After almost a year without any theatre, it was a welcome relief when the lights started to come up across Sydney over the past few weeks. The relaxation of COVID restrictions meant that the Australian production of Frozen the Musical was able to have its premiere at the beginning of December, postponed from early July 2020. And what a perfect show to kick of the summer season. Disney, showstopping numbers, a little bit of magic and a beloved family-friendly story with strong, female leads that was a fantastic show to introduce some younger fans to the theatre as well as showcase what old-timers love best.
Based on the 2013 film of the same name, Frozen tells the tale of princess sisters Elsa and Anna, who are orphaned following their parents’ death at sea. What the good folk of Arendelle don’t know is that Elsa is magic and can produce ice and snow. While this talent of hers has forced the sisters to lock themselves away in the castle, they can’t stay hidden forever. As the kingdom opens up for Elsa’s coronation day, Elsa’s inability to control her powers lead the sisters on a journey to save their kingdom.
Jemma Rix (Elphaba, Wicked) and Courtney Monsma (Katherine Howard, SIX) are wonderful as Elsa and Anna, respectively. Their joy in playing off each other and performing is palpable. Rix is wonderfully icy, stoic and controlled. Her “Let It Go”, which closes Act I, will leave you in awe and is bookended perfectly with Act II’s “Monster” with Hans, a new song for the musical that has a definite “No Good Deed” from Wicked feel. In contrast Monsma is light, fun, and playful. Her naivete and wonder in the world that she is finally being exposed to is apparent throughout. This is also reflected in her numbers, particularly “Love Is An Open Door” and the new duet “What Do You Know About Love?” with Kristoff. While the sisters are separated for much of the action of the musical, their new duet “I Can’t Lose You”, which replaced the “For the First Time In Forever” reprise is a great vehicle both for Elsa and Anna and Rix and Monsma.
Sean Sinclair’s Kristoff was a lot of fun and the musical provides him with so much more to do and sing than in the movie version. It really showcases Sinclair and it did make me long for Jonathan Groff to have had the opportunity to sing more in the film though. Sinclair’s chemistry with Monsma is fiery and a lot of fun. This is perfectly seen in their duet. Matt Lee is the man behind Olaf and he does a fantastic job at bringing to life the beloved snowman. He’s animated, child-like and certainly a showstopper, just like in the film.
Thomas McGuane’s Hans is even more dishonourable than in the film. Even knowing the story, he had the audience utterly convinced that he was in love with Anna and, yes ambitious, but was working towards a shared goal and out of love and concern for Anna, right up to when he refuses to kiss her and locks her in the palace. That rejection really stings but the sisters get their revenge splendidly.
Unless you’ve been dragged along to the show as a plus one or chaperone, you’re going to be wanting to experience live all the classic hits from the movie and the musical does not disappoint. However, the score has been expanded for musical, with some welcome additions. Oscar-winners Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez are back adding to their iconic soundtrack and while there’s nothing as anthematic as “Let It Go”, there are some new earworms in the mix. One of these is the Act II opener “Hygge”, an absolutely highlight of the musical performed by Oaken (Blake Appelqvist), Kristoff, Anna and Olaf. Others include the aforementioned “Monster” and the Anna/Kristoff duet.
The movie is pretty magical, with Elsa’s powers producing some awe-inspiring feats. Shows such as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child have shown just what is possible with magic and special effects on stage, so the lack of overt magic was a bit disappointing. I was expecting more to be honest and for it to be a bit more impressive and sophisticated. However, what was lacking in physical magic was more than made up through the use of the sets and lighting design.
The sets are deceptively simple and yet so well utilised and incorporated into the action. Kept largely to the periphery for the majority of the musical, the lighting design transforms the entire stage running the gamut from a steamy summer’s day for Olaf’s “In Summer” through to Elsa’s ice palace. The Capitol Theatre is a veritable wonderland by itself – with a midnight blue ceiling dotted with twinkling star lights – that it just complements Elsa’s ice palace beautifully. There will be many little kids wanting their bedrooms looking like the ice palace I feel. I would too.
Frozen is enjoyable from beginning to end. It’s a wonderful escape from the realities of 2020 that sweeps you into the world of Arendelle from the opening song. It’s a great night for the whole family (my sister and I took my 6-year-old niece who was awestruck from beginning to end and wants to know what her next show will be).
They were also very COVID-safe. Everyone older than 12 is required to wear a mask once you enter the building, with masks handed out when you get your tickets scanned as you enter the theatre. Entry times are staggered based on your seats and leaving the theatre is done by rows directed by ushers.
Frozen is now playing at the Capitol Theatre with tickets on sale up to May 2021.
Note due to the recent change in restrictions from the NSW Government, Frozen performances on Tuesday 22 December – Thursday 24 December have been cancelled. At the time of writing, the two performances on 26 December are due to proceed.
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