and is given a much bigger role within the show. This character helps to open act two with the original and brand new ensemble-heavy number “Hygge” which was hilariously performed by Jak and the cast. The beginning of this number saw a crowd of people burst out of a sauna (which is a key element for this character in the original film) and then saw the final moments with the same performers gracing the stage ‘nude’ with nothing but leaves to cover their modesty in a Las Vegas style showgirls performance! Those who are familiar with the movie will know that one of the most shocking moments comes towards the end of the story’s where Prince Han turns on his newly engaged fiancé princess Anna. The ability to capture the likeable character who towards to a hated villain by the end of the show is not an easy thing to capture but Oliver Ormson seemed to do this with ease. The actual moment he turns on his love had audible gasps from the audience which showed how wonderfully Oliver managed to portray the role!
Overall, the musical adaptation of Frozen is a complete spectacle that instantly draws everyone into the magic Disney have become synonymous with. While children will love seeing recordable characters and iconic songs, the whole familiar will be mesmerised with the amazing theatrics the show have managed to include. I would rate this musical 5 out of 5 stars and would encourage families with young children to make the journey to the west end as every member of the family will be able to enjoy something different!