MILWAUKEE — Some musicals are worth melting for, and “Frozen” is absolutely one of them.
The musical, adapted from Disney’s hit animated film, follows two princesses — one with magical powers she cannot control and her sister who longs for nothing more than human connection. If you love the movie plot, you’re sure to love this as well — laced with sisterhood, love, feminism, power and bravery.
The show opens with two equally adorable as they are talented “young” princesses. Sydeny Elise Russell (Young Elsa) and Avelyn Choi (Young Anna) are without a doubt the most talented children I’ve ever seen take to a Broadway stage. They perfectly captured the girls’ energy, love and personalized pain points. Not to mention, their sweet vocals would make any heart smile. The truly set a wonderful foundation for the rest of the show.
When the little ones grow up, the audience gets to meet Caroline Bowman (Elsa) and Lauren Nicole Chapman (Anna). Bowman portrays a complex Elsa, who is just as tormented as she is terrified, as she is a protective older sister. Chapman perfectly encapsulates all of the love and light Anna exudes, without ignoring the pain she’s felt from being separated from her sister for so long. It would be so easy to play these characters on a surface level, but both leading ladies dove deep into their iconic characters, not letting go of any nuanced detail.
Bowman’s vocals are powerful, clear and outright gorgeous. I was hesitant to get overly excited for “Let It Go” when I have the Idina Menzel version on many of my playlists; it’s iconic. But Bowman does the song justice, and there is truly no way you could be “too excited” to hear this song. Bowman’s vocals are a perfect fit for “Let It Go” and no one will be anything short of thrilled to hear her perform. While “Let It Go” is certainly a showstopper, Bowman gets to show off her talent over and over again throughout the show. A few notable tracks include “Monster,” Dangerous to Dream” and “For the First Time in Forever.”
Chapman is certainly not to be outdone. She blends her humor, wit, charm and joy into her beautiful and strong vocal performances, curating the perfect Princess Anna I could dream up, even with Elsa’s magic. It’s hard not to smile when she sings, whether it’s “For the First Time in Forever,” “Love is an Open Door” or “What Do You Know About Love?”
I’d argue that both ladies are given the space to shine on this stage, and foil one another flawlessly. This is best shown through the duet “I Can’t Lose You,” produced initially by this tour. The song is written beautifully, capturing both Bowman’s and Chapman’s voices, emotions and relationship to one another. It’s hard to imagine there was once a version of “Frozen” without this song. It has to be one of my favorites.
While Disney certainly crafted two of the most relatable princesses through Anna and Elsa, Chapman and Bowman took the beloved royals to the next level, truly bringing them to life on stage.
Coupled with that, the technical elements of this production take it over the top. Olaf (Jeremy Davis) and Sven (Collin Baja) are puppets (Michael Curry), that not only look great, but move seamlessly.
The lighting (Natasha Katz) literally illuminates the stage, and the dazzling spectacles of light dance across the stage to create a scenic, snowy Arendell. The special effects (Jeremy Chernick) coupled with the lighting truly create the magic on stage. (I checked, there is no “magic coordinator” on the creative team roster). I don’t know the nuances of how snow flurries can emerge from seemingly anywhere, how the icicles can cascade from any crevice of the stage or how the frosty fog seeps through the cracks in a door. If you had told me it was magic, I’d have to no choice but to believe you. Let go of the desire to understand and accept the magic for what it is if you see it for yourself.
And yes, the "Let It Go" dress transformation is as spectacular as you've heard.
The costumes (Christopher Oram) are also glorious. The iridescent ensemble costumes glimmer without overpowering the action on stage. The leads’ costumes are not only accurate to the film, but beautiful in their own rights. Elsa’s gowns are made of sparkles that dazzle, while Anna’s ornate ensembles are warm and bouncy, just like her. I appreciated the nods to Scandinavian culture and history with detailed rosemalings and traditional attire such as full skirts, tophues and classic Nordic winter wear.
These are just the highlights. I don’t have enough good things to say about this production. Know this: It’ll melt your heart in all the best ways. It had me laughing and crying and feeling everything in between — so much so, I’ll be heading back to the theater during its Milwaukee run to see it again. I guess I just can’t let it go.
“Frozen” runs at the Marcus Performing Arts Center now through April 16. Get ticket information on the Milwaukee premiere, here.