Growing up, there were times I felt like the black sheep of the family, at least when it came to music. Sure, I played the tuba and performed in the pit and all those other necessary high school activities, but it was never my passion. I couldn’t list off the names of every member of the original London cast of Les Miserable, I didn’t keep up with the Tony’s or whatever other new musical was coming to stage, and I didn’t chose a major involving little black dots on a page.

I grew up on musicals, but they were never “My Thing.”

So the following thoughts on Disney’s latest attempt to take over Broadway with Frozen the Musical is from a total layperson. I’m so under-qualified that I probably shouldn’t even write about it. But it’s been a rough summer, and I went to the second showing ever. Those are good enough excuses for me to spend an hour at way-too-early in the morning writing this all down.

Frozen, The Insanely Popular Animation

The actual Frozen movie was huge. When I took my kids to Disney a couple years ago, the average wait time to meet Anna or Elsa was something like two hours, and that was a full two years after the movie came out. I’m not sure what it is now, but I’ve doubt it has dropped much.

We waited a long time to get a picture of our daughter staring at a bug and our son mad that he had to wait so long

With the great music and somewhat unique take on the typical Open Source Princess Stealing that Disney has gone through over the years, it’s no surprise the movie was successful. And with three popular Broadway productions under its belt (and one or two flops), setting the film loose on stage was a no brainer.

Of course, with that rabid fan base, they really needed to do it right.

Frozen, Another Billion Dollar Musical

I haven’t yet seen the musical adaptations of The Lion King or Aladdin, but I did see Beauty and the Beast. It was fine. I mean, they didn’t figure out how to actually bring sentience to candlesticks and clocks, but it was good enough. Take the movie, add in some costumes, slap on a few additional forgettable songs to bump up the play time, and call it a day. It worked, hauling in something like a billion dollars to Disney’s already ample coffers.

Frozen the Musical, I’m happy to say, went way farther than Beauty and the Beast. While I was watching it, I couldn’t help but think that this was a totally different show. Those similarities to the Frozen movie? Total coincidences.

Let me list out some of the major changes:

  • The trolls were never going to look good in costume. So they’re gone, replaced by some other mystical creatures with long tales and killer abs (my wife and I debated how much of it was makeup. I still believe the audition consisted solely of all the men lining up and taking off their shirts to see who was the most ripped).
  • Marshmallow, the ¬†snow giant, would have been less believable than the claymation dinosaur from the original King King, so she’s out.
  • As hilarious as it would have been to see them try to recreate Anna on her sled being chased by wolves (I’m picturing the camels from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), they not in the show.
  • A slight tweaking to the plot, especially the whole part at the beginning with the parents, who now offer believable–rather than terrible–suggestions
  • So many more song. I count 24 in total, which means something like 18 new ones.

I have to note that the new songs are actually good. They’re written by the same songwriting duo from the movie, and it shows. Unlike The Beauty and the Beast production I mentioned earlier, they feel intentional and part of the show rather than drudged up from some DVD deleted scene to sell a few more seats. While none of them are going to to be belted out by your toddler like Let It Go, many of them are at least as good as the rest of the music. Some, like Monster, and Hygge (more on that one later) were absolutely fantastic.

Am I going to get a Cease and Desist for posting this? It’s not secret, right? Plus my photography skills leave something to be desired.

Let me put it another way. A good musical (in my poor, uninformed opinion) is able to condense character development into a few minutes of music and lyrics, making you feel what’s happening rather than just Show and Tell. So even though the plot may stop while the characters are singing, we’re still given an insight into what’s happening under the skin.

That’s why the song Let It Go changed Elsa from a villain in the original draft of Frozen into a hero: it didn’t really progress the plot, but you could fully relate to what she was doing, putting yourself in her shoes (and parents generally frown upon children’s movies that make the kids cheer for the villain).

Frozen the Musical goes a long way in doing that. Dialog has been cut way down. Instead of hearing Hans explain his life with his 12 brothers, he sings about it. Instead of Kristoff and Anna arguing about their Love Knowledge, they do a musical debate. A couple of the songs fall a little flat (Amy didn’t like that “What Do You Know about Love,” song with Kristoff and Anna, but it is stuck in my head now, a week later), but for the most part I was more disappointed when they played a song I already knew.

The limited dialog brought out a similar emotion in me: when they just rehashed the lines and jokes from the movie, I couldn’t help being a bit disappointed, though the audience lapped it up.

Also, a note on Olaf. How does a man dancing around on stage totally disappear? Attach a snowman puppet to him. The puppet needed a bit or work (it actually started squeaking towards the end) but try as I might to watch the puppeteer, my eyes kept sliding off him and to the creature attached at the hip (and hands and feet).

Parts that Need Work

Here’s the deal: Frozen the Musical is going to be huge when it opens on Broadway (latter this year, I believe). They opened here in Denver to work out any kinks before they move over there. And there are a few. Like Olaf squeaking. And the repeat jokes from the movie.

The biggest problem is that snow makes for boring set design. The castle was beautiful, the Oaken Trading Post looked great, but Elsa’s snow palace was. . .well, it was very white. They tried to add magic with projectors, but some of it was a bit rough. A couple scenes had Elsa’s magic creating physical pop ups, which was cool. Other times, it created gifs on a white screen, which is about as magical as trolls on Twitter.

The music and the acting and the costumes were otherwise great. The sets though. . .they left a bit to be desired. I’m guessing they’ll be on the top of the rework list this fall.

The Best Moment of the Show

Act I ends with Elsa’s “Let It Go.” Of course. Act II opens with “Hygge,” sung by Oaken and his kin. It is a totally unnecessary scene, especially with the changes in the plot, but it was also the best by far. The best set design, the best choreography, and the best song. Seriously, it was fantastic.