Review: Disney’s ‘Frozen’ musical tour wows with special effects, scenery and soaring vocals

Caroline Bowman as Elsa in the national touring production of "Frozen — the Musical."
Caroline Bowman as Elsa in the national touring production of “Frozen — the Musical,” playing through Jan. 29 at the San Diego Civic Theatre.
(Courtesy of Deen van Meer)

Inspired by the 2013 animated movie, the 2018 Broadway musical, now at San Diego Civic Theatre, expands the story and songs


Not every Disney animated film transfers successfully to the stage. “The Lion King” won six Tony Awards and is still packing in crowds on Broadway 26 years later. But the 2006 stage adaptation of Disney’s “Tarzan” bombed.

But Disney’s stage adaptation of “Frozen,” which opened Wednesday in a two-week run at the San Diego Civic Theatre, delivers everything fans of the 2013 movie could wish for.

The 2018 Broadway musical by composers-lyricists Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez and bookwriter Jennifer Lee is about sisters Elsa and Anna, two orphaned princesses in a Scandinavian kingdom whose relationship is torn apart when Elsa can no longer control her magical power to transform things into ice.

The story has been faithfully translated to the stage, with some additional fleshing out of the plot and score, particularly the underwritten characters of the king and queen and the mysterious community of the magical Hidden Folk of the forest. The scenery, projections and special effects are wow-inducing, particularly the ice bridge and ice castle Elsa builds in the mountains and the ingenious costume design for the reindeer character Sven. And while the show’s target audience is children, there’s enough humor, songs and dancing that make it just as entertaining for adults.

Power vocalist Caroline Bowman, who plays the ice queen Elsa, rocks the house with her note-perfect rendering of the show’s famous girl-power anthem “Let It Go.” Lauren Nicole Chapman is as awkward, boisterous and funny as you’d expect as the boy-crazy younger sister Anna. Jeremy Davis brings the goofy-sweet, bouncy snowman character of Olaf to life through puppetry, dance and song. And lanky Dan Plehal realistically inhabits the reindeer Sven, which has a headpiece with blinking eyes and twitching ears.

The characters of Sven the reindeer and Olaf the snowman in "Frozen the Musical."
The characters of Sven the reindeer and Olaf the snowman, operated by actor Jeremy Davis, in the national touring production of “Frozen the Musical.”
(Courtesy of Matthew murphy)

Other cast standouts are the boyishly endearing Dominic Dorset as Kristoff, the heart-of-gold ice merchant who falls for Anna; the funny Evan Duff as pompous Duke Wesselton; and talented singer-actor Will Savarese, who’s so believably sincere as Hans you have a hard time hating him when his true colors are revealed in Act Two.

Thanks to the earworm popularity of “Let It Go” — which won a 2014 Oscar for Best Original Song — and the comic duet “Love Is an Open Door,” “Frozen” is justifiably famous for its motion picture soundtrack. In expanding the story into a two-hour musical, composers Anderson-Lopez and Lopez wrote some new songs. And it’s some of these new numbers that are the sole weak spots in the show. The second act opens with the interminable and often incomprehensible number “Hygge,” a Danish phrase meaning “coziness,” but the song doesn’t further the plot in any way and it slows down the show’s usually fast-moving action. Also less-than-gripping are the new numbers “Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People” and “Monster.”

A larger-than-usual “Frozen” gift shop in the Civic Theatre lobby was doing brisk business on Thursday evening, and many of the young girls in attendance arrived dressed in Elsa and Anna costumes. “Frozen” is an upbeat, feel-good story that celebrates the love between two sisters, and audiences are giving the charming show a very warm welcome in its local engagement.

‘Frozen — The Musical’

When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays. 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays. 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays. Through Jan. 29.

Where: San Diego Civic Theatre, 1100 Third Ave., San Diego

Tickets: $39-$114