So, if you haven’t heard the latest Disneyland buzz, Frozen Live at the Hyperion Theater has officially opened. A few months ago there was lots of sadness and tears as the Aladdin live musical closed after thirteen years. The salt in the open wound of losing Aladdin was that it was to be replaced with, what else, Frozen. I have to say, when it comes to the Frozen debate, I am kind of like Switzerland. I don’t love Frozen with the same zeal as an eight year old girl, but I also don’t hate it like many of the Disney diehards. I don’t love that it is everywhere in the parks right now, but I get why it is–the people who visit Disneyland once a year (you know, the ones who make Disney the most money) want to see Frozen.
The new Frozen musical has been being hyped for the past couple of weeks now, and tons of Disney bloggers and social media peeps were invited to the premiere about two weeks ago. They, of course, all gave the show stellar reviews (from what I saw). But I decided to reserve judgement until I could see the show for myself. As you probably know, I have a background in professional theater, so I am a tough critic when it comes to live performances. And I really, really wish I could sit here and write a scathing review of Frozen Live at the Hyperion Theater….but I can’t. Were there issues? Yes. Were there parts of the show that were eh? Yes. But overall, it is a phenomenal experience. The tech and sets alone make it a worthwhile watch. So let’s break it down.
First, I arrived at the park on a Thursday a little before 11:00 am. It was the first week of June, when most schools are still in session. Yet by the time I got to California Adventure, all of the Fast Passes for the show had already been distributed. I guess this is one of those times when that Magic Morning Hour comes in handy. So piece of advice number one: try to see the show on a day when the Magic Hour is at Disneyland (the days rotate so there isn’t early access to DCA every day). A cast member told me the standby line would open at about 11:15 for the 12:30 show, so I went to the bathroom, grabbed some popcorn and a drink, and waited directly across the street from the theater. This is important if you are going to do standby because everyone will camp out, forming a non-line line until the standby line officially opens. As soon as I saw the cast members opening the door, I headed across the street and managed to be the second group (third person) in line. Waiting in the standby line was not fun as the area I was in was not shaded at all, but luckily everyone in the front of the line was super cool about making sure the original order of the line was in tact when it came time to go to our seats. We waited until about 12:25 before we were let in to fill empty seats. Given that I was so close to the front of the line, I have no idea how many people from the standby line actually made it in, but I can tell you right now that whoever put it out there on the interwebs that 300 seats are reserved for standby was a dirty liar. My guess is the first 50 people from the line made it in. Now, I did get an awesome seat in the orchestra section, but the open seats were limited (and I was by myself so I had way more options than a group who wanted to sit together). From what it sounded like, cast members were telling the end of the standby line that they could stay in the line for the next performance, but it was scheduled for two hours after the original show. That’s a lot of waiting for no guarantee of a seat.
Anyway, on to the show! When you are first seated in the theater, Arendelle is on the screen in the background. I could tell from that point that the sets/backgrounds were going to be incredible.
The video screen and projections used during the show are nothing short of breathtaking. You obviously can’t see in the picture, but the water in this backdrop moves and flows. Birds fly by. And the video changes as the show progresses and it is remarkable. The projections used to demonstrate Elsa’s magic are also fantastic. Seriously, I will see this show again and again just to watch the screen (but I’m a nerd like that).
The show’s musical numbers are obviously a highlight. They chose to add ensemble members into several songs, including “For the First Time in Forever” and “Love is an Open Door”, which was a smart decision as it made the numbers have more of an impact. And as always with Disney ensembles, they were fabulous, playing multiple parts and really adding some layers and dimension to the show. I thought all of the actors were well cast, I particularly liked Anna and Kristoff. Hans wasn’t as evil as he could have been, but everyone was very strong.
Of course, the moment everyone was waiting for was “Let it Go”. The number was really well done on all levels. The actress playing Elsa was stellar, and the costume change was awesome. I didn’t really understand the need for a one second blackout during the actual change–we all know what is happening–but the audience seemed very impressed nonetheless. I feel like Cinderella on Broadway did the same kind of change minus the blackout and it worked great. So Disney, when you read this, consider eliminating the blackout, kay?
I will say, I really like the way they costumed Elsa post change, and they need to consider modeling the rest of the Elsas in the park after this one. To me, Elsa in the parades, meet n greets, and other shows looks like a cheap Barbie, but this version of the dress and wig were really pretty and look way less tacky.
While I like to think I went into this performance with an open mind, I expected to find a lot more things about the show that I didn’t like. There were a couple of sound and spotlight issues during this performance, but I think that is relatively normal for a show in its first weeks. I’m sure those details will be ironed out pretty quickly. I’m definitely not surprised by the high quality of the tech and sets of the show, but I was super impressed regardless. Disney is putting on theme park shows at a very high level, and that is something I love to see. If you were to ask me honestly, I would tell you to go see Frozen Live at the Hyperion Theater. It’s worth the time out of your day to experience this live performance, and coming from me, that’s saying something!