A Fiercely Frosty "Frozen"
Disney's musical Frozen, continuing at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre through Feb. 2, is a stunning display of magical staging and exceptional talent. This theatrical version of the 2013 animated film not only brings its characters to 3D life but creates an even deeper and lasting impact than the movie with its exceptional cast. Caroline Bowman as Elsa and Caroline Innerbichler as Anna elevate this wintery tale of sisterly love, making it movingly transcendent.
As in the film, the production begins at the sisters' castle in Arandelle, where princesses Anna and Elsa play as children. The actresses who portray the young princesses – Arwen Monzon-Sanders and Jaiden Klein on opening night – capture well their contrasting personalities. Anna is rambunctiously playful while big sister Elsa, burdened with a creative gift she doesn't know how to control, is much more staid and careful. But it's clear she loves her sister, entertaining her by making it snow inside and building a snowman ("Do You Want to Build a Snowman?").
Their parents, King Agnarr (Kyle Lamar Mitchelle) and Queen Iduna (Marina Kondo), get more involved when Elsa inadvertently hurts Anna, whose memory is then erased when she is healed by the mysterious mountain-dwellers her mother summons. And when her parents are sadly lost at sea, Elsa covers her hands and shuts herself up in her room for years, afraid of doing more damage.
Soon enough, it is Elsa's time to be crowned Queen. But what kind of butterfly will she be as she emerges from her cocoon? That she has to find out for herself, and the entire kingdom with her. Through precise lighting and video effects (in other words, the magic of Disney), we see Elsa's epic transformation in a stunning first-half ending after Bowman's stellar rendition of "Let It Go". A second-half scene in which Anna tries to save Elsa and freezes, somehow furled in with others trying to stop her, also creates an arresting visual tableau.
A more human magic animates the delightful Olaf, the sisters' childhood snowman come-to-life, excellently operated and voiced by F. Michael Haynie, whose movements and comic timing are as precise as the lighting effects. Austin Colby as the charming Prince Hans also delights, especially in "Love Is an Open Door," his energetic duet with Anna. Simple ice-seller Kristoff (Mason Reeves), his reindeer Sven (inhabited by Collin Baja) and the rest of the ensemble shine especially in the second-half opening number, "Hygge," about what is cozy and comfortable (as opposed to what is "not hygge").
Though the entire cast and crew – including a rousing orchestra led by Faith Seetoo – do justice to this ambitious production, it's the statuesque Bowman, with her commanding voice and presence, together with the vivid and spirited Innerbichler who carry the show to a fierce level. To experience such talent and magic in the art-deco decor of the Hollywood Pantages Theater makes it that much more transporting. Its suspense may get "Colder by the Minute," but Frozen will ultimately fire your imagination.
Frozen continues through Feb. 2 at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A. For tickets and information, call the theatre at (323) 468-1770 or visit hollywoodpantages.com.