10 October 2021

Frozen London Review.

"a glorious spectacle that will spellbind all"

The mega-hit Disney movie Frozen has arrived on the West End stage and serves up the most incredible spectacle. 

In the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, which has been beautifully restored, the theatre is abuzz long before the curtain rises. The audience of young and old creates a wonderful pre-show atmosphere and that carries throughout the performance. Theatre after all is a shared experience and you can't beat seeing what theatre does to youngsters and seeing them transfixed by a performance.

Samantha Barks as Elsa. Photo Johan Perrson

For fans of the movie, the stage production keeps many of the key elements but in places, it is a little darker. For example, you lose the rock trolls and their cuteness for and gain the hidden folk where the ensemble looms in the background darkness with bright white eyes. I'm sure this could slightly unnerve the younger members of the audience. There is the occasional slightly adult reference too - watch out for the end of 'Hygge'!

The key to the musical's success is not only in its tremendous story and performances but its breathtaking staging. Christopher Oram's scenic and costume design are epic on a big scale, from the beautiful dresses for Anna and Elsa to the vast rooms of the Arendelle castle or Elsa's ice palace. There's a particularly clever bridge sequence that will leave you wondering just how big the wings are! Add in Finn Ross's video design that brings to life the powers of Elsa as ice fills the proscenium arch and it's a recipe for success.

The crowing glory of the design though comes from Neil Austin's lighting design. It's outstanding. It brings to life the power, the feel, the emotion of each scene and musical number. The sheer specatcle of the whole design is jaw dropping.

With music by Krisen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez you're in safe territory. All the songs from the movie remain in tact with added theatrical flair, there's also a raft of new songs too. Hans gets his own number 'Hans of The Southern Isles' and there's a couple of really lovely duets between the characters. Elsa's running theme of being a monster comes to the fore in 'Monster'. I loved the choatic joy of 'Hygge' sung by Oaken and company to open Act Two.

'Love Is An Open Door'. Steph McKeon and Oliver Ormson. Photo by Johan Perrson.

The story of two sisters and their journey requires two pieces of fantastic casting and here they have nailed it to perfection. Steph McKeon is transfixing as Anna. She captures her cartoonish energy delightfully and has a wholesome stage prescence. Samantha Barks gives a superstar turn as Elsa. She has poise, grace and power. Her vocals are phenominal. 'Let It Go' ends Act One and it's the a remarkable. The vocal power of Samantha with the stage effects and THAT dress reveal combines to make a showstopping moment. The sheer elation from the audience when the dress change happened was thrilling.  

Craig Gallivan delights as Olaf. The control of the puppet designed by Michael Curry really makes Olaf believable. It's wonderful to see him not just play it as an imitation of Josh Gad's vocal performance in the film but create his own hilarious version. Obioma Ugoala is charming as Kristoff. He brings real warmth to the character and is really likeable. There's further puppetry masterclass in Sven - Ashley Birchall and Mikayla Jade alternate the role due to the physical demands of the puppetry. 

Oliver Ormson does a fine job with Hans, making him believeably suave in the first act until the undercurrent of his real plans come out in the second half to which he is booed on by the audience. Jak Skelly relishes in the moment as Oaken delighting with the big number. Jacqui Sanchez and understudy Chris Fung capture the parent role's of Queen Iduna and King Agnarr well in the opening scenes. 

On the performance I attended I was fortunate enough to see Minaii.K as Young Elsa and Ellie Shenker as Young Anna. Both were great, Ellie in particular had great energy, wit and charm as she delivered the lines.

This is a story about love, not just romantic love but most imporatantly the love between two sisters. These sisters have transfixed audiences since the films original 2013 release. I can't express how special it felt to share the audiotoria with a some lovely friends of mine but to also be surrounded by children with their parents and families. Some donned out in the full costumes that the Anna and Elsa wear, others simply in a tiara or carrying a plush of their favourite character. This show will inspire the next generation of theatregoers. It's a glorious spectacle that will spellbind all. A must see.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ a spectacular smash hit.

Frozen runs at London's Theatre Royal Drury Lane. To book tickets or discover more about the show visit https://frozenthemusical.co.uk/

Samantha Barks (Elsa) and Steph McKeon (Anna). Photo by Johan Persson.

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