Frozen: Theatre Royal Drury Lane
- Credit: Johan Persson © Disney
Turning a much loved animation into musical theatre gold is a rare alchemy that demands trusting your creatives.
Fortunately Disney have made some great hires to translate the film into magical live theatre that will please more than just Princess-struck six-year-olds.
Partly inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's Snow Queen, the Nordic tale of sisters Anna and Elsa divided by the elder's uncontrollable magic, already had a feminist undertow. Here it gets a potent boost as Samantha Barks' isolated, tortured Elsa tries to suppress the powers which might harm her sister, then gives way in a joyful burst of self-expression and ice crystals with the anthemic Let It Go.
That men demonise her power to grab her kingdom - and the sisterhood rescue each other - makes it a tale for our times. Original screenplay writer Jennifer Lee and veteran director Michael Grandage have a talent for lucid storytelling, that leavens sadness and jeopardy with wit and comedy.
The best of these is an un-Disney-like celebration of Hygge complete with conga-ing sauna worshippers enacting a burlesque fan dance with birch twigs. All the well known movie songs are here, memorable among Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez' new numbers is the anti-romantic What Do You Know About Love? as Anna and Kristoff cross a seemingly unending ice bridge.
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Craig Gallivan's charming snowman Olaf makes simultaneous singing, dancing and puppetry look easy, while Obioma Ugoala's bear-like ice-seller Kristoff warms the cockles even if his reindeer companion Sven is under-used. And Stephanie McKeon Anna is a loveable tangle of high-spirited goofy wisecracking and heart-on-sleeve naivety.
They are aided by Rob Ashford's choreography, which mostly eschews cheesiness for visually arresting dance theatre, summoning a shipwreck, or a statue from whirling bodies, or lends an expressionistic tinge to the ballroom scenes. Against a backdrop of shimmering northern lights, Christopher Oram's eye-grabbing designs conjure an ice palace, or flower-bedecked terrace (although not sure about the Trolls as dreadlocked Shamen).
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And Jeremy Chernick's special effects pull off seasonal transformations, snow flurries and lightning costume changes. Some might cavil that Frozen leaves little to the imagination, but my 10-year-old was entranced by its theatrical wizardry and the live spectacle of stirring storytelling. 4/5 stars.