The story behind the one ‘Frozen’ song you can’t hear in cinemas
The two “Frozen” movies have 17 songs between them, but none solely spotlights the two sisters, singing together. For that, fans will need to see the national tour of the “Frozen” musical, which kicks off Friday at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles with a new, moving duet performed by Anna and Elsa.
“Since 2011, all of the creators of ‘Frozen’ have been wanting to write a proper duet for the sisters, but for various story-development-under-a-tight-deadline reasons, we never found the right one,” co-composer Kristen Anderson-Lopez said by email. “So when Tom Schumacher, our Broadway producer, mentioned he was longing for one more moment to have our lead actresses sing together in the stage production, we were ready with this idea we had been brewing.”
Anderson-Lopez’s co-composer, husband Robert Lopez, said they “had been itching to write the sisters a song like this. It was like a spare firework, and all we had to do was light it. We had fun building this song to an operatic frenzy.”
The new number — first announced in a tweet by Anderson-Lopez — replaces the show’s second-act reprise of “For the First Time in Forever,” a song from the 2013 movie that, in under three minutes, attempts to cover quite a bit of ground. Upon arriving at Elsa’s remote hideaway, Anna melodically informs her sister that their kingdom has frozen over, and she has arrived to help fix that. But Elsa wails that she doesn’t know how to undo what she’s done; all she knows is that when she’s by herself, she doesn’t harm others.
That reprise has the two leads technically partaking in the same track, but at this point in the story, they’re disconnected from each other and focused on the snow. They’re singing at each other rather than with each other. There’s a word for it: cold.
The new song forgoes functional information for an emotional depth previously left unexplored. Titled “I Can’t Lose You,” the moving duet manages to reveal each sister’s intense and prolonged yearning to be with the other, while illustrating how complicated friendships between adults — tender from bruises and broken hearts — can be.
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“I Can’t Lose You” takes place just after Anna (played by Caroline Innerbichler) has learned of the family secret: Elsa’s powers nearly killed Anna as a child, which is why they’ve been separated ever since. It’s a rare scene in which these two lead characters are the only ones onstage, and after all these years apart, they finally get to explain themselves.
“The last time they were probably alone together was 10 years ago, and when their parents were still alive, so the stakes are very high,” noted Caroline Bowman, who plays Elsa. Under the direction of Michael Grandage, “we worked and worked on that dialogue to make sure we really earned the new song after it.” (Anna now informs Elsa that Arendelle is trapped in an eternal winter in efficient post-duet dialogue.)
Once Bowman’s Elsa sings a few lines from Demi Lovato’s version of “Let It Go,” Innerbichler’s Anna chimes in with the first verse of the new song. She loves that they’re talking again, and that Elsa seems so peaceful upon letting go. She’s so sorry for any resentment she’s held over the years, and she asks Elsa to lean on her and share her burden — an attempt to be supportive in only the way she knows how. “I can’t lose you, not again, I can’t lose you like then,” Anna sings in the chorus. “If you could see yourself the way I do, then you’d see why I can’t lose you.”
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It’s not so simple for Elsa, however. She’s happy they’ve finally reunited, but she’s terrified of all the damage her powers might cause — to others, yes, but most specifically to Anna. Though she can’t really verbalize what it is she needs to heal, she decides it’s best to contain her self-destructive behavior so she doesn’t further hurt the person she cares for most. “I can’t lose you, not again, I can’t lose you like then,” Elsa sings in her chorus. “You don’t know the things I can do, keep your distance ‘cause I can’t lose you.”
Poignantly, the siblings then face each other and harmonize over the last chorus — Bowman with her powerhouse belt and Innerbichler with her bright and pure tone. They’re singing the same heartfelt lyrics — including the knockout closing line, “If you loved yourself the way I do, then you’d see why I can’t lose you” — but the shared sentiment leads them to different conclusions about how best to help the other.
Both actresses said “I Can’t Lose You” brings out something new in their characters. “Even though we’re really disagreeing, Anna is just like, thank God we’re at least talking,” said Innerbichler. “There’s always been a door between them for years, and a pain and lack of clarity, so having that moment to look [Elsa] in the eyes and tell her how much she means to her is really special.”
Bowman said the song “gives Elsa a moment of redemption. Everyone loves Elsa, but she does spend a lot of time in fear and hiding from everyone, and this is her moment for the audience to see her sacrificing for her sister, even though I want this relationship more than anything in the world.”
The sisters’ dissonance in the song is a pattern the songwriters noticed as they finished up the “Frozen” sequel.
“Because of their childhood trauma, both have an intense fear of losing the other,” said Anderson-Lopez. “In Elsa, it always manifests in pushing her sister away; for Anna, it always manifests in holding on too tight. I’ve definitely felt both emotions myself. ... I just poured both of those well-meaning but mistaken ways I’ve tried to love someone into the song.”
As of now, Disney Theatrical Productions has no plans to record the new song. And though there’s no official word on whether the Broadway version will adopt the addition, it’s possible. Disney has made occasional edits to its stage productions, like adding a song to “Beauty and the Beast” in 1998 and slightly trimming “The Lion King” in 2010.
For those touring audiences who will hear “I Can’t Lose You,” Innerbichler considered it a reminder of what the “Frozen” franchise is all about. “This is more than just a fairy tale story with magical powers; this is about real human beings and the difficulties and joys of loving another person,” she says. “It’s complicated and it’s bittersweet, but the motivation is all love.”
Where: Hollywood Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.
When: Previews start Wednesday, opening night is Friday; ends Feb. 2
Tickets: $39-$239 (subject to change)
Nickelodeon will show “The SpongeBob Musical” while the tour is still running. Will audiences buy tickets if they can watch at home? Theaters bet yes.
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