“Frozen” arrived on Broadway Thursday night and it’s a hard nut to crack. Quibbles? Sure, everyone’s gota quibble. But the facts are clear: “Frozen” will be with us a long, long time. It’s a hit out of the box. Everything about it is satisfying on a large scale– the music, the staging, the actors, all of it. For Disney’s Tom Schumacher– who now has three hits on Broadway– “Frozen” is a triumph that will pay him back for years.
Disney, of course, over did themselves to make “Frozen” an unforgettable opening night. Guests came in black tie formal wear and gowns. The after party was at the cavernous Terminal 5, an un-Broadway place for a premiere gala. (Usual places are Gotham Hall, Tavern on the Green, Copacabana.)
But everything about “Frozen” is big, so spread the word: this is the box office killer of 2018. Negative reviews won’t even make a dent.
The biggest quibble about the musical is that it’s unclear what’s going on if you don’t know the movie. It’s sent in a fantasy kingdom. Two little sisters, princesses, are orphaned. One of them, queen-to-be, has the power through her hands to freeze things, so she wears gloves. The other sister is just a lot of fun and doesn’t mind that she won’t be queen. They look, on paper, like Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret from “The Crown.”
Then they are separated. When they’re reunited, the frozen Queen Elsa (dynamite Caissie Levy) is revealed to have this weird freezing power so she escapes and winds up in an icy Fortress of Solitude. Princess Anna comes to rescue her, and then they must reclaim their power in the castle. I mean, I think that’s it. The main thing is, “Frozen” is about girl power and sisters and facing down a good looking bad guy.
The Disney animated film was aided by the hit song, “Let it Go,” which ruled the top of the charts for weeks as sung by Idina Menzel. There were ten songs in the animated film. Four more have been added to the Broadway show by Robert Lopez and wife Kristen Anderson Lopez. They are all eminently catchy and charming, but “Let it Go” is the centerpiece. Elsa sings it at the end of the first act and gets cheers and some standing ovation. In the Denver tryout, that was it. But for Broadway, “Let it Go” returns as the closing number, too. And let me tell you, the bookending works like crazy. At the opening last night, a couple of people jumped up during the first act close and started singing along — loudly.
I’ve seen some criticism of “Frozen” that it seems cold, and a little Las Vegas-y. I disagree. Not even knowing the movie, I was able to follow along and actually cared about the characters. The actors are sensational. Levy and Patti Murin (Anna) are equally great singers and comediennes. They will each get Tony nods for lead actress in a musical. Jelani Alladin makes his Broadway debut as Kristoff, the “ice man” who is so winning, he is the find of the year.
“Frozen” — because it comes from Disney Theatricals– also features two puppets from the people who bring us “The Lion King.” Before the show puppeteer Michael Curry was telling me that one of the puppets, he thought, was a first on Broadway. He’s right. It’s a reindeer named Sven, and you just have to see it to believe it. Sven is so real he’s an actual character in the show, Bravo to all the production people involved, especially also lighting by Natasha Katz.
Director Michael Grandage and choreographer Rob Ashford just kept accepting praise all night at Terminal 5. They deserve it. (There’s a turntable scene with icicles I really loved, among others.) No, “Frozen” is not “Sweeney Todd.” It’s not even “The Band’s Visit.” But it’s totally original and satisfying. Little girls won’t let it go so easily.
No red carpet tonight but plenty of interesting people in the audience including filmmaker (and Mrs. Sting) Trudie Styler, Andrew Rannells, and designer Zac Posen. Disney supreme chiefs Alan Horn and Bob Iger were also there with their families, as was “Lion King” writer Irene Mecchi.