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Regional Reviews: Phoenix

National Tour
Review by Gil Benbrook

Also see Gil's recent review of The Glass Menagerie

Caroline Bowman
Photo by Matthew Murphy / Disney
Disney has found much success with turning their hit animated films into popular Broadway musicals. However, finding the right balance in expanding an 80-minute movie with added songs and scenes into a two-plus hour live stage show that still delivers everything lovers of the film expect can be hard. For their latest offering, based on the 2013 movie, Frozen succeeds not only in delivering on the film's themes and messages of female empowerment and sisterly bonds, but also in recreating the magical elements of the film with spectacular video projections, lighting, and special effects that will most likely induce thrills even from jaded theatregoers. The national tour is now at ASU Gammage for a two-week run.

The plot is almost entirely faithful to the film. Sisters Elsa and Anna are two princesses who live in a Scandinavian kingdom. When they were very young, their sisterly bond was torn when Elsa was unable to control her magical powers of transforming things into ice, almost killing her sister. After being sheltered from the outside world and from each other for many years, in order to protect Anna from her sister's powers, and now orphaned, when Elsa is coronated as queen she finds she is unable to control her powers, which sends the kingdom into turmoil and tests the bond of the sisters once again.

All of the catchy film songs by composer-lyricists Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, including "Let It Go," which won a 2014 Oscar for Best Original Song, and the comical duet "Love Is an Open Door," are included in the stage adaptation. Bookwriter Jennifer Lee, who wrote the screenplay for the film, has added some nice touches to flesh out the supporting characters and to quickly whisk us from one location to the next. However, the new songs never rise to the memorable ones from the movie, and the second act opener, "Hygge," is incredibly odd.

The national tour cast are great. Caroline Bowman projects just the right level of conflicted feelings as Elsa, with a powerful singing voice that hits every single memorable note of "Let It Go" while also making the character and the song entirely her own. Likewise, Lauren Nicole Chapman is perfect as Anna, making the outgoing but quirky and awkward young woman seem even more three dimensional than she was in the film, with perfect comic timing and physical comedy skills that get big laughs.

As the lovable snowman Olaf, Jeremy Davis is humorous and perfectly goofy (the puppet design by Michael Curry is great). Dominic Dorset is endearing as the handsome ice-seller Kristoff, who helps Anna on her journey, with warm vocals and an abundance of charm. Will Savarese has a beautiful singing voice and is appropriately sincere as Hans, the man who falls for Anna, and is entirely believable when his character's flaws are revealed. In smaller roles, Evan Duff is fun as the pompous Duke Weselton, Tyler Jimenez and Taylor Marie Daniel are great as the leaders of the hidden folk, and Collin Baja does an amazing job realistically bringing the reindeer Sven to life. Also, Aria Kane and Sydney Elise Russell are enchanting as the younger Anna and Elsa, respectively, and Jack Brewer does what he can to make some sense out of "Hygge."

Michael Grandage's direction manages to balance the need to keep the show enchanting for younger audience members while also keeping adults engaged. The choreography by Rob Ashford is bright and fun. The scenery (Christopher Oram), video projections (Finn Ross), special effects (Jeremy Chernick), and lighting (Natasha Katz) create eye-popping imagery, from the dark, rich halls of the palace to the ice bridge that Anna and Kristoff have to navigate and the ice castle that Elsa builds in seconds from her powers. Oram's costume designs mirror the film designs while also adding some nice original touches, including an impressive design for Sven.

The stage adaptation of Frozen has a feel-good story with a driving plot, memorable songs, and endearing characters. While the plot is an almost exact rehash of the film, seeing the magical film locations, along with Olaf the snowman and Swen the reindeer, beautifully brought to life on stage with eye-popping imagery and designs makes this Disney stage adaptation a crowd-pleaser.

Frozen runs through March 5, 2023, at ASU Gammage, 1200 S. Forest Avenue, Tempe AZ. For tickets and information, please visit or call 480-965-3434. For more information on the tour, visit

Director: Michael Grandage
Choreographer: Rob Ashford
Scenic and Costume Design: Christopher Oram
Lighting Design: Natasha Katz
Sound Design: Peter Hylenski
Video Design: Finn Ross
Puppet Design: Michael Curry
Hair Design: David Brian Brown
Makeup Design: Anne Ford-Coates
Special Effects Design: Jeremy Chernick
Music Supervision and Arrangements: Stephen Oremus
Orchestrations: Dave Metzger

Elsa Caroline Bowman
Anna: Lauren Nicole Chapman
Olaf: Jeremy Davis
Kristoff: Dominic Dorset
Hans: Will Savarese
Sven: Collin Baja
Weselton: Evan Duff
Young Anna: Aria Kane
Young Elsa: Sydney Elise Russell
Queen Iduna, Ensemble: Belinda Allyn
Ensemble: Kate Bailey
Oaken, Bishop, Ensemble: Jack Brewer
Ensemble: Caelan Creaser
Bulda, Ensemble: Taylor Marie Daniel
Swing: Kristen Smith Davis
Ensemble: Colby Dezelick
Ensemble: C.K. Edwards
King Agnarr, Ensemble: Michael Everett
Ensemble: Berklea Going
Ensemble: Natalie Goodin
Pabbie, Ensemble: Tyler Jimenez
Ensemble Dustin Layton
Ensemble: Tatyana Lubov
Ensemble: Adrianna Rose Lyons
Ensemble Tony Neidenbach
Swing, Assistant Dance Captain, Fight Captain: Jessie Peltier
Ensemble Brian Steven Shaw
Ensemble: Caleb Summers
Ensemble: Daniel Switzer
Ensemble: Zach Trimmer
Swing: Natalie Wisdom
Ensemble: Peli Naomi Woods