Frozen The Musical, Disney’s blockbuster musical stage version of its smash-hit animated film finally opened in London.
Not only that, but it’s the first production in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sparkling new renovation of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
The original creative dream team of director Michael Grandage, choreographer Rob Ashford, and set and costume designer Christopher Oram return to their Broadway production but make a number of tweaks to the London show, including the big new set piece of a 70-foot ice bridge, that makes use of the vast space of the Drury Lane.
The show features a powerful cast including Samantha Barks as Elsa, Stephanie McKeon as Anna, Obioma Ugoala as Kristoff, Craig Gallivan as Olaf, Oliver Ormson as Hans, Richard Frame as Weselton, plus Mikayla Jade and Ashley Birchall alternating as Sven.
So did the critics get the chills about this stage reworking of Disney’s massively successful 2013 animated film, or could they Let It Go?
Most reviews have been positive, enjoying the scale and spectacle of the show, and the themes of female empowerment, if not the underlying worries about the continued ‘Disneyfication’ of the West End. Read selected highlights of the critics’ response below.
Frozen The Musical has music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and a book by Jennifer Lee.
Frozen The Musical reviews
"Stunning musical extravaganza creates its own magic"
"Beyond the visual thrills and powerful ballads, this adaptation brings an unexpected depth to the relationship between two tortured sisters"
"Gradually, however, it grows to become its own magical thing, with some charming inventions and a few new songs (the best of which is an audacious comic number, appearing out of nowhere to satirise the Nordic notion of hygge as naked characters conga out of a sauna). What is more surprising than the uniformly storming singing voices and the theatrical razzmatazz is the sense of a real, beating heart in the relationship between the two tortured sisters."
"The musical version of ‘Frozen’ is an awesome spectacle with more heart, depth and darkness than the film"
"This isn’t ‘Frozen’ for adults, a dark new take on ‘Frozen’, or a radical reinvention by spectacle like ‘The Lion King’. But it’s a thoughtful, attractive and human spin that manages to balance a Drury Lane-size spectacle with recognising what audiences want from ‘Frozen’, and subtly bringing it a little closer to ‘The Snow Queen’. If the film is a pre-school classic, the musical is maybe a couple of years more grown-up. But its most magical moments will wow every age group."
"A visual feast to warm even the coldest of hearts"
"The first thing to say about Michael Grandage’s elegant production, in fact, is that it has a tad more emotional depth than the film, which was a bland, Barbie Doll-like confection with little of the verve of the Toy Story franchise. "
"This long-awaited West End stage version feels lukewarm"
"The themes of empowerment and acceptance remain strong but the story was always weak. And despite several new songs, Michael Grandage’s production strives to emulate the film without adding substantial theatrical oomph. Choreographer Rob Ashford contributes witty dances for couples but generically whirling Ruritanian crowds. Let it go? I probably could."
"At least it goes at a cracking pace. In the first few minutes impossibly cute young incarnations of the sisters rip through four songs, Elsa accidentally injures Anna with her ice magic, and they lose both regal parents. Before you know it, adult Anna falls for minor Prince Hans on first meeting and Elsa flees her coronation when her magic reveals itself, scattering dagger-like icicles as she goes."
"More magical than the film, this stage version of Frozen is one hot hit"
"But whatever we grown-ups may think of those songs, you’ve got to take your bobble hat off to Michael Grandage’s amazing blizzard of a staging – which finally made its West End debut last night.
It’s an ice storm of a show featuring (literally) breathtaking magic and mesmerising meteorological effects in Christopher Oram’s stunning stage design that rivals the animation of the film and adds a whole new wow of its own."
"A huge determiner of Frozen’s success comes down to the casting of Anna and Elsa, the princesses of fictional Scandinavian kingdom Arendelle, who fall out, reconnect and discover themselves – one of whom has an uncontrollable ability to turn things into ice.
Samantha Barks is ideal as Elsa, bringing a sense of interiority and inner conflict to the unhappy princess; she’s all grace and poise in her regal gowns and remains very still, as if by allowing herself to move at all she would buckle under the weight of her icy curse and her duty to the throne."
"The venue puts the show in the shade.
"The newly refurbished Theatre Royal Drury Lane is jaw-dropping, but this stage version of the all-conquering Disney film feels less magical"
"An immaculately executed theme park ride of a musical"
"The stage adaptation of Disney’s smash will leave you dazed and breathless, if a little hollow"
"Frozen, the global juggernaut and cultural phenomenon, has made its long-awaited West End debut in a show of such eye-wateringly high production values that it might make your teeth chatter. As a spectacle, it is a sight to behold: a show dedicated to pure escapism that has the velocity of a bedazzled freight train, leaving you dazed, breathless, and covered in confetti, if perhaps a little hollow."
Date: 11 September 2021
Written by: Luke Dillon
Tags: Frozen, Frozen The Musical, Michael Grandage, reviews round-up, Samantha Barks, Stephanie McKeon, Theatre Royal Drury Lane