FROZEN — Live at the Hyperion has officially debuted and it brings to life a magical spectacle unlike any seen before at the Hyperion Theater in Disney California Adventure. We were invited to check out the new show which debuts tomorrow to the public and to delve deeper into the world of Arendelle from Disney’s animated smash hit FROZEN.
Replacing the Aladdin Musical Spectacular that spent more than a decade in the same theater, the new show continues the tradition of upping the quality of entertainment in the park. Unlike its predecessor–which required several creative liberties for adaptation to the stage–FROZEN — Live at the Hyperion brings a mostly faithful rendition of the film to life on the stage. The creative crew was able to rely on a host of technological advances including projection and video technology.
For a theme park production, there obviously needed to be some changes to bring it into a more managable running time so a few scenes were modified and shortened to bring the show in at about 70 minutes. The overall presentation works. The show seems well paced, albeit a little slow to start but it picks up quickly and never seems to really have dragging lulls.
The music in the show is beautiful and well transformed for the stage. Every song from the original film makes it into the production but several have been redone a bit to adapt the solos and duets into full ensemble pieces. The “In Summer” sequence brings in a slew of beach-going performers taking a simple dream moment and making into a well suited ensemble number.
“Love is an Open Door” is also performed as an ensemble piece, taking place in the ballroom to allow for the ballroom dancers to be a part of the number. The song is also interestingly used as the reprise for the end of the show and despite being the deception song that dupes Anna, its message actually works remarkably well as an ending for the show. Perhaps the best adapted number from the film to turn into a full on ensemble piece is “For the First Time in Forever” which lends itself perfectly to the stage with the castle staff working hard to get everything in order for Coronation Day as Anna runs around in excitement.
“Fixer Upper,” while charming, feels like an unnecessary moment in the show but that extends into the source material as even in the movie version, the trolls felt forced into the story. On stage though–whether good, bad or indifferent–the realization of the trolls, with costumes, animated figures, and remote controlled rocks is certainly not to be forgotten.
But the one number that had very little modification needed was the true showstopper…
LET IT GO
The “Let It Go” sequence is absolutely stunning and, really, it had to be. The show delivers on that expectation with a mesmerizing sequence that gave us tingles from the moment Elsa’s purple cape is cast off into the wind to the grand moment when she escalates the icy staircase that swings out over the audience and into that iconic belty ending.
The whole mid-show sequence is really quite stunning and Elsa’s outfit transformation is honestly spellbinding, even if it does happen under a quick but effective cloak of darkness. It’s still impressive and the end result is an absolutely stunning glittery transformation; the dress is definitely nothing like the bulky version that the character dons to greet guests in the park.
Our Elsa for the debut performance was 100% spot-on. She’s fantastic and embodies the torment, strength, and most importantly the vocal prowess that the character demands. She handled it well and was an absolute joy to see on stage. This comes as no surprise as director Liesl Tommy had noted that the search for this character in particular was the most difficult. She recognized early on that the show simply would not work without a PERFECT Elsa and they have succeeded here in every way.
Another notable facet to the show is the choice for color-blind casting that we’d mentioned previously. Several characters in the show, including Elsa, Olaf, and the Duke of Weaselton were non-white performers. In some of the promotional photography it appears that Kristoff and other characters have also been cast with both white and non-white actors.
The whole supporting cast is clearly talented and they are brought to life with really beautiful costumes and wigs. We learned that fabrics and trims for the costumes came from around the world including England, Canada and India. More than 1,000 costumes (and 772 pairs of shoes) have been created for the show!
The “non-human” actors also held their own in the show. Olaf is puppeteered (after being brought to life digitally via projection during Elsa’s solo) and the effect is completely convincing and charming. Just like Iago in “Aladdin” or Zazu in “The Lion King” the performer is completely visible on stage, donning a non-distracting Arendelle outfit that allows his expression to come through but also blend into the background so that the puppet comes through.
Grown-up Sven’s realization was perhaps slightly less successful in that the only visible human component for the puppet was just the actor’s head poking out of the top of the reindeer’s shoulders. The reasons for this choice are obvious but the execution felt slightly off. Baby Sven however is absolutely adorable. I want one and he shall be mine and I shall call him my squishy.
The projection technology–and yes, lots of screen work–were another remarkable component to the show; a character almost in and of itself. What Disney has tackled here is nothing short of astounding. The amount of different technical features operating all at once in this show is truly mind-blowing; from moving set pieces and lights to synced video on the massive LED screen and a bevy of projectors. Everything operating in sync is surely no simple task and for it to come together as seamless as it has is really an achievement.
Because the screens and projections are so all-encompassing, it leaves little room for the need of physical props which perhaps works best since the show also makes extensive use of a rotating turntable that provides a unique and well-executed set of segments in the show.
Overall, what Disney has created here is a fantastic adaptation of the film that fans of the movie will surely love. The music is as infectious as you remember and you will continue finding yourself unable to get LET IT GO out of your head…. that is, until you head to Disneyland and go on “it’s a small world.”
FROZEN — Live at the Hyperion is a fantastic addition to the entertainment roster at Disney California Adventure and should promise to be a true delight to theme park going audiences.
Check out our full video of the show below!