As Young Elsa and Anna build a snowman before a Broadway audience with their imagination (and a touch of cryokinesis), their older counterparts have their own offstage fun. At the top of nearly every performance of Frozen, Arendelle’s royals can be found in a second-floor dressing room dancing.
Caissie Levy and Patti Murin, who continue to take center stage as Elsa and Anna, respectively, in the Disney musical, have turned the precious few minutes before their entrances into a nightly ritual in Levy’s dressing room. After some stretching and antics (or, on mellower days, meditation), Murin leaves so they can both get into costume. A quick hug in the wings, and they’re on.
“It allows us to shake off our respective days—to reconnect, to laugh, to hug, and to remember that ultimately, we’re in this together,” Levy says of their routine. “We’ve just developed such a specific thing,” Murin adds. “It’s nice to see each other before we start the craziness.” (“Craziness,” here, is a catch-all for freezing over an entire kingdom, accidentally casting ice spells, and lots and lots of belting.)
Like sisters, the two have come to learn each other’s tastes and idiosyncrasies. Murin knows Levy won’t turn down chips; Levy knows Murin likes her post-show wine. They find each other texting about the performance after leaving the theatre, even if one of them wasn’t on.
“All it takes is a look, and we know what the other one is thinking,” Levy says. “When one of us feels shaky, the other is solid.” Murin raises the stakes of their trust beyond emotional stability: “Hopefully it won’t have to be put to the test, but I know she would fight people for me. It’s a fiercely loyal relationship that we have.”
As their offstage sisterhood evolves, so do their respective performances at the St. James Theatre. Both assure that despite having been in these roles for over two years (from labs to a Denver tryout to Broadway), there are still layers to unearth. Levy likens the challenge to yoga: “You go through the same postures every class, but it’s different every time, because you’re different every time.”
Levy often internally investigates her approach to Elsa, perhaps provoked by a new line reading or a particular moment suddenly feeling inauthentic. Meanwhile, Murin enters another year of Frozen with a more nuanced perception of the show’s lighter moments. “I’m starting to dissect and learn very specific things about the comedy,” she explains. “It ebbs and flows. After a while, you’re like, ‘[The audience] used to laugh a lot at that. Why aren’t they laughing anymore?’ It’s like a puzzle, matching their energy.”
They’ve also found the tools needed to survive several shows a week. Levy abides by “a healthy mix of denial, surrender, and chutzpah” to tackle “Let It Go” consistently. Murin has learned (in part from her co-star) to “place more of an emphasis on being kind to myself.” The Broadway veteran remains vocal about her own battles with depression and anxiety, and after some time in the role, she’s more aware of her triggers, her castmates know how to soothe her (“food is my love language”), and she has a greater sense of perspective (“every time I had to call out, it felt like a massive catastrophe, but only to me).
Braving the cold nightly may be daunting, but doing so with a sister makes it approachable—and even heartwarming. “This is my happy place,” Murin says. “That’s something that I was expecting, but not quite to this degree, how much of a home this theatre is.”