‘Frozen’ musical turns hit movie into a Broadway-style stage show

“Frozen” at Disney California Adventure
“Frozen” at Disney California Adventure

The “Frozen” musical opening Friday in the Hyperion Theater at Disney California Adventure turns the hit 2013 animated movie into a stage show with Broadway-quality costumes, sets, special effects and musical score.

The 45-minute musical features music by the movie’s Oscar-winning songwriting team of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.

While many of the songs were written as solos or duets, the music production team turned “In Summer” and “Love Is an Open Door” into dance production numbers featuring the entire ensemble cast.

During “In Summer,” dancers in red and white sailor outfits spin rainbow umbrellas and throw beach balls in front of sand dune set pieces that pull double duty as snow drifts elsewhere in the show.


For the record: The original version of this article lacked proper attribution for quotes from musical director John Glaudini, director Liesl Tommy and projection designer Aaron Rhyne. The quotations came from video interviews published by the Disney Parks blog.

“Love Is an Open Door” is transformed by a symphony orchestra into a waltz, said musical director John Glaudini.

“It’s fun because it’s a true pop song,” Glaudini told the Disney Parks blog in a video interview. “But then on top of it there’s all these orchestral colors where you hear the woodwinds doing little answers and things like that. You hear the sweep of the strings. You hear the horns.”

South African-born director Liesl Tommy said turning the movie into a stage musical was both thrilling and challenging.


“There were lots of things we had to create from scratch,” Tommy told the Disney Parks blog. “Turning some of these solos and duets into group numbers, creating dance breaks as you would in a traditional musical so the entire ensemble could have places to sing and the entire ensemble could have places to dance.”

Doors - appearing throughout the show in the form of mobile sets, flying elements and along overhead tracks - play an important thematic role in separating sisters Anna and Elsa from one another and the outside world.

Throughout the theater, aurora borealis curtains surround the audience to suggest landscapes and set the mood throughout the show, said projection designer Aaron Rhyne.

“At the beginning of the show we sort of fly through Arendelle and land in the ice harvest where ‘Frozen Heart’ takes place,” Rhyne told the Disney Parks blog. “There’s some subtle moments where we’re just seeing the light of the aurora borealis sort of softly shifting around the room.”

Disney went to great lengths to make the “Frozen” musical more than a typical theme park show. A 2,200-square-foot LED video wall with more than 4 million pixels forms the backdrop to the stage. A 20-foot-wide icicle chandelier in the shape of a giant snowflake hangs above the audience. Kristoff’s sled tilts forward, backward and side to side.

One of the most unique visual effects in the show employs motion capture technology and video projections during the moment when Anna freezes.

“We’ve rigged these LED diodes inside the actress’ costume so wherever she moves on stage the video projection follows her,” Rhyne said. “It’s a brand new technology that’s not been used in a theatrical context.”


Olaf the snowman and Sven the reindeer will be puppeted characters created by puppet designer Michael Curry, who won a Tony Award for his work on the Broadway production of “The Lion King.”

The “Frozen” musical replaces the “Aladdin” stage show, which ended a 13-year-run in January after nearly 14,000 shows.

A separate full-length “Frozen” musical is scheduled to open in New York City at Broadway’s St. James Theater in 2018.


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June 6, 8:15 a.m.: “For the record” has been added to this post.

May 24, 12:45 p.m.: Added links from the quotes in the story to video interviews on the Disney Parks blog.

This story was originally published at 8:15 a.m. on May 24.

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