Of all of the Disney films created in the last ten years, Frozen has had the greatest impact on me. It quickly became one of my favourite animated films back in 2014, with its memorable soundtrack, gorgeous fjord setting and focus on the relationship between two sisters rather than a typical damsel-in-distress storyline. When I first found out that Frozen was being adapted for the stage, I hoped that the show would make it to London’s West End one day.
Fast forward to 2019 and the London production was announced, with tickets going on sale at the start of 2020. Originally we had tickets for October 2020, but with the pandemic these had to be put back a year to September 2021. Unfortunately this ended up being an eventful month for me as I got appendicitis the week of our scheduled performance. It was actually May 2022 when I finally made it to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and wow, was it worth the long wait. A feast for the eyes, I was so excited to see how the Disney Theatrical Productions team would adapt the magical locations for the theatre.
Differences between the screen and stage show
Frozen II was released in 2019 and the film explored Anna and Elsa’s Northuldra heritage. Although the stage production follows the plot of the first film, the writers have included references to Queen Iduna’s cultural identity in the musical storyline. Frozen II celebrates and takes inspiration from the aboriginal communities of Scandinavia and it was great to see the creative team include the Princesses’ family history in their theatrical retelling of the animation.
The trolls are replaced with the ‘hidden folk’: a group of people living in the mountains, with a leader ‘Pabbie’ who can practise magic. As much as I missed seeing some of the adorable little troll characters, it was a thoughtful touch to reference Icelandic belief systems through the name ‘Hidden Folk’.
Sets and staging
The Arendelle sets were absolutely beautiful, showcasing the memorable Nordic architecture from the animation. In one of the opening scenes when Anna and Elsa were children, there were carved wooden beds just like the film and this is an example of how the creative team brought the intricate details of the kingdom to life.
Queen Elsa’s ice palace was in another league however, with its dazzling moving staircases and special ‘ice’ effects. Throw into the mix a mesmerising quick change in Let It Go and the ice palace scenes became a masterclass in how to convey the impossible on stage. It was the sets and staging that really made Frozen stand out for me as a theatrical production. Christopher Oram thoroughly deserved the WhatsOnStage award win for ‘Best Set Design’.
The songs were a highlight of the original film for me and having stayed clear of Frozen promotional content for the past year, I could not wait to find out which tracks had made it into the stage adaptation. I was also looking forward to hearing the new musical numbers that were created specifically for the stage show, with Bobby Lopez and Kristin Anderson-Lopez aiming to tap into the success of the original soundtrack and penning more than 10 new tracks for the theatre.
On the whole, I preferred the original film anthems to the new songs, but the additional music and lyrics did add drama and depth to the storytelling. Elsa’s solo track ‘Monster’ illustrates the frustration and internal conflict that she experiences as a result of her powers. It was an extremely emotional number and it provided the audience with a window view into Elsa’s mind, helping the crowd understand the Ice Queen on a deeper level. Leaving the theatre, you had a much greater understanding of why she was so afraid to ‘let it go’ and embrace the magic.
In contrast, Onken’s humorous ‘Hygge’ was the most memorable new song in my opinion, with its lively musical interpretation of the hygge way of life. The staging and costumes were absolutely hilarious, with the ensemble donning nude suits and running in and out of the Onken family sauna. A unique and fun opener to act two, Hygge followed a similar theme and tone to Olaf’s solo piece ‘In Summer’.
Moving away from the show content, the gift shop at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane was absolutely spectacular, with its gleaming ice-themed merchandise. There were Christmas baubles, mugs and clothing to name a few things, along with the usual souvenir programmes. Despite Frozen being a family show, the souvenirs were quite expensive and this was a little disappointing to see. So many young fans were wearing Anna and Elsa dresses to the theatre and you couldn’t help but wish that the production team had made some of the souvenirs available to them at more affordable prices.
The stage adaptation of Frozen is a sparkling insight into the world of the sisters of Arendelle. The elegant Theatre Royal Drury Lane has been transformed for Disney fans young and old, from the interactive pre-show curtain to the mesmerising sets. Bringing to life the fun characters we know and love, Frozen the Musical is a wholesome piece of theatre for the whole family.
I thought the plot changes worked really well, specifically the references to the fictional Northuldra tribe and the spiritual ‘hidden folk’. With the release of Frozen II and the backstory to Elsa’s powers, the origins of the magic are so much easier to comprehend when returning to the original story. Tickets for performances running up until March 2023 are currently available. Disney and theatre fans will have a wonderful time seeing the show ‘for the first time in forever’ in London.
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx