Posted on: December 3, 2021 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

The Chicago area might not have had a proper snow day yet, but winter is in full swing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre with “Frozen.”

Based on the hit 2013 Disney animated film, “Frozen” deepens and shifts its source material. The plot is better organized and paced on stage. Although it runs approximately 40 minutes longer than the movie, the show never drags, and it reorganizes material to better fit the theatrical art form.

Sarah Schudt

Arts & Entertainment Editor

Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the composers for the film, returned to write twelve new songs for the stage show, which fit seamlessly. Highlights of the new songs include Hans’ repeating motif “Hans of the Southern Isles,” Kristoff and Anna’s banter-filled duet “What Do You Know About Love,” and Elsa’s act two ballad “Monster.”

The original songs have been given a facelift as well, becoming proper musical theater songs, particularly in the glorious ensemble climax of “For The First Time In Forever,” and the new ending high note in fan-favorite “Let it Go.”

Caroline Innerbichler (Anna) and the company of Frozen North American Tour (AP Photo/Deen Van Meer)

Although some of the staging is minimized by touring constraints (the loss of the turntable is keenly felt in certain scenes) most of the visual splendor remains on tour, especially the incredible costume change where Elsa shifts to her ice dress in the blink of an eye.

Disney shows are known for being a visual spectacle, and “Frozen” is no different. The world of Arendelle is brought to life with a clever combination of physical sets and LED screens. Elsa’s ice magic is particularly well done, utilizing a combination of projections, lighting, and physical props. When Elsa stumbles to the proscenium, causing ice to freeze over the entire set, it is a powerful moment, and when Elsa’s ice palace is brought to life, it is a feast for the eyes.

In addition to other changes, the darkness in “Frozen” is more apparent on stage, brought out in part by its director, Michael Grandage, a noted Shakespearean director. At one point, Elsa contemplates suicide as a solution to the magical winter, and the impact the winter itself has on the populace is made more devastating. The well-known twist that Hans is a villain plays out better when the audience has been made to hope that just this once, the ending might have changed. And the broken bond between the two sisters feels more devastating when we see how they mutually want to reach out but keep hurting each other. As the audience for “Frozen,” has grown, so too has the material, but the dark aspects do not feel disingenuous.

Despite the changes, the show’s focus on the bond between sisters Anna and Elsa has not shifted. As the centerpiece of the show, they must be cast right, and on the North American tour, they certainly have been.

Although I missed seeing principal Anna, Caroline Innerblicher, on the day I saw the show, I was lucky enough to see her understudy, Berklea Going, who is a sure star in the making.

Going plays Princess Anna as someone who uses humor as a self-defense mechanism but is deeply wounded on the inside. Her Anna is hurt by Elsa’s distance from her in a bitterly angry way, in a take on the role unlike any other I have seen. Anna is a character easily flattened and made cartoonish by the wrong actress, but Going took this challenge and soared. She has delightful chemistry with all her co-stars, sings with a sweet soprano, and is lovely in the dance scenes. She is an actor to watch out for, and I look forward to seeing what path her career takes in the future.

As Elsa, Caroline Bowman executes regal brokenness. It is clear this Elsa is still traumatized by what happened with Anna in her youth, and she covers that with poise and grace. Underneath, however, she is still the same scared child. Bowman brings us into the journey of Elsa’s gradual growth throughout the show, from giddy joy at her powers in “Let It Go,” to suicidal fear in “Monster,” to her final acceptance of herself and her ability to reach out in the finale. Bowman is also blessed with a crystalline, powerful voice, which brings her songs some of the biggest applause.

The supporting cast complements the principal characters well. Austin Colby (Hans) is convincingly smitten in the first act and has a frenetic edge at the end that is quite interesting. Mason Reeves (Kristoff) is marvelously funny and snarky, selling his character of a jaded ice-harvester. He also has great chemistry with Evan Strand (Sven), improvising several moments of physical comedy that makes their bond feel real. F. Michael Haynie (Olaf) wisely chooses not to emulate Josh Gad’s performance from the film and makes the role his own, helped by his bright tenor. The show’s ensemble is also top-tier, providing a good backbone on which to build the rest of the show.

Even with the changes from the animated film and a brilliant cast, “Frozen” will never be a brilliantly insightful or revolutionary piece of theater — but it is not meant to be. Not all shows need to be the next great American musical, and for what “Frozen” is trying to be — a fun night out, a great way to introduce people to musical theater — it succeeds. For this reason, I give “Frozen” four-and-a-half stars out of five. It is not perfect, but it succeeds well at what it wants to be, and I heartily recommend it as a lovely show with which to make your return to the theater.

“Frozen” runs at the Cadillac Palace Theatre until Jan. 22. Tickets are available here and range from $36.50 to $250.50.