Let it Show!
A new, live 'Frozen' opens at California Adventure
An ice storm has hit the West Coast – Anaheim, to be exact. Elsa, Anna, Olaf and other characters from Disney’s instant-classic animated film appear in the new onstage production of “Frozen – Live at the Hyperion,” at Disney California Adventure.
After a 13-year run of 14,565 performances, the beloved “Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular” flew out of the theme park in January, vacating the Hyperion stage for “Frozen,” which opened in late May.
Adapted from the screen for the stage by Chad Beguelin and directed by Liesl Tommy (both Tony nominees), the fjordic fairy tale has been re-imagined as a 57-minute live theater performance.
The production features all the catchy music from the film and is distinct from a fully-realized “Frozen” coming to Broadway. Coast caught up with Dana Harrell, creative executive director at Walt Disney Imagineering, to learn how “Frozen’s” stage debut came to life.
COAST: What is it about “Frozen” that makes it the right choice for the Hyperion stage?
DH: First of all, it’s a great story. It’s a story of love, but of sisterly love, which is wonderful for kids. It’s about sticking by your family, and it’s so transferable to the stage because of the music. It has amazing songs that are really singable and get stuck in your head because they’re so fun.
COAST: How does Disney manage to keep the storyline fresh and unexpected for an audience of “Frozen” lovers?
DH: It’s all in the vision and the direction. The show is really faithful to the movie, but one of the biggest challenges for Liesl Tommy was making sure that anybody who loves the movie could watch the story with fresh eyes. One of the ways that we’re doing this is by creating an interactive experience. It’s almost like a Broadway show and a Disney ride because it’s live theater in front of you but it’s also happening all around you.
COAST: What can you tell me about the show’s design without giving too much away?
DH: It’s a combination of good old theatrics, the latest in technology and spectacle. We have a “wow” moment in the first 15 minutes of the show, but we still have the rest of the story. We had to dive into spectacle and magic. Elsa has magic, so there’s magic in the perception design, lights, costumes, everything.
COAST: I’m very curious about the onstage creation of Elsa’s ice palace.
DH: We’re going to make it feel like the guests are immersed in the castle as she’s building it. This giant ice chandelier is going to come down, and then there’s one moment where she gets really up close with the audience. It’s one of the most transformative parts of the show.
COAST: What about creating “wow” moments for people who have never seen the film?
DH: Whether you’ve seen the film a million times, once, or never at all, you’re going to get immersed in these characters’ journeys, and that’s really good entertainment. We’ve done a number of run-throughs and we haven’t had a dry eye in the house.
COAST: What do you hope audiences take away emotionally?
DH: One of my favorite things is watching dads of daughters watch this because they’re just a blubbering mess. Watching women with sisters watch this – there’s a sense of hope within them and redemption. Everyone will take away their own message, but everyone will leave with a message.
“Frozen – Live at the Hyperion,” multiple shows daily, Disney California Adventure, Anaheim