Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
If you've never seen the film (oh-so-loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen"), the story concerns two sisters–Elsa (Sydney Elise Russell as a child, Caroline Bowman as a young adult) and Anna (Aria Kane as a child, Lauren Nicole Chapman as a young adult)–who are princesses of the Kingdom of Arendelle. Elsa, the elder sister, has magical powers which she cannot control, and which her parents have kept secret from their subjects. Little sister Anna adores Elsa, especially after the pair build a snowman they name Olaf, who will come to life later in the show (and be played by Jeremy Davis). During one of their play sessions, Elsa accidentally nearly kills Anna, who is healed by the intercession of the "hidden folk," forest-dwelling creatures with lighted eyes, not unlike the Ewoks of the Star Wars universe. To protect Anna, the girls' parents, the king and queen, banish them to separate areas of the castle.
The sisters will not be reunited until the time comes for Elsa to be crowned queen of Arendelle. (Her parents die at sea while on a quest to find a solution for controlling Elsa's magic.) Predictably, it all goes wrong again: Elsa's magic accidentally traps her kingdom in an eternal winter, and she flees to the high mountains to prevent further disasters, closing out act one with the show's hit anthem, "Let It Go."
Anna, missing her sister and knowing Arendelle needs a queen, ventures on a quest to find Elsa and bring her home. She is assisted in this endeavor by an iceman (he's not made of the stuff, he sells it) named Kristoff (Dominic Dorset) and his reindeer, Sven, played marvelously by Collin Baja in a wonderfully articulated costume. (Dorset alternates the role with Jeremy Davis, just as the young Elsa and Anna are played by Mackenzie Mercer and Saheli Khan at alternate performances.)
Once again, Elsa's magic causes harm to her sister, freezing her heart in a way that can only be cured by "true love's kiss," a familiar (or done to death, your choice) Disney trope. Most of the fun here comes from the non-human characters. As Olaf, the magical snowman, Jeremy Davis brings an undeniable childlike charm to the character, saying the obvious things no one else seems willing to say. Sven the reindeer has no lines, but the team who created the costume are to be congratulated for enabling Sven to be so expressive, with articulated eyebrows, soft sparkling eyes, and the ability to actually gallop across stage.
Apart from the big hits of this show–"Let It Go," "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" and "For the First Time in Forever"–the songs are mostly forgettable, with treacly melodies that feel like several dozen Disney films that have gone before.
Still, there is plenty of magic here to please both your children and the child within you, as long as you ignore the predictable, rather flaccid story and concentrate on the terrific stagecraft from the folks at Disney Theatrical Productions.
Frozen plays through December 30, 2022, at SHN's Orpheum Theatre, 1182 Market Street, San Francisco CA. Tickets range from $40.50-$272.50 (which includes access to the Marquee Lounge) For tickets and information, please call the box office at 888-746-1799 or visit broadwaysf.com. For more information on the tour, visit frozenthemusical.com.