Disney's new musical Frozen 'is about women being supportive of each other. Simply put: Together we are stronger.'
By John Moore
Senior Arts Journalist
Caissie Levy and Patti Murin never imagined they would grow up to be princesses. “Not in a million years,” Levy said, just for emphasis. But there’s no question both Broadway stars have been living a fairy tale since they were cast to play Elsa and Anna in Disney’s Broadway-bound stage adaption of Frozen.
“I am so proud to be a part of this company. I count my blessings every day,” Murin said in an exclusive interview just a week after rehearsals began for the pre-Broadway launch in Denver that runs from Aug. 17 through Oct. 1.
“To be in this club is thrilling, to say the least,” added Levy, who plays Elsa to Murin's Anna. “And with each new day we have been working on it, that sense of giddiness and excitement has just grown deeper and deeper.”
Both actors say the stage adaptation of Frozen will surprise people with its universal appeal to all audiences.
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Video: Your first look at Frozen in Denver:
“There is something for everybody,” Levy said. “We have discovered so many more layers to examine within this story that can only happen in the theatre. A lot of adult themes are explored. It’s not just for kids.”
Murin added that adapting the 85-minute film into a full, two-act Broadway production with more than twice as much music gives the actors the opportunity to dig deeper into their characters’ storylines.
“This is a complete show,” Murin said. “With the addition of so much new material, we have the freedom to expand and to go deeper than you are able to in a film.” To Director Michael Grandage, it’s about emphasizing “the beating heart of the story,” she said.
“I think what’s so brilliant about what the writers and Michael and (Choreographer) Rob Ashford are doing is that while they are using the film as a template, they are not trying to re-create what we saw on the screen for the stage,” Levy said. “This is not a replica of the movie. It’s a wholly new work of art. People who love the movie will want to buy a ticket to the musical because they love the movie, but once they are in the theatre they are going to have a completely new experience coming at them.”
Great care has gone into the stage adaptation, said Levy, because with great opportunity also comes royal pressure.
“This is not just any Disney show. It’s Frozen,” said Levy. “Elsa and Anna mean so much to so many people. The weight of that is both a huge responsibility and a huge honor.”
Frozen earned $1.2 billion at cinemas worldwide and that was before it was made available for home viewing. The soundtrack became the highest-selling album of 2014, moving more than 10 million units. The New Yorker magazine said Frozen “has transcended the commercial realm and captured the culture.”
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Levy totally gets it. The Oscar-winning anthem “Let It Go” has become so pervasive, Levy said, that her 16-month-old is already singing the song from his diapers.
So how does one go about creating a new character for the stage that comes from a film that is already so ingrained in the hearts and minds of its audience?
“It’s tricky,” Levy said with a laugh. “I think the reason Elsa resonates with so many people is that her struggle to figure out how to be who she really is and accept and own that and love herself in spite of her flaws, is so relatable. She is trying to shed the pressure of other people’s expectations of her and figure out how to celebrate her flaws as part of who she is. And that is what I am trying to focus on as the actor playing Elsa. A lot of people have expectations about how she should be portrayed, but I am trying to take a page from ‘Let It Go’ and get all of that out of my head.”
Frozen is the story of two princesses, one cursed with the power to control and manipulate ice. When Elsa accidentally injures her sister, it sets off a series of betrayals, treacheries and curses that can only be healed with an act of true love. But unlike most fairy tales, the heroic act that saves the day in Frozen doesn’t have anything to do with a handsome prince; it’s all about sisterhood.
“It’s about women being supportive of each other,” Murin said. “Simply put: Together we are stronger.”
Levy and Murin have played Elphaba and Glinda, respectively, in Wicked — just not at the same time. Like Elphaba, Elsa possesses a power she has repeatedly been told is a bad thing, and it inadvertently hurts someone she loves. Levy said it is crucial for women in the audience to see their own individual power — whatever that power might be — as a beautiful thing.
“It’s all about harnessing that power and taking those things we don’t love about ourselves and trying to see the positive side of it,” Levy said. The essential message of Frozen, Murin added, is “accepting who you are — and not being afraid to be who you are.”
The purpose of the seven-week Denver run is for the creative team to explore, experiment, act and react as the musical continues its development up to its Broadway opening in 2018. “The feedback from the audiences is critically important to the production as the creative team molds the show,” said Jack Eldon, Vice President of Domestic Touring and Regional Engagements at Disney Theatrical Productions.
But Levy already has a pretty good idea of the theatrical experience audiences are in for here.
“I think it’s going to really surprise people,” she said. “Yes, it is going to be visually spectacular. Yes, it is going to sound incredible. Yes, it’s going to have all of the things that you want out of a Disney production. But it is also going to have so much depth and heart and soul.
“Nothing about this is frothy. What you will see is every important moment in the lives of these characters. You are going to come away having experienced something unique and new, while still within the template of something you know and love already.”
John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.
Frozen: Ticket information
At a glance: From Disney, the producer of The Lion King
, Mary Poppins
and Beauty and the Beast
comes the beloved tale of two sisters torn apart and their journey to find themselves and their way back to each other. Be among the first to see this highly anticipated new musical before it makes its Broadway debut. This Broadway-bound Frozen
, a full-length stage work told in two acts, is the first and only incarnation of the tale that expands upon and deepens its indelible plot and themes through new songs and story material from the film’s creators. Like the Disney Theatrical Broadway musicals that have come before it, it is a full evening of theatre and is expected to run 2 1/2 hours.
Previous NewsCenter coverage of Frozen
- Presented by Disney Theatrical Productions
- Aug. 17-Oct. 1
- Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
- Single tickets are onsale now. Tickets start at $25, with a limit of eight tickets per account
- Call 303-893-4100 or BUY NOW
- Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
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buying your Frozen
Your first look at Frozen
announced: Caissie Levy to star as Elsa
Meet the entire cast
tickets go on sale May 1
Disney confirms director Michael Grandage
2016-17 Broadway season to include pre-Broadway Frozen