‘Frozen’ plays an open run at the St. James Theatre. 246 W. 44th St., frozenthemusical.com.
Princess Anna: Elsa, do we really need to bring “Frozen” to Broadway? Isn’t it too soon and too much?
Princess Elsa: No way, Anna. Let the storm rage on. Overexposure never bothered me anyway.
The continued popularity of “Frozen” (which grossed $1.2 billion when it debuted at the movies in 2013 and has morphed into a phenomenon) probably explains why it has been adapted for the Broadway stage in such a straightforward, shallow and unimaginative manner, creating a disappointing and empty product.
In the 24 years since Disney first came to Broadway with “Beauty and the Beast,” the company has made an admirable (if not always successful) effort to differentiate its animated films from their stage adaptations, which has resulted in triumph (“The Lion King”), misfire (“Tarzan,” “The Little Mermaid”), mixed results (“Mary Poppins”) and pure entertainment (“Newsies,” “Aladdin”).
By comparison, “Frozen” (deferentially and timidly directed by Michael Grandage) is essentially a live stage presentation of the film — with some additions that can be too somber, too ridiculous or just pointless. They essentially took the movie and added an extra half-hour of unnecessary content, including sung narration by the townspeople.
There are a few nice touches, including the “Lion King”-style puppetry used to bring Olaf the snowman and Sven the reindeer to life. The show is also very well-cast, including Caissie Levy’s vulnerable but vocally-powered Elsa, Patti Murin’s high-energy Anna and Jelani Alladin’s amiable Kristoff.
All the catchy songs from the film have been carried over, including the coming-out anthem “Let It Go” (which serves as the act one finale), “In Summer,” “Love Is an Open Door” and “For the First Time in Forever.”
The new songs (also by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez) lack the same impact and slow down the storytelling. A kitschy act two opener with the “family and friends” of the oddball trading post and sauna proprietor Wandering Oaken (with simulated nudity and a kickline) is absolutely bewildering.
Also odd is turning the trolls from the film into the shamanistic “Hidden Folk of the Mountains,” who reliably materialize upon being called out by chanting “gee yath ke voy-a-voy-a voy-a.”
Elsa’s ice-shooting magic powers are conveyed mostly with digital projections. Panels surrounding the arches of the stage that at first resemble wood later turn to snow. This is efficient but not exactly showstopping.
“Frozen” was originally supposed to be directed by the freethinking Alex Timbers (“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” “Peter and the Starcatcher”). His production likely would have been more original and interesting.
The show will certainly be a hit — at least for now — but I doubt it will achieve the longevity and success of “The Lion King” (or even “Mary Poppins” or “Aladdin”) because it offers so little of value in its own right. Once it finishes playing to all the “Frozen” fans, let it go — away.