Last week, when the country—and the state—were heading into a time of uncertainty amid rising concerns around COVID-19 (aka the novel coronavirus), my daughter and I spent two hours in Arendelle and lost ourselves in the story of two sisters facing the biggest challenge in their lives. It was escapism at its best, and it brought hope that even in dark times, we are capable of more than we’d thought possible and will come out stronger in the end.

Just about everyone knows this story of sisterly love. The Broadway production is more than just a staging of the wildly popular movie; it’s a deeper dive into the characters, their personalities, and their stories—both individual and combined. As a result, Anna shines as the hero and (dare I say it) the star. Her strength, fierce determination, and irrepressible optimism come through in every scene. Elsa’s anxiety, fear, and uncertainty are also more prominent, especially in songs like “Dangerous to Dream” and “Monster.” Like many young girls, my 9-year-old is an Elsa fan, but she “liked Anna better” here. The actress who played Anna conveyed her personality and energy perfectly, as did the girl who played Young Anna, and both clearly had a lot of fun with the character’s unabashed straightforwardness and bouts of self-consciousness.

Still, it’s hard to deny the magic of Elsa’s power and the magic of theater that brought that power to life. The dazzling use of lighting, color, and projections, along with sound effects, the relatively small (but mighty) orchestra, and the graceful movements of the ensemble, made Elsa’s freezing and forming frozen fractals believable and beautiful.

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The 7:30 pm show had attendees of all ages—even ones as young as 4, many in their Elsa finery. Members of the younger set—my 9-year-old included—were up well past their bedtime, but it was worth it. Frozen is the perfect first Broadway production for young theatergoers. Since they’re all well acquainted with the story (let’s face it: they’ve practically memorized every line), restlessness and whispered whines of, “Is it done yet?” and “How much longer?” won’t be part of the experience. Instead, they’ll gasp in awe, take everything in with wide-eyed wonder, and ask, “How did they do that?”

Thousands of ticket holders moaned in disappointment when the show’s run was cut short. (Probably just as many were relieved that the tough decision to go or not to go was made for them.) Here’s hoping that Frozen returns to Portland in the near future so that theatergoers—especially the young ones for whom this would be their first Broadway show—can experience the magic of this spellbinding spectacle.

Broadway in Portland presented Frozen at the Keller Auditorium March 5–12. The production was originally scheduled to run through March 22, but remaining dates were canceled as part of the state’s effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Jade Chan
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