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Up for review: Frozen National Broadway Tour at the Wharton Center

January 29, 2022

Disney's Frozen: The Broadway Musical comes to The Wharton Center. Showings are available until Feb. 6. 

Frozen: The Broadway Musical was not only a great adaptation of the beloved Disney movie the family-friendly audience knew very well but also a successful stand-alone musical with its own twist on the familiar story, still enchanting every returner to the fairy tale of two sisters.

The general vibe in the Wharton Center encapsulated Disney as most children entering the auditorium were dressed in their full Elsa, Anna or Olaf garb or holding a doll of their favorite character. When the music started, you could also hear kids across the aisles singing along to their favorite songs, only making the atmosphere that much more wholesome.

The magic of Disney Broadway was prevalent and very effective right in the beginning as the stage lit up with the fake ice and magic with the presence of young Elsa making snowmen with young Anna. This was only the start of the special effects many were charmed by throughout the show.

As was to be expected from a Disney show, the technical side of the show was purposeful and seamless. Not only did the show have effects on the snow and ice coming from Elsa's hands, they had insane quick changes, including when Elsa sang the infamous "Let it Go." One of the memorable moments of the show was when the hidden folk — the mysterious magical tribe around Arendelle — appeared for the first time with glowing eyes as part of their costume, effectively pulling off the mystical vibe that follows the lore of the show. The set design was also a technical standout. The show featured constantly changing sets with the story, using dropdowns and large pieces throughout, which seemed to always be new and different in each scene.

Julie Newell, the Editor-in-Chief of Lansing Community College's The Lookout, was there as well.

"They’re doing a fantastic job with the special effects, and the transitions are really smooth, which is to be expected from a Broadway show," Newell said.

Right at the beginning of the show, the story was charming. It highlighted two child actors playing the young sisters, yet their talent was undeniable even at such a young age. The opening number also revealed more about their family dynamics, compared to the movie where the key detail was the death of their parents. The audience even learned an extra detail: the mother, Queen Iduna, dealt with magic and the hidden people.

The show also immediately put importance on the ensemble through large musical numbers and dancing with most of the company on stage. This was a refreshing change from the character-centered movie musical, bringing it alive on the stage. The ensemble shone throughout the show.

There were also lots of new songs which came to the stage, ones that did not see the big screen and added to the story. "What Do You Know About Love?" outlined the unpredictable couple, almost enemies-to-lovers, plotline of Anna and Kristoff, but also had a more groovy, rather than powerful, vibe unlike the rest of the musical. "Dangerous to Dream," sung by Elsa during her coronation, also added more emotion to her fear of ruining the kingdom she now reigned over. "I Can't Lose You" proved the two lead sisters were powerhouses and showed the dynamics of their relationship leading to the end where true love was not found in a romantic relationship, but familial love.

Audiences also loved the addition of Oaken, the character famous for running the shop with the big summer blowout during the snowstorm covering Arendelle, and his large ensemble song, "Hygge."

"We loved Oaken … he was in literally one song. We were like, ‘(The movie) left him out (of any musical numbers),’ and then we looked in the program, and we were like, "He's the opening number," Al Rongela, an audience member, said.

The only addition the show could have done without were the two songs featuring Hans. They felt unnecessary and unexciting. However, he was an amazing villain, making audiences love to hate him and adding depth to his character on stage.

"I really loved Hans too. It made it so hard to hate him … I was like, "I know he’s going to be the bad guy, but he is so amazing,'" Jenna Thayer, another audience member, said.

When it came to the returning songs in the show, "Let It Go" or "First Time in Forever" could've been the easy choices for best adaptation, but "Fixer Upper" was a show-stopping ensemble piece that brought comedic relief and unforgettable music, along with choreography, to the stage.

While some songs were more entertaining than others, every actor was a strong performer with true Broadway talent.

One of my favorite entrances was the reveal of Olaf, who brought immediate comedic relief to a tense moment. Every actor was a powerhouse, even Sven the reindeer, who technically had no lines but had an amazing character design. It made him expressive, even if the way he entered the stage was jarring to look at, being a man on all fours.

The company worked well together, and Hans and Anna's voices in the tour cast actually blended more than the movie version. The Broadway version also allowed for Anna and Elsa to bond better and form a relationship that was less recognizable in the film setting.

The musical wrapped up with a fitting reprise of "Let It Go," which told the characters to let go of their personal doubt and find love in the people around them without fear.

"When they turned "Let It Go" into the big final number, and it was the song that had been about (Elsa) being happy alone … suddenly being like, "We’re all together,'" Thayer said.

The theme of unconditional love moved the audience to understand the magic of Disney on Broadway. Thayer explained the themes of community support and depending on the people around you were the most moving, while Rongela said it would inspire audiences to not isolate themselves.

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Disney's Frozen the Musical was everything I wanted from the original story and more, filling the stage with magic.

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