A dozen new songs for Frozen musical

Caissie Levy (left) plays Elsa and Patti Murin plays her sister, Anna, in Disney's stage adaptation of Frozen.
Caissie Levy (left) plays Elsa and Patti Murin plays her sister, Anna, in Disney's stage adaptation of Frozen.PHOTO: NYTIMES

Disney is pulling out all the stops for the upcoming Broadway show, in an attempt to match the success of the movie

DENVER • Yes, you will hear Let It Go.

Nearly an hour into the stage adaptation of Disney's Frozen, Elsa, Queen of Arendelle, will embrace her fearsome power and turn the stage into a shimmering wintry landscape, at once chilly and magical.

The song that launched an ocean of tributes will rev up and, as the curtain falls on Act 1, audience members will race out with that impossible-to-shake lyric ("The cold never bothered me anyway") still in their heads.

But to get there - to create a must-see musical out of the juggernaut movie that made a superstar of Idina Menzel and a belter of many a five-year-old - has meant several years of tricky decisions, the sort that Disney has largely, but not always, mastered in turning successful movies into stage hits.

That entertainment giant has set the bar for Broadway blockbusters with The Lion King, which has grossed US$7.9 billion globally. And Frozen is no ordinary property, even for Disney.

The film, released in 2013, was the highest-grossing animated movie ever and the stage musical was fast-tracked even before it reached theatres.

Despite an exceptional Broadway track record, from Beauty And The Beast to Aladdin, the company is still smarting over a pair of high-profile flops - The Little Mermaid and Tarzan - about a decade ago, and is determined to get this show right.

Along the developmental journey, a period that includes readings and rehearsals, there have been distracting disruptions indicative of the high stakes: two directors (Alex Timbers was dismissed last summer and replaced with Michael Grandage); three choreographers (now Rob Ashford); two set designers (now Christopher Oram); and two Elsas (now Caissie Levy).

The show is scheduled to begin previews here on Thursday before transferring to New York in the spring. Disney is unveiling to the public new songs and special effects that to this point it has held very close.

Given the title and subject of the show, one of the big questions that looms: As Elsa sings her self-affirming power ballad, how will Disney create an ice palace before our very eyes on stage?

The film-makers had close-ups and computer animation; the theatre-makers must deliver a parallel punch with sets, sound, lighting and video.

Frozen is expected to cost between US$25 million and US$30 million to develop, on the high side for Broadway, but a small sum for a company that grossed about US$56 billion in its last financial year.

Frozen, as die-hard fans know, is loosely based on The Snow Queen, the great 19th-century Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about the formidable power of love.

In the musical, as in the film, the snow queen figure Elsa is not evil but tormented - her power, which is the magical ability to create snow and ice, is a problem because she is unable to control it.

Elsa's struggle strains her relationship with her younger sister, Anna; that relationship between the sisters, now princesses, is at the heart of the story as Anna determines to save Elsa.

Also in the musical: Olaf, the lovable snowman who naively fantasises about sunbathing; Hans, a handsome prince; Kristoff, a rugged ice harvester; and Sven, the reindeer, played by the ballet- trained Andrew Pirozzi.

The show's writer, Jennifer Lee, and the married composers, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Bobby Lopez, have spent months crafting new material. The musical, about 20 minutes longer than the film, will have about a dozen new songs, in addition to seven from the film, aiming to deepen the characters' backstories and relationships.

Among the highlights: a new first act song for Elsa, Dangerous To Dream, and a new, and vocally flashy, second act number in which she grapples with having a power that she cannot control.

Patti Murin, the actress playing Anna, is one of a handful of cast members who have been with the project since the beginning. Levy auditioned for an early developmental lab, but did not get cast, and then was brought in as Elsa last summer.

Both women are 36 and alumni of Wicked and each has previously originated roles on Broadway. But Frozen is a major career break for both of them. "We know that we've got a big project on our hands," Murin said.

"I knew what a massive opportunity this was and how special it would be to be creating this character for the stage," Levy agreed. "I never thought I'd get to be a Disney princess, that's for sure."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2017, with the headline 'A dozen new songs for Frozen musical'. Print Edition | Subscribe