‘The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside’ – Frozen, Theatre Royal Drury Lane 04.11.23

It had been a while since I hit the West End, and with the break while we waited in anticipation for them to finish building Orchard West in Dartford, I was feeling seriously theatre deprived. Thankfully my sister stepped up and volunteered to take me to see Frozen for my birthday (I’d only been begging someone to come with me for about 18 months).

If you’re not a parent or a Disney fan and have somehow managed to avoid Frozen completely in the last ten years, is an original story loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Snow Queen’. In the land of Arendelle, princesses Elsa and Anna are separated after Elsa’s magic powers injure Anna. When their parents die years later, they are reunited when Elsa is crowned queen. But her secret powers are revealed during her coronation and she flees, leaving Arendelle frozen. Anna goes in search of her sister, risking her own life to save her, and showing that nothing can break the bond between sisters.

In case it hasn’t become clear in previous reviews, I am a HUGE Disney fan. So when I arrived at Theatre Royal Drury Lane I was as giddy as the little girls filing in in their Elsa dresses. If they made one in my size, there’s a good chance I would have worn it. It’s a buzzing matinee performance, and you can feel the audience’s excitement before the show has even started.

What’s not to love? Everything about it is magical. The set and the costumes are truly awe inspiring. Christopher Oram is an incredible designer who has somehow brought fjords to stage. I still don’t understand how the ice bridge seemingly went on forever as Anna and Kristoff walked along it singing ‘What Do You Know About Love?’. Sven the reindeer is beautifully detailed; they’ve even crusted snow into his fur. And the unveiling of Elsa’s iconic dress during ‘Let It Go’ caused the audience – both adults and children alike – to gasp aloud.

Having not seen Samantha Barks reprise her role as Elsa, I didn’t feel like I was missing out. I know fans were delighted to hear she is returning this month (February 2024). However, I thought Jenna Lee-James did a terrific job. She has a plenty powerful voice but put her own mark on ‘Let It Go’, rather than trying to copy Idina Menzel too closely. I for one am sorry to see her go.

The Anna to her Elsa, Laura Dawkes, captured all of her character’s goofy charm and endless positivity. She was well supported by her two love interests – Oliver Ormson as Hans and Jemal Felix standing in to play Kristoff. Between them they pulled off some very catchy duets that had everyone bopping along.

The most pleasant surprise was how much I enjoyed Craig Gallivan’s portrayal of Olaf. I have maintained adamantly for years that there is only one Olaf, and that is Josh Gad. However, Craig Gallivan brought all of the wonder, innocence and humour I associate with everyone’s favourite snowman to life.

In order to come up with a full-length musical it was obviously necessary to add a few musical numbers to the ones that feature in the film. Although I wouldn’t say any of them were better than the original songs, there were some good ones like Elsa’s ‘Dangerous to Dream’.

There was only one part I didn’t love, and I feel mean for even saying it because the performers are hugely talented. The trolls have been replaced with the ‘hidden folk’, which the theatre company said is designed to make that aspect of the show less cute and more mystical, which it does. Really, I was only disappointed not to see some troll costumes, because I think they would have been fantastic.

Credit: Johan Persson

Not related to the performance, I was a little bit disappointed with the merchandise selection. I feel there was so much more they could offer, particularly around Christmas. I could have been tempted by the teddies, but the fleece blanket was a bit dull and expensive.

However, that didn’t take away from a truly magical afternoon at the theatre. Frozen was absolutely made for the stage, and this West End cast delivered a fairytale performance in an enchanting setting. There were a lot of very happy and excited Elsas exiting the theatre afterwards.

Sadly, they have announced Frozen will be leaving the West End in September of this year, so best to book your tickets now to avoid disappointment. You can do so here. It’s not to be missed, especially if you have an aspiring Elsa or Anna at home!

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