After becoming the number one animated film of all time, Disney’s 2013 movie musical Frozen immediately went into development for Broadway, and on March 22 the musical adaptation opened at Broadway’s St. James Theatre.
Playbill hit the “white carpet” live on Facebook to talk to the company and creative team of Disney Theatrical’s latest stage production.
Expectations were high for the anticipated adaptation, and director Michael Grandage spoke to us about blending technical spectacle with traditional theatre magic. “A piece like Frozen isn't going to work without the human connection. And we wanted to make sure we balanced the amount of effects with the ability to reach out to people and really make them engage with the story,” he said.
Of course, Oscar-winning composer-lyricists Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez helped create that story for the original film and expanded their score for the stage. So did they return to any of the songs that were cut from the film?
“How I wish we were able to go back and use any of our trunk songs. I think there were eight bars that we wrote for the movie that showed up in the new stuff,” said Anderson-Lopez. “When we were writing the movie, the story was always changing, so it was like chasing a moving target. Here, we had the gift of a story that was pretty much set in stone that we could then just deepen and go into: What is Elsa thinking? What does the romantic comedy sing like? What does Hans sing like?”
She also revealed the hidden music motif in the new song “True Love,” and her husband and partner spoke to revamping the show’s opening sequence. Watch the live stream for the full interview with behind-the-story secrets.
Speaking of story, book writer Jennifer Lee (who directed and wrote the screenplay to the film) spoke about her writing process and where she finds inspiration: “My sister and I started with the cast album with Jesus Christ Superstar when I was three. My mother was a big proponent of books, and I was always drawing. For me it was always being a creative mess and just absorbing. And just what does it make me feel? We always say that here. What am I feeling? What should I be feeling? If I get too heady about it, it becomes not a story anymore and not about real people.”
The book changed a lot from its out-of-town tryout in Denver, according to Jelani Alladin, who plays Kristoff in the musical. “We’ve taken back a lot of the male voices in the piece and bumped up these two females. The piece used to be narrated by Pabbie—that was cut back. Each of the male characters had a second song … It’s not about us, it’s about the women. The women are the ones affecting the men, we’re actually getting the reaction and they’re taking the action. It’s a revolution. We don’t need the man to be the prominent figure in a musical for it to work.”
As one of those two women, Murin was on hand to talk about bringing Anna to life and the hardest thing for her to do in the show.
Her onstage sister, played by Caissie Levy, joined the live-stream to answer some live viewer questions, including how she is different from alter ego Elsa. “Elsa’s more ruled by her head, and I’m more ruled by my heart,” she said. Of course, she gets to do the honors of performing the Oscar-winning song heard ’round the world, “Let It Go.” “It’s the most extraordinary thing I’ve gotten to do in my entire career. It’s so wild it brings me to tears every single night.”
It was a full carpet on Frozen’s opening night, and Playbill also heard from the movie’s Prince Hans, Santino Fontana, as well as Aladdin on Broadway stars Telly Leung, Arielle Jacobs, and Major Attaway, and former Hamilton star Jordan Fisher. Choreographer Rob Ashford, stars John Riddle (Prince Hans), Greg Hildreth (Olaf), Robert Creighton (Weselton), Timothy Hughes (Pabbie), Olivia Phillip (Bulda), Ann Sanders (Queen Iduna), and James Brown III (King Agnarr) all took time to say hi to the live audience at home. Watch the full live-stream to hear the secrets behind their characters’ backstory, what changed for them from Denver to Broadway, how they bring the movie to life, and backstage rituals.