{Out and About: Frozen on Broadway}

The Little Mermaid, Jr. has come and gone, and I am going to share my thoughts and pictures of the costumes with my readers, but I still need time to decompress the experience, which was exhilarating and completely exhausting and wonderful. You can look forward to that post hopefully sometime next week. However, when one musical closes it’s doors, another one comes into take it’s place.

Last weekend, we announced our 2020 musical: Frozen, Jr! Of course, everyone involved is extremely excited, despite the fact that we don’t start auditions for another six months. However, there’s plenty of “pre-production” to do that not many people realize goes into these shows, and we’re right in the thick of it. We are also lucky enough that we are in Brooklyn and that Frozen is currently running on Broadway. This meant that I could take a little research trip.

In a perfect world, I would’ve arranged a research trip for the potential cast, but even group rates are an expensive endeavor for the average middle schooler. And so I went with a fellow teacher (and partner in crime for all things Broadway), Sarah.

To sum up my thoughts: Frozen is cute. It is exactly what you would expect from a Disney-based musical, and if you love Disney, you’ll love it. Your children will love it. And if you don’t go into it with a tech-crew/costume designer analysis brain, you will probably love it to. However, because I was there “on business,” I wasn’t looking to get swept into the magic of the show. I wanted to observe how they created the magic! (I don’t recommend going into the show with this attitude if you don’t want to pick everything apart! I still enjoyed it, but in a very different way than someone who doesn’t have ulterior motives while watching it!)

That being said, this review is going to focus mainly on the technical aspects of the show rather than the acting.

My main goal was to see how they transform Elsa on stage during Let It Go. We are, of course, planning our own transformation, and I am determined to do it in a really cool way. And as the costume designer, this is going to fall on me for the most part (as well as this elaborate set thing I have in mind that all works together; it’s going to be a true feat if we pull it off the way I want to do it). I didn’t love their iteration of Elsa’s blue sparkly dress, and I have different plans for my own design (it’ll still look like the dress everyone wants to see, but I’m playing with the textures), and they dressed her in a weird pants outfit towards the end of the show that I just didn’t get. It was as though they were trying to do something different, and in doing so, didn’t hit the mark.

As far as the actual transformation of Elsa goes, I was able to figure out how they did it pretty quickly (I won’t spoil the magic for you), and it was pretty cool in person. However, there’s also a really awesome Anna transition at the end of the show that I find far more impressive and, though I theoretically know how they did it, I can’t imagine how they had time to do it!

The original actor who played Olaf.

Olaf was done as a puppet controlled by an actress. This was a cool idea, but I was very distracted by the human. It was really difficult for me to separate the human from the puppet. Although she was in costume, you could see her talking and moving and I found myself looking more at the person playing Olaf than the puppet that was Olaf. I will say that the actress that replaced the original guy seen pictures here had a different hat. This hat seems far less distracting. Maybe because you can see less hair? I don’t know. In any case, none of this is a critique that Olaf was played by a woman – she was good – but something about the costume just wasn’t working.

Before going to the show, I had read the script for the junior version, and so I knew that Sven the Reindeer had lines. Broadway doesn’t do that. Sven is controlled by an actor underneath a shaggy costume. For this I found myself wondering what the point was since Sven didn’t have any major dance moves or do anything much beyond walk around after Kristoff.

If there was anything that was just an outright complaint, it would be the costumes of the Hidden Folk. In my head, they are a cute little troll-like group of people, but onstage, they were interpreted more as green Avatar people. (Note that I’ve never actually seen Avatar, but I have seen pictures from it, and this is what I imagine they would look like if they were mossy, centaur-like creatures.)

Overall, my general impression was that a lot of the things they did in the show were interesting and cool, but they all seemed like they came from different shows. For example, the Sven was cool, the Olaf was cool, the set details were cool… but they all seemed like they came from different productions.

An insert in the program said that photos were allowed during the curtain call. Despite wanting some research photos, I opted not to take any while the actors were bowing and just enjoy the moment. However, after the final bows, the audience was asked to sit back down for a special occasion. Patti Murin, who plays Anna, called up a couple on a first date to the stage. Everyone went nuts in the audience… except me and Sarah. We had no idea who these people were.

We came to learn later that they were the most recent contestants from The Bachelor. While I don’t watch the show, this little introduction offered me the opportunity to take some pictures of the cast standing on stage! I was probably the only person ignoring The Bachelor people and taking pictures of everyone behind them! I have some great research photos of the ensemble (which is really what I wanted; I already know what I want to do for the main characters, costume-wise).

My seeing the show live on Broadway did exactly what I wanted it to do. I am psyched and so looking forward to the challenge of creating these costumes for our show! We don’t debut until 2020, but the process has already started. Stay tuned!

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