Frozen musical heads from Broadway to London’s West End

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Caissie Levy plays Elsa in the current Broadway production of Frozen

The stage adaptation of Frozen, which opened on Broadway early last year, is coming to London’s West End.

It will reopen the Drury Lane Theatre in Autumn 2020 after the theatre’s refurbishment, producers confirmed.

The musical is based on the 2013 Disney movie of the same name – the most successful animated film ever, with box office takings of more than £1.25bn,

The storyline of the musical is broadly the same as in the movie, but extra songs have been written for the stage.

Actors currently starring in the Broadway production will stay in New York, while a new British cast will appear in the West End.

‘More dimensions’

Songs made famous in the movie such as Let It Go, Do You Want To Build A Snowman and For The First Time In Forever all appear in the stage production.

But the songwriters behind the film’s music, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, were enlisted to write additional material for the musical – a daunting prospect given the classic status of the originals.

“We felt the pressure, but that was the something we had to, well, let go of,” says Robert Lopez in what sounds like a genuinely unintended pun.

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Let It Go won Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez an Oscar for best original song

“Because there’s no way to really create from pressure, you have to create from a sense of play and enjoyment and love.”

Kristen Anderson-Lopez adds that the new songs were not written for the sole purpose of lengthening the story, “because then they would just feel like padding”.

“What was more important,” she says, “was to write songs that took the place of a lot of the work that the animation did.

“For instance, if you think about Elsa, you don’t really hear much from her at all during the first part of the movie, the way you experience her story is through close-ups, through looks of alarm in her eyes.

“In the theatre, you can’t do that, because some people will be 100 yards away, so they can’t zero-in on the eyes, so that’s where the songs come in. They help you understand what’s going on in her heart and in her head.”

Critics’ reviews

Frozen had strong ticket sales during its first year on Broadway and is currently booked to play there until August, before going on a North American tour until January 2021.

The show has had generally warm, albeit not outstanding, reviews from critics during its Broadway run.

In her three-star review for The Guardian, Alexis Soloski noted the huge popularity of the show with young girls, many of whom attend the show dressed as Anna or Elsa.

“A likable transfer for the animated phenomenon will please fans but an extended running time highlights a thin plot,” she wrote.

“Frozen could be more inventive, more imaginative, more vital, more necessary. But as those little girls would almost certainly say, let it go.”

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Elsa, Anna and Olaf are among the film characters brought to life on stage in the musical

Jesse Green in the New York Times praised some elements of the show but also said there were a few “icy patches”.

“You can feel the director, Michael Grandage, and his design team straining to make something artistically worthy of the property’s commercial promise,” he wrote.

But Grandage says the London production won’t be exactly the same as one currently playing on Broadway.

“We don’t want to just replicate a production,” he tells BBC News. “We want it to evolve and respond to the time of watching it.

“And so London will offer us an opportunity to make some adjustments, enhance and develop everything.

“We want to give a bespoke production in England. On one level it could be technical, the magic we use in the show, the spectacle… we want to make sure we evolve with the technology that’s available to us.”

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Grandage, a West End veteran and the former artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse, adds he was glad to have the opportunity to direct a brand new show.

“I’d never directed a new musical before, I’d just directed a lot of music revivals,” he explains.

“And so I’ve always been seeking the opportunity to do a new musical, because you can collaborate with the book writer, the lyricists, the composers, and work on something you can develop with them for the first time.”

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Michael Grandage says the West End show will be tweaked slightly from its Broadway version

Jennifer Lee, who wrote the script both for the film and the stage, says one of the main benefits of putting the story into the theatre was “being able to open these characters up”.

“Elsa became much richer,” she explains. “She had so many more dimensions to her, and on stage we’re able to get to know her a lot better than we do in the film.

“The film was the blueprint, but what we were actually allowed to do was go as deep into the story as we always wanted to do.

“And sitting in the theatre and writing and seeing the actors in front of you, they’re alive and you’re able to work scenes and lines, which is pretty opposite of the experience in film, especially in animation, where there’s a lot of projecting of what will become, and only getting pieces of the process along the way.

“Theatre is much more immediate, and it gives you a lot of room to work your craft.”

Lee is currently busy working on the Frozen film sequel, which is currently in production, after which the work on putting the West End show together will begin.

“We’re on 12-hour days, seven days a week right now!” she says. “We’ve been so focused on Frozen 2, we lock in June. [After that] I’ll be able to open up my focus.”

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Patti Murin and Caissie Levy (Anna and Elsa) pictured at the Broadway launch

Kristen Anderson-Lopez feels strongly that the musical should remind audiences that Frozen is a relatable story for all audiences, and not just young girls.

“Years of retail have created the idea that Frozen is this thing for little girls, but it’s a very rich and adult story about trauma from childhood and the way it can freeze people into roles for their lifetime,” she says.

“When the film first came out, adults said, ‘Oh I love Frozen’. But somehow, because of the lunchboxes, two years later, everyone came up and said, ‘Oh my niece loves Frozen’.

“And we were very anxious to create a story where an adult of any age could say, ‘I love Frozen’.”