Disney’s Frozen review at Denver Center for the Performing Arts – ‘truly magical’
Receiving its world stage premiere in Denver prior to a transfer to Broadway next February, Disney’s 2013 smash hit fairytale Frozen has been transformed into a magical – and highly theatrical – winter wonderland of a musical.
Twenty years ago, The Lion King employed theatrical visionary Julie Taymor and British designer Richard Hudson to transform its Hamlet-on-Safari tale into a joyous stage struggle of good and evil. Now, Disney producer Thomas Schumacher’s masterstroke is to conscript Britain’s best directorial/designer partnership, Michael Grandage and Christopher Oram, to bring Frozen to the stage.
Over the last two decades, Grandage and Oram have developed an intimate shorthand at conveying epic gestures on both a small and grand scale. For Frozen, these are both brought to the fore, in a production of thrilling theatrical flair and lavish effects.
Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, Frozen tells the sometimes sinister story of two royal sisters and the dangerous powers one possesses that can plunge the world into a frozen landscape.
It’s like a cross between Wicked and Harry Potter. Husband-and-wife songwriting team 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, especially an over-extended comedy song in a sauna that opens the second act, but the surging power ballads that are the score’s signature are stunningly delivered by Caissie Levy as Elsa and Patti Murin as her sister Anna.
Levy is tasked with delivering the iconic hit Let It Go – the equivalent to Wicked’s Defying Gravity – and does so with immense, soaring high notes, coupled with a staging that sees her undergo a physical transformation. It happens in a second: an act of true stage magic.
Christopher Oram’s set and costume designs, augmented by Finn Ross’s video, create more stunning transformations behind the beautiful wood-panelled proscenium the action is framed within. Natasha Katz’s lighting provides its own brand of magic, summonsing the Northern Lights with shades of vivid blue, green, orange and purple. Michael Curry’s puppet creations are another wonder, particularly the snowman Olaf (manipulated by a visible Greg Hildreth) and reindeer Sven (a hidden and supremely agile Andrew Pirozzi).
The show is also sensationally choreographed by Rob Ashford to amplify the wit and drama behind every number.
The result is the biggest creative step forward for Disney’s theatrical brand since The Lion King, a show that is sure to have a worldwide life. The West End surely beckons, and soon.