Frozen the West End Musical Review Special! Jun 27, 2022 23:12:06 GMT
Post by That Duckfan on Jun 27, 2022 23:12:06 GMT
Frozen: The West End Musical (performance 4 June 2022 at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)
Music and Lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
Book by Jennifer Lee
Based on the Disney film by Jennifer Lee and diected by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Cast | Stephanie McKeon as Anna | Samantha Barks as Elsa | Craig Gallivan as Olaf | Oliver Ormson* as Hans | Obioma Ugoala* as Kristoff
Richard Frame as Weselton | Ashley Birchall and Mikayla Jade as Sven | Ava Critchell as Young Anna | Ellie Shenker as Young Elsa
Joshua St. Clair as Pabbie | Emily Mae* as Bulda | Jak Skelly* as Oaken and the Bishop | Jacqui Sanchez as Queen Iduna | Chris Fung as King Agnarr
Alternate Princesses | Summer Betson, Elisa Lewis, and Asanda Abbie Masike as Young Anna | Kanon Narumi, Kaci Theobalds, and Sasha Watson-Lobo as Young Elsa
*absent on 4 June 2022
Understudies performing on 4 June 2022 | Cameron Burt as Hans | Jacob Maynard as Kristoff | Hannah Fairclough as Bulda | Matt Gillett as Oaken and the Bishop
It's taken me a little time to get this up in the air, but then it is a bit of a special occasion anyway. On my recent visit to London, I managed to catch Frozen, the West End musical. I'm not the biggest fan of musicals, but they're not a chore or anything. As they say, when in Rome... or London...
I felt compelled to write about it because, well, that's what I do. I have a terrible memory for these things, so think of it as a diary entry of sorts.
Frozen: The West End Musical is, of course, an adaptation of the movie Frozen. It runs for about an hour and forty-five minutes, so it's a little longer than the movie, and a half-hour intermission after the song "Let It Go".
As far as my (limited) experience with Disney stage musicals goes, Frozen is firmly mid-tier. It's not a must-see like The Lion King or an upgrade of the movie like Hunchback of the Notre Dame, but it does the job. Probably the biggest difference from my usual home viewings is being in a big audience with families everywhere. It's not like I never watched movies with other kids when I was little, but as an only child, it definitely wasn't a regular occurrence. I like kids, now that I've outgrown being one, and it definitely added to the atmosphere.
This being a stage musical, there are obviously some changes to the story. The musical is considerably more front-loaded compared to the movie. For example, the song "Let It Go" serves as the big song before the intermission (which makes perfect sense), coming in at roughly the halfway mark. In the movie, "Let It Go" serves as the end of act one, 30 minutes into the 100 minute movie. The musical condenses most of the Anna and Kristoff stuff in act two into about three songs, which makes sense.
For those wondering about the twist villain, nothing is changed about that, but this rendition of "Love Is An Open Door" is much more overtly ironic. This is a good change, since most of the audience would already be familiar with the story, and theater typically does a bit more 'telegraphy'.
A bunch of new songs were written for the musical. I found them a little jarring to listen to at first, since the original movies were seamlessly integrated into Christophe Beck's score, but I've come around to most of them while listening to the album.
The musical starts with a much heftier prologue, including a song for Young Anna ("Let the Sun Shine On") and one for the two sisters ("A Little Bit of You"). These are both good additions. Young Anna's role is to be hyperactive and adorable, which is a role both stage Anna and album Anna absolutely nail. Then "A Little Bit of You" shows the initial creation of Olaf, and it's made clear that he gets his characterization from Anna and Elsa together (which is only implied in the movie). The King and Queen also play a bigger role in this segment. Chris Fung's portrayal as King Agnarr was interesting, and showed depth.
We then cut to coronation day, which includes a forgettable intro song for Hans ("Hans of the Southern Isles"), a regnal song ("Queen Anointed"), and a song for Elsa ("Dangerous to Dream"). This last song, interspersed with musical cues from previous songs, is a real highlight for Elsa's character.
But it's Anna who is the protagonist in this movie, and this is where we first get a good glimpse of her. Theater Anna (both of them) is considerably more flaky that movie Anna. It's reflected in the writing as well as in the performance. There were times where it was a bit too much for me, but then, this is a kids' show, so I'll give it a pass.
I wonder how much it has to do with the casting of Kristen Bell for the movie. She might have been cast before the character was fully developed. I associate Bell more with rougher characters, like Lucy in the Assassin's Creed video games and Eleanor in The Good Place. I'm somewhat surprised she got the part, and she gives a fairly neutral performance to match. This ain't Jennifer Tilly in Home on the Range, if you know what I mean. Musical Anna is definitely more defined.
Anna then meets Kristoff and Olaf, well before "Let It Go". The ballad "What Do You Know About Love?" condenses their discussions on love. This was never my favorite part of the movie, and the song doesn't change anything in that regard. Neither Kristoff nor Hans are particularly notable in the musical, but I suspect that has more to do with the character than with the actor. I also may not have the right sexual orientation to judge that particular case.
But then we meet Olaf! Olaf is great. Craig Gallivan is a real standout with the character, doing both the face acting and the puppeteering of a life-size Olaf. It takes a while to adjust to the format, but Gallivan is effortlessly charming in the role, and does a great impression of Josh Gad. He's also given space to create comedy, which feels much more spontaneous on stage than in the movie (let alone the comics... eugh!). Ironically enough, I think it's Olaf who comes to life the most. You could easily see this version interact with kids in Disneyland. There's a real stand-up quality to him.
Another shoutout should go to Richard Frame as Weselton, who serves as the main voice of reason in Arendelle. It's clear the writers caught on to the popularity of this character and quietly dropped his villainous side-plot. Musical Weselton is a weird, but harmless. And he's ultimately the one who submits to Elsa's authority as queen, giving him a minor role in the story.
Isn't it funny how the comedic male characters far outshine their straight counterparts? Real funny...
We return from the break with "Hygge", sung by Oaken the trader. At six minutes, this is the longest song in the musical. And boy, is it annoying. It's an earworm, but it's so pointless and infantile. It even has a chorus line of naked people. It is at times like this that I remember W.S. Gilbert, from Gilbert and Sullivan. During rehearsals for The Mikado, actor Gilbert Grossmith had devised a bit where he would get pushed and roll over. When Gilbert objected to the addition, Grossmith replied that he got a lot of laughs. Gilbert replied: "So you would if you sat on a pork pie." I know it's probably just me, but I was hoping the bar was a little higher.
Interestingly, at this point we get a new song that was written after the album came out. The duet "I Can't Lose You", sung when Anna meets Elsa at the ice palace, replaces the reprise of "For the First Time in Forever". I think it's a shame, because the original was a musical highlight of the movie and a nice bit of continuity. I said as much in my original review. I don't think the song it replaces is quite as strong.
Then we get through "Fixer Upper", Kristoff gets a song of his own, and Elsa gets one too in "Monster". This one's another '80s-inspired ballad, similar to Frozen II's "Lost in the Woods". Then there's another duet, Kristoff and Anna this time, in "True Love". I really glazed over this part, none of these songs are my cup of tea. This is weakest part of the musical for me.
Then we get to the 11th hour song in "Colder by the Minute", which brings some excitement back into the piece. It's easily the best song of the second half. The ending of the movie plays out like we're used to, with one last new song, "When Everything Falls Apart", when Anna and Elsa reassemble Olaf. Narratively, I'm a little torn on the inclusion of this song. It calls back to "A Little Bit of You", which is good, but it also effectively makes Olaf's temporary displacement more important that Anna's near-death experience. Anna doesn't get a "Next Right Thing" kind of song here. Olaf himself actually makes light of how easy it is to put him back together, so it's weird to have this be such a big deal. But then, it's also the right thing to do because Olaf has stolen all our hearts by this point.
The movie ends, fittingly, with another rendition of "Let It Go". And... curtain.
It's Frozen: The West End Musical in a nutshell. If you're not too hot about the original, this one isn't going to change your mind. It's got a few good songs, mostly standing on their own. "Dangerous to Dream", "Colder by the Minute", and the two kids' songs are probably the best ones. This is not one you absolutely have to seek out, but if you can secure tickets at a decent price, there are definitely worse ways to spend an evening.