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 The Theatreguide.London Review

In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new shows. And we take the opportunity to explore other vintage productions preserved online. Until things return to normal we review the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.

Disney and YouTube   January 2022

A fourth-generation descendant of the immensely successful 2013 Disney animated film in between came the Broadway musical and another stage version for the Disney theme parks this one-hour stage musical was designed for performance on Disney cruise ships.

It is as bright, inventive, tuneful and entertaining as any cruise passenger could ask, and fun to watch in this live recording.

Quick reminder: in a very free adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen tale, two princesses grow up in isolation because one has magical powers she can't control that endanger the other. The magic one becomes queen but then accidentally plunges the kingdom into eternal winter.

She banishes herself to an isolated ice palace, her sister goes in search of her, they have adventures, and all ends happily.

For this next sentence I have to rely on the fans' comments on the YouTube page. Despite its direct lineage, this version has apparently been completely reimagined and redesigned so that it resembles the film more than the Broadway and London musical does, and it is superior to the theme park version.

Though it is shorter than the film, all the key sequences are there, translated to the stage through a mix of high and low tech effects. An animated background and lighting tricks all around the auditorium evoke the magical moments as well as a high-speed sleigh ride.

Anna and Elsa as children are child-size puppets visibly manipulated by the actresses who speak for them and who take over the roles when the girls grow up.

Olaf the snowman is also a puppet voiced by his operator, and Sven the reindeer is a full-body puppet similar to the meercat and warthog in the stage version of The Lion King.

But the trolls are just dancers in funny costumes and Olaf's fantasy of summer involves chorus girls dressed as flowers.

It is Disney policy not to give credits in its park and cruise shows, but one fan has identified the leads for YouTube.

Alison Bagli as Anna is the undoubted star here, with a vibrant personality and a real Broadway-belter singing style. It is her 'For The First Time In Forever' that is the show's high point, not Julianne Daly's 'Let It Go.' Daly is generally a little too stolid and bland as Elsa, making it difficult to care much for her.

Alex Temple Ward is amiably goofy as Kristoff, and Michael Mendez has a comic personality and style strong enough to register even while we're watching the Olaf puppet he's operating.

With no suggestion whatever of corners cut or second-rate-ness, this version of Frozen is thoroughly enjoyable.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of Frozen 2022