THEATRE REVIEW: Frozen starring Samantha Barks and Stephanie McKeon at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane

WORTH A LOOK?: ***

WHEN?: Saturday 29 August, opens 8 September, booking to 26 June 2022 RUNNING TIME: 150 minutes (including a 20-minute interval)

This theatre version of the beloved 2013 Disney computer-animated film boasts a series of visual tricks that are so impressive that we’ve never seen anything like them achieved onstage before.

  • Read on for reasons including how stars Barks and McKeon provide a believable frisson as sisters Anna and Elsa

The Theatre Royal Drury Lane has been refurbished during the Covid closedown and the proscenium arch boasts computer screens which convey convincingly the freezing of the kingdom of Arrendelle and there are a series of costume changes propelled as if by magic which are so quick and spectacular visually that they will leave you breathless.

Frozen the film made 1.3 billion dollars and won 2 Oscars including 1 for Best Song for Let It Go which closes the 1st act here and has transcended its origins and will be immediately familiar to most with an affection for musical theatre and, although it may be a challenge to perform, is sung exquisitely by Barks who we last saw at the Other Palace in The Last Five Years but has since starred on Broadway in Pretty Woman: The Musical.

The story is inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen and tells of 2 princesses, Barks’ Elsa and McKeon’s sparky Anna. We imagine it wasn’t aimed at this 51-year-old reviewer and instead a far younger audience and a wedge is driven between the 2 sisters as 6-year-olds as Anna urges Elsa to create snow to show off her magic but Elsa can’t control it and endangers her sister’s life.

The sisters’ parents urge Elsa to wear gloves and to hide away from Anna to protect her as her memories are wiped yet they die on a sea voyage leaving Elsa to inherit the throne on becoming an adult.

Frozen – The Musical includes 8 songs from the film and we particularly enjoyed Love Is An Open Door where the headstrong yet naive Anna falls in love with the charming prince Hans (Oliver Ormson impressing in a difficult role).

After Elsa mistakenly freezes Arrendelle when she once again fails to keep control of her magical powers, the musical essentially becomes a road movie as Anna teams up with an unlikely collection of friends including ice salesman Kristoff (a likeable Obioma Ugoala), snowman Olaf and an impressive reindeer as they combine to try to find her.

Regular readers will know how much we enjoy Eurovision and act 2’s opener Hygge has the feel of a comedy number one might find in the contest when it is hosted by a Scandinavian country and it is trying to explain its culture including the joy of saunas and drinking to a sceptical and larger audience. The flesh-coloured body stockings and strategically placed twigs mean the cast aren’t naked as they can-can about the stage but the number is probably as funny as the evening gets.

To us the problem with the film and not resolved here is that the appearance of the snowman created by the sisters and containing the best of both of them makes far less sense if you think in any way about it. What is it trying to tell us? Other than to act as rather a clumsy pointer to how Elsa might contain her powers.

Film Frozen II was even more successful than the original taking 1.5 billion dollars and there’s clearly a massive family audience that this show is designed for which will delight in the array of merchandise onsale at this venue including the Anna and Elsa dolls that dominate the auditorium.

For us it’s director Michael Grandage’s (Red, Wyndham’s Theatre) visual accomplishment that we think will linger longest in the memory. We had an enjoyable but not transformative theatrical experience and while Let It Go is a definite high we’d struggle to recommend it as a musical to anyone but the most ardent fan of the films of which there appears to be very many.

We’d recommend Frozen‘s older sister, the inventive and brilliant Cinderella just across town at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, above this as a bolder and more challenging theatrical experience.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Frozen Tickets
  • Have you seen any of these shows? Let us know what you thought in the comments below
  • Enjoyed this preview? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham, email neildurham3@gmail.com and check us out on Instagram and Facebook

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