By Sandi Durell
From the lack of squealing audience kids (although there were many present – some dressed in appropriate princess costumes and playing with Anna and Elsa dolls), a good gauge, it’s obvious this Big Broadway Musical is missing the punch that many found delightful in the Disney movie back in 2013.
The fairytale story of two sisters Anna (the younger deliciously played by Audrey Bennett) and Elsa (a fine voiced Brooklyn Nelson) who are driven apart by the inherited magical powers of the elder Elsa, who has no means of controlling what occurs when she almost kills young Anna accidentally, is aided and abetted by their parents Queen Aduna (Ann Sanders) and King Agnarr (James Brown III) when they must call upon the chanting, wild and wooly-tailed ‘Hidden Folk of the Mountains’ (originally trolls in the film) to save their Anna. This precipitates a separation of the closely knit sisters where Elsa must stay hidden away, wearing gloves to stop her fingertips from creating the ice and snow that caused the tragedy and who knows, what more to come.
We see them grow into adults as the golden voiced, belting stoic Caissie Levy becomes Queen Elsa and unknowingly tosses her Kingdom of Arendelle into a Nordic ice palace, while Anna (the impulsive shining singing star Patti Murin) meets and falls for Prince Hans of the Southern Isles (singing sensation John Riddle – “Love Is An Open Door”), a wolf in princely garb. Elsa banishes herself as she travels far and wide into the Fjords unaware of the calamity that has occurred; her people are freezing and hungry.
Act 2 opens with “Hygge” (a terrific Kevin Del Aguila, as the shopkeeper Oaken) while the ensemble runs in and out of a sauna hiding their nakedness (good flesh colored body suits) under branches and leaves (huh?).
As the loving Anna seeks to track down Elsa in the hazardous mountains, she is aided by Kristoff (a terrific Jelani Alladin) and his sidekick Sven, the reindeer (Andew Pirozzi). The constant light is the puppetry of Michael Curry brought to life by a delightful Greg Hildreth as the snowman. The always remarkable Robert Creighton is notable as the sinister character Weselton (whom they call Weaselton) who leads the cavalry to find and destroy the Queen.
Michael Grandage has directed this play-it-safe production, keeping those magical gloves on but wows you with technology – the fabulous video design of Finn Ross and special effects of Jeremy Chernick along with sensational lighting by Natasha Katz. The set and lavish costume design, by Christopher Oram, include some spectacular giant icicles and sparkly crystal curtains in this icy production and an astounding break-away costume moment that elicits oohs and aahs. Sound design is by Peter Hylenski. The book is by Jennifer Lee and Rob Ashford does a fine job choreographing. The major musical moments by husband and wife team Kristen-Anderson Lopez and Robert Lopez’ are “ For the First Time in Forever” and “Let It Go,” the closer to the first act.
Alas, Frozen will leave you as the song in Act 2 – – “Colder by the Minute.”
Photos: Deen Van Meer
St. James Theatre, 244 West 44 Street, Running time: 2hrs 10mins. One intermission.