Armed with our masks, my daughter and I arrived at the Capitol Theatre. It was the first time back at a theatre in almost a year, and so added to all the anticipation and excitement, there was a sense of caution, trepidation and of gratitude. The Capitol Theatre staff were very professional – withouting dampening the vibe at all, they ushered us to our seats and due to COVID restrictions we were encouraged to wear our masks during the performance.
Frozen might be a Disney movie with two princesses but it is far from the damsel-in-distress storyline of old. Since it’s release in 2013 Frozen has become a global phenomenon. Yes there is magic, glitter and love but it is so much more than that. It is the story of love between siblings, love and loss of family and the dangerous notion of marrying someone without knowing their last name. The 2013 film version has had it’s fair share of avid fans and loyal loathers but the stage production might just tilt the scales once and for all.
The Broadway Musical, Frozen, seems to do almost everything right. From the beginning the young Elsa, played by Deeana Cheong Foo and young Anna played by Chloe Delle-Vedove really brought to life the characters. Anna is delightfully mischievous and Elsa wields her gifts of snow and magic to make her sister laugh and to revel in the merriment of being young. Anna’s dialogue straight off the bat is cheeky – and by cheeky, I mean well delivered derriere jokes that really capture how funny kids find rear ends. From there the story evolves but this stage performance is a more sophisticated take on the film version, subtly delving deeper into the psychology behind the actions of the princesses. This extra element of plot development is a bonus for those that already know the film.
Courtney Monsma, as Anna, is wonderful in obvious and subtle ways. She is bubbly and light with an infectious desire for human connection. Elsa says at the end “Anna you are the magic one” and I have to agree. At times she teeters on the edge of slapstick but never tips over. Her humour doesn’t distract you from the bigger picture and she holds the audience mesmerised by her heartfelt responses to each character on stage.
Jemma Rix plays Elsa and her role is not an easy one. She has to captivate her audience but can’t rely on high energy. She has to keep it all together and maintain a conservative persona while suppressing sorrow and suffering. Rix pulls off the role by embracing the royal element. A would-be queen who must always be in control. A monarch who cannot be tempted by the frivolity of everyday life, until the switch half way through when Elsa embraces her magic and throws caution to the wind. On stage that moment is dazzling. It would seem impossible to outsparkle a scene ablaze with shimmering ice arches and floor-to-ceiling curtains of glitter, yet the now-famous sequined blue costume does exactly that when Elsa’s heavy and dark dress falls away. Although I wanted Rix to go all out and really explode in this new version of her character, she maintained some decorum and reservation which felt more genuine. Changing a behaviour pattern is no easy task. It takes more than an outfit change and a magic snowman.
Thomas McGuane played Hans and he did such a great job I was almost convinced that the plot was going to pivot and a new villain would emerge. I believed his compassion as he handed out blankets. I was totally taken in by his duet with Anna and almost fell in love with him myself. The chemistry between Monsma and McGuane was faultless. They swept themselves and the audience off their feet.
Sean Sinclair as Kristoff seemed to lose some steam and felt lost in the high energy and strong character development of those around him. His moments to shine were brief or overwhelmed with a musical number. Sinclair did interact with his reindeer and the soft-spoken man who knows the true meaning of love might have flown under the radar but he was still good.
Olaf is a favourite of young and old and Matt Lee the puppeteer brought the snowman's wit and charm to life. If you were to get Olaf wrong, I think the show could be destined for complete failure but with Lee at the wheel, Olaf’s character was in good hands. Although you never saw Lochie McIntyre’s face (a role shared with Jonathan Macmillian), his ability to bring Sven the reindeer to life was commendable. Personalities are challenging when you are talking puppets but both did a great job.
The design and construction of the sets and the costumes were brilliant. From the smallest flurry of snow to monumental icicles, it was the attention to detail that pulled it all together. A chimney that puffed small plumes of smoke, the embroidery on the costumes, the millions of perfectly placed sequins and all things that glittered gave the story the spectacle and magic that we were all hoping for. My only gripe is the costume change for Anna at Oaken's famous sauna – in a scene before Anna swaps her dress for some of Kristof’s clothes. He gives her a practical and perfectly sensible outfit, trimmed with fur. She is after all about to climb the North Mountain, in unknown conditions resembling an ice age, all caused by her magical and powerful sister. On the way they come across Oaken, played by Blake Appelqvist. It is a quirky scene that lets the slapstick fall where it may. There is suggested nudity and lots of strategically placed fronds and even a can-can throwback. There is also a new dress and boots. Long flowing and gorgeous but also slightly ridiculous for the task at hand. I enjoyed the scene and laughs were abundant but the costume change just seemed irrelevant. If Elsa can do her final scenes in a wicked little ¾ length pant onesie then I can’t see why Anna needed the dress.
The Disney Theatrical Productions team behind it have done magical things adapting Frozen for the stage. It was first performed on Broadway in 2018 and ran until performances were indeed frozen by the pandemic in early 2020. We are so fortunate to have the show in Sydney. If you are sitting on the fence about Frozen, then get your shoes on for you should not miss it. The spectacle will delight all ages and has the touch of magic and humanity that we all need right now.
Disney Theatrical Productions presents
music and lyrics Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez | book Jennifer Lee
Director Michael Grandage
Venue: Capitol Theatre, Sydney NSW
Dates: from 1 December 2020
Tickets: from $49.50
Bookings: frozenthemusical.com.au | 1300 558 878