In Case You Missed It: Be Still Our "Frozen Hearts," Disney Announces Its New Musical Premiere

News   In Case You Missed It: Be Still Our "Frozen Hearts," Disney Announces Its New Musical Premiere This week, Disney announced the coming of its snow queen to Broadway, Harper Lee and Aaron Sorkin join forces for Mockingbird on Broadway, Prodigal Son premiered and Lincoln Center reveals its first inductees to their new performing arts hall of fame.

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There's big theatre news. And then there’s this. Disney executives, likely as giddy as kids with a helium tank, announced this week that the ginormous, record-breaking, one-of-a-kind, international hit Disney animated film "Frozen" will be reinvented as a new theatrical production scheduled to hit Broadway in spring 2018.

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That sound you heard immediately following the announcement of Frozen coming to Broadway was millions of kids (and adults, too) screaming at the top of their lungs with joy, and perhaps breaking several hundred beds by jumping up and down. When those fans beg their parents to go to Broadway in 2018, it won’t be for their eighth visit to Wicked.

Since it premiered on big screens in 2013, "Frozen" has inspired a fascination and devotion among young audiences unmatched by any other animated film since, well, ever. Devotees identify intensely with either Princess Elsa, who has the blessing/curse of being able to turn anything into snow and ice at will, or her younger sister Anna, who has no such power, but possesses an unselfish love of her sister, not understanding Elsa is fearful of harming her sibling. The story is loosely based on "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Anderson.

The show already has a hit song going into Broadway. "Let It Go," written by the married songwriters Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, was performed in the film by Tony winner Idina Menzel, turning the stage actress into a household name. (Ironically, Menzel was previously best known for playing one of the witches in Wicked.)

A tryout of the new show is planned for summer 2017 in Denver at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, where, I hear, they have snow (thought not in summer). The production will reunite three members of the movie’s creative team: songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who will write additional original songs for the stage incarnation, and screenwriter and co-director Jennifer Lee, who will write the musical’s book.

The production will be directed by Alex Timbers (Here Lies Love, Peter and the Starcatcher, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), a rather edgy choice for a Disney production. But, then again, this is the organization that tapped Julie Taymor for The Lion King.

Alex Timbers
Alex Timbers

Creating the visual world of "Frozen" onstage are Tony Award-winning scenic and costume designer Bob Crowley lighting designer Natasha Katz.

This will be the first Broadway Disney premiere since Aladdin, which has proven itself a sturdy hit at the New Amsterdam.

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For an author that who had one book to her credit for half a century, Harper Lee certainly has a knack for keeping her name in the news.

Last year, she rocked the literary world when word came that a second novel by Lee, "Go Set a Watchman," featuring many of the characters from her famous "To Kill a Mockingbird," would be released. It became the most pre-ordered book since "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" in 2007.

Now, comes word that Aaron Sorkin has penned a stage adaptation of Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The script is headed to Broadway. It will be directed by Bartlett Sher, and aims to open in the 2017-18 season. It will be theatre, film and television writer Sorkin’s first play since The Farnsworth Invention in 2007. He also, of course, wrote "A Few Good Men— the courtroom scenes of which may have proven good training for penning the famous ones in which Atticus Finch holds in Mockingbird.

Aaron Sorkin
Aaron Sorkin

Mockingbird will be produced by Scott Rudin, who apparently never sleeps and enjoys a 36-hour day.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" has been given life onstage before this. It was adapted by Christopher Sergeland toured the UK beginning in 2006 before a production at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre in 2013 and another at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis in 2015. That same rendition also played Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 2010, Hartford Stage in 2009 and Seattle's Intiman Theatre in 2007.

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The world premiere of John Patrick Shanley’s new play Prodigal Son officially opened Feb. 9 at Manhattan Theatre Club Off-Broadway. Timothée Chalamet starred as a brilliant but volatile 15-year-old named Jim Quinn, a teenager from the Bronx who is offered a scholarship at a private school in New Hampshire. Also in the cast are Robert Sean Leonard. Shanley directed.

Critics easily recognized the autobiography at the center of Shanley’s play, and responded in differing ways to it.

"Prodigal Son is a hymn to the impossible, combustible and brilliant young thing he once was,” wrote the Times, “And it is filled with the sort of self-worshiping, self-flagellating self-centeredness you associate with boys tormented by their raging hormones... Jim is a character in search of an author to explain him to himself."

Time Out New York called it "a keen, passionate portrait of the author as a poetry-spouting romantic punk torn between literary dreams and his roots in the Bronx.... Prodigal Son is pure, splendid Shanley: shaggily idealistic and always scratching a philosophical itch underneath jokes and banter. He directs his own production with a tender hand."

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There’s a new hall of fame in town, and Lincoln Center is the sheriff.

Lincoln Center announced Thursday that the first class of inductees to its newly created performing arts hall of fame would include Louis Armstrong, Plácido Domingo, Yo-Yo Ma, Audra McDonald, Leontyne Price and Harold Prince. A little jazz, a little classical, a little opera, a little musical theatre — something for everyone.

Audra McDonald
Audra McDonald Photo by Autumn de Wilde

The six are to be honored on June 20 at a gala at Alice Tully Hall. Their names will be carved into stones in the plaza surrounding Lincoln Center’s fountain, and — in a nice modern touch — an app will enable visitors to learn about their achievements on their smartphones as they visit.

The inductees were chosen with input from the 11 resident organizations of Lincoln Center, a nominating committee and a voting committee that in the future will also include the living honorees. The hope is for the hall to ultimately have a permanent home at David Geffen Hall, once it is renovated.

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