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  • Writer's pictureFrank Schierloh

REVIEW: Disney’s Frozen (National Tour, Academy of Music, Philadelphia PA)

The show about ice…that’s a little hot? 


Most everyone has seen the film Frozen at this point. Released in 2013, it skyrocketed to popularity, raking in over $1.2 Billion at the box office. The songs became part of the cultural zeitgeist, with ‘Let it Go’ reaching number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Disney Theatrical Productions began adapting it for the stage in January of 2014, but it wouldn’t open on Broadway until 2018. While receiving mixed reviews, the show was a financial success and launched a National Tour in 2019. This tour is currently playing at the Academy of Music, in a production that is visually stunning, oddly mature for its target audience, and filled with some stellar vocals. 

 

Oh, They Got That Disney Money.

Translating the wonder of an animated film to the stage is no easy task, but the designers of this tour have managed to fully capture and adapt the world of Arendelle. From the pre-show scrim, to the vaulted ceilings of the castle of Arendelle, and the frosty fractals of Elsa’s ice castle, each set is intricately designed. They fully embrace the wonder and awe of what Arendelle could be. The costumes equally flesh out the world: beautifully crafted to evoke the characters of the film, but also make them wholly unique in their own right. The true design star is the puppetry. Sven and Olaf are two wonderfully crafted and performed puppets that are so fascinating to look at. Sven is particularly impressive in its range of movement, all while looking incredibly textured and expressive. 


The songs of Frozen are not easy to sing and sing well. Luckily, this cast is headed by two vocal powerhouses in Caroline Bowman as Elsa and Lauren Nicole Chapman as Anna. Both performers have ample opportunities to showcase their voices with Bowman’s “Dangerous to Dream” being a highlight. Chapman also flexes her impeccable comedic chops throughout the show, making Anna a hysterical shut-in, while also navigating the more emotional beats of the character masterfully. The full ensemble sounds gorgeous on the big group numbers, as well as the many added songs that pepper the show. 


A scene from the national tour of Frozen.
Dominic Dorset (Kristoff) and Dan Plehal (Sven) in the national tour of Frozen. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

So Hot, It Should Be Called “Melted”

This next section is gonna get a little weird, and I’m not gonna lie: it made me feel weird while watching the show. There’s no other way to say it: this show is oddly horny. It is peppered with sexual undertones, nude illusions and an Anna so thirsty you’d think she lived in the Sahara instead of Scandinavia. While Anna being desperate for love is key to one of the main themes of Frozen, it did seem dialed up a bit here, but it may also be that the translation from animation to live action makes things feel more naturally raunchy. It’s not just the desire for “love” that distances this production from its’ original audience of children; for as funny a film as Frozen was, the humor and music here does at times feel more mature than the original targeted audience. While making the show more entertaining for the adults bringing their children to it is admirable, the children who love the Frozen world deserve more music and jokes for their ears instead of more complex lyrics and relegating the “kiddy” humor to Olaf. Regardless, it still has a lot of important messages about family and relationships that are valuable to children, it’s just a shame that they get a bit lost as the show tries to appeal to all audiences equally. 


A wonderful thing about animation is that the characters that are drawn can come in all different shapes and sizes. While sometimes artistic styles might not translate to real life, humans also come in different shapes and sizes. That’s why it is slightly disheartening to see a show like Frozen, whose animated characters are all different body types, be portrayed by a rather homogeneous looking live cast. This is not to say that the cast is untalented by any means, but the animated Arendelle had such a wide range of body diversity that it was disappointing that the casting team didn’t prioritize that for the stage production. 


A scene from the national tour of Frozen.
Caroline Bowman (Elsa) and Lauren Nicole Chapman (Anna) and cast in the national tour of Frozen. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Frozen works for many reasons. The story of two sisters is still as gripping as when it was originally released in 2013, and the music is still extremely hummable. The stage translation is visually vibrant and the technical feats that they pull off are impressive, making the audience feel transported to a world where magic lives in front of their eyes. There are just certain choices that were made in the translation process that don’t seem to align with the original source material.


Frozen is sure to be a fun time at the theatre for any family, but if parents are looking for an answer to their kids questioning why Anna rubbed a statue’s chest…best to just tell them to “let it go.”

A fun cartoon with links to tickets and info

Disney’s Frozen is playing at

the Academy of Music (240 S. Broad St.)

from now until April 7th, 2024.




For more information visit ensembleartsphilly.org





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