Icicles reign supreme in the snow and frost of “Frozen” the musical, but so too does the warmth and the humanity of its characters. The most central image of “Frozen” the movie is the icy blue figure of Elsa in her bright blue dress, surrounded by a swirling ice storm of her own creation. But in the movie, we never really get to see beyond Elsa’s initial iciness. In “Frozen” the musical, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez’s 12 new songs and Jennifer Lee’s script really add more depth to Elsa and to the rest of the characters. Caissie Levy, who plays Elsa in the musical, peels back the icy layers of Elsa’s outer shell and reveals her heart and humanity.
In “Dangerous to Dream,” Levy, who has played Elphaba in “Wicked” on Broadway, sings about her anxieties and insecurities facing her coronation, revealing how Elsa’s struggles to control her powers of ice and snow mirror her struggle to live in the world around her and accept her power as a queen.
As she sings, “I’m dangerous just standing here / For everyone to see,” she reminds us that it is the fear of messing up and revealing insecurities to others that makes powerful women like Elsa always have to be careful, always look one step ahead not to display their fragility for all to see, for fear the blame will be placed entirely on their shoulders.
This fear, this forced rigidity of life, is fully captured by Levy’s portrayal of Elsa, who must constantly remind herself not to reveal her flaws and to remain powerful, but not so powerful that she intimidates those around her. It is fully fitting that Hans (John Riddle), a man who lacks power and so desperately wants to claim it for himself, is the man who wants to take Elsa down.
Hans is very much the villain in this story, but John Riddle’s lovingly despicable Hans makes it difficult to fully hate the character. When Riddle sings “Hans of the Southern Isles,” a song in the first act of the musical after Hans bumps into Anna (Patti Murin) on his way to Queen Elsa’s coronation, Riddle portrays Hans as a likeable, funny, self-deprecating and humble man, mirroring Anna’s own lovable awkwardness. As Riddle sings, “Nobody quotes what comes out of my mouth…I’m just Hans of the Southern Isles” in his tremulous and trustworthy tenor, he makes you want to believe in him, making it only that much more crushing when Anna finally realizes he is a manipulative creature later on.
Patti Murin, who has played Glinda in “Wicked” on Broadway, shines here as the enthusiastic, warm, caring Anna and Jelani Alladin is a strong, charismatic Kristoff. In “What Do You Know About Love,” a duet between Anna and Kristoff, Murin’s warm and soaring soprano and Alladin’s rich tenor are infused with humor and brightness. Patti Murin finds humor in even the smallest moments, sending all ages rolling in laughter, from older women clutching their pearls to small children dressed in Elsa and Anna outfits, kicking their rhinestone shoes while rollicking giggles peel forth from their mouths.
Overall, “Frozen” the musical, shines because of the warmth and the humanity of its characters, and I recommend it for the young and the young at heart.