After being pushed back twice over the course of the pandemic and inside a fully refurbished Theatre Royal Drury Lane the much anticipated “Frozen” has finally opened in the West End. Alongside the delays the producers have built up our excitement with some fantastic star casting (and they deserve credit for the diverse cast of talented performers they picked). So does it live up to the hype? Sometimes.
Despite being a famous movie it’s a story which is not familiar to everyone. It’s centred on Elsa, Arendelle’s heir, and her sister Anna. Elsa has magic powers to create ice and snow but when playing as children she injures Anna with her powers. Following this, people’s memories of her powers (including Anna’s) are removed by the “Hidden Folk” and her parents try to help her control this power. But when her parents die in a storm she is left alone to control this power as she shuns Anna to protect both her sister and herself. During a fit of anger at the coronation the towns people see her powers. She runs away to live alone away from everyone unaware of the ice storm she has left on the town.
One thing which is great about this story is that despite the romances, which are surprisingly different to most Disney prince and princess romances, the story is one of sisterly love and doesn’t rely on a prince to ride in to save the day. This is probably what helped to make the film so successful.
The two leads, with Samantha Barks as Elsa and Stephanie McKeon as Anna, are fantastic. In their duet (new for the London production) I got actual chills listening to their voices (not from the ice air blasted into the auditorium). Their talent is incredible and it’s great to see their performances. Of course the show spends the first act leading up the famous “Let It Go”. Given how famous this is they have tried to make it as close to the film as possible and it really pays off. The ice palace sparkles on the stage and it has the best quick change in musical theatre history. What is disappointing though is the change to the last note which is belted out across the auditorium. While Samantha Barks voice is fantastic it takes away from some of what made the song so special to begin with.
The opening sequences with the children Anna and Elsa are great and the children play these characters so well, being able to command the audience’s attention and performing with the confidence and maturity of any seasoned west end performer. The rest of the cast are good but their performances were eclipsed by Anna and Elsa.
The musical overall is good but struggles at times as some parts seem directed to adults and others towards the kids rather than all of it being for everyone. There are a few sensible changes to the movie to make it easier to stage. There are new songs to make it a full musical. While one or two aren’t as good as the rest (notably Hygge which kicks off the second act) they work with the show and help it develop more than the film.
The musical will delight children old enough to sit through it. But they have made a more mature story than the film and younger kids may find it hard to sit through the new songs which they are unfamiliar with. At two hours plus an interval, some will struggle.
Despite some stand out moments, while the stage sparkled the show itself felt there was something missing. Some of the magic that you get in other Disney productions such as Mary Poppins was missing from this. While it’s enjoyable, and for kids is a great introduction to theatre, it’s not something I would rush back to see.
Rating: 3 Stars