By Charly SHELTON
Walt Disney World proudly opened “Frozen Ever After,” a new boat ride attraction in the Norway Pavilion of Epcot, late last month. In California, there isn’t room to add a new ride of that size so Disney California Adventure brought in “Frozen,” a stage show, to capitalize on the wave of popularity. I honestly was not excited for it, thinking we got the fuzzy end of the lollipop in the “Frozen” rollout, but I am very glad to admit that I was wrong.
Taking over the Hyperion Theatre from the outgoing “Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular” after its wildly successful run since 2003, “Frozen – Live at the Hyperion” is a 65-minute long, Broadway caliber musical performed three times daily.
Based on the film, it is a condensed version of the story but not condensed by much – the film is only 27 minutes longer than the stage show and none of the songs was cut. This show goes beyond the capabilities of “Aladdin” with newly installed LED projected sets, huge curtains used as projector screens and video elements incorporated within the rolling sets. It really is something spectacular and seeing the way the human actors interact with the projected elements, like Elsa spewing out frozen magic from her hands to freeze the set around her into an ice palace, really gives the show something special not seen anywhere else.
Disney invested heavily in incorporating projection technology into some of its new rides or updating existing rides, not only at the Disneyland resort in California but in its parks across the world and especially in the new Shanghai Disneyland, which opened in May. I’ve seen a lot of these new additions, either in person or online, and they’ve all been pretty good, but this stage musical really takes the cake as to how good it can be when done right.
Sitting in a theatre is the perfect environment to appreciate good lighting and projected effects and, while the updates on Indiana Jones and Peter Pan’s Flight are really nice, it’s much easier to see them and appreciate the artistry while sitting in a theatre.
The “Frozen” cast does a nice job for the most part. Unfortunately the cast list wasn’t printed, so I can’t mention anyone by name but I feel sorry for whoever plays Elsa from show to show. Having to hit that intense note from “Let It Go” is no easy feat, let alone having to do it several times a day in front of an audience of super fans who are expecting it to be just the way Idina Menzel performed it in the film. Not everyone is Idina Menzel, and it’s painfully obvious watching this show.
The actress who played Anna was much better, transitioning so fluidly from young child to teenager to adult in the opening 10 minutes of the show that I almost didn’t believe that young child Anna and adult Anna were the same actress. Just to be nitpicky (I am a critic after all), the actress who played Anna tried to be too much like the film in mimicking Kristen Bell’s speech pattern of hitting the hard consonants. Bell sounded like an awkward 20-something who wasn’t used to interacting with other people, and her stage counterpart sounded like a forced impression.
The other characters – Kristoff, Sven, Prince Hans, the trolls and Olaf – were all pretty good. The odd combination of a marionette/outfit for Olaf worked really well as the puppeteer/voice actor who led him around the stage. One of the funnier characters from the film, Duke of Weaselton, was absolutely insufferable on stage. Even Disney Channel stars would tell him he’s overacting.
Overall, though, the good does outweigh the bad and it is definitely a show worth seeing. Fastpasses are the only way to see the show, and they are all given out within the first 45 minutes to one-hour of the park’s opening. Those who want to guarantee seeing the show need to be in line in front of the gates to Disney California Adventure by about 7:30 a.m., a half hour before the park opens. Guests are then led en masse to the Hollywood Pictures Back Lot area of the park where they line up behind a rope until park opens when they are led through a zigzag of tape-on-the-ground queue line to get to the Fastpass machines next to the entrance to the theatre. Then on the Fastpass ticket, it lists a section of seating and a return time of one-hour prior to curtain time, but people are already lined up by then. I suggest about 90 minutes before curtain to get in line at the theatre for good seats within the assigned section. All in all, I waited about three hours and got tickets to the first show, seated at orchestra level, center house and I was completely satisfied. It’s definitely worth the wait for “Frozen” fans. And though the cast may be “A Bit of a Fixer Upper,” this show is a really fun way to spend a day “In Summer.” For those not as enthused by “Frozen,” it may be wise to “Let It Go” until the crowds calm down and Fastpasses are easier to come by.