Despite attending a matinee where the average age of most audience members was probably about three, I can still say this is a show that works pretty well for adults. It’s no Lion King, but has some great, even spectacular, moments – hence four, not five, stars.
The musical captures the feeling of the film admirably. It also adds something to the characters of the two sisters, Elsa and Anna. They are, perhaps inevitably, more real and relatable as played in the flesh by Samantha Barks and Stephanie McKeon than in the film. This in turn brings even greater emphasis on their relationship as the driver for the story, making other characters such as Olaf the snowman (Craig Gallivan) and Kristoff the ice salesman (Obioma Ugoala) into cameos. Even the latter’s reindeer Sven (Mikayla Jade and Ashley Birchall alternate in the physically demanding role), although stunningly realised, has little to do.
The highlight is, as it should be, Let it Go, moved along in the story so it comes as the closer to Act One. Samantha Barks is terrific and really does let go as the song builds. She transforms in front of us in an instant from wearing a dull cape to a sparkling white dress – a true coup de theatre which drew gasps and cheers from everyone in the audience (not just the three year olds!).
Olaf is a delight, with the puppet operated and voiced in-view by Craig Gallivan in suitable winter togs. He captures the charm of the character using basic puppetry skills but little other obvious trickery, and has a remarkably close vocal likeness to the film version.
There are, though, a couple of peculiar choices. As Anna travels to find her sister with Kristoff she crosses a huge, icy bridge (shown in the photo above). This comes on from stage right and travels across the stage, at one point only the centre section is on stage before, eventually, the steps down at the other side come into view. It’s the largest single piece of moving scenery I’ve ever seen. It must have cost a fortune and been a nightmare to fit in the wings even at Drury Lane. But I couldn’t see why it was needed. Yes, it showed Anna had to make a journey, but surely there were either simpler ways to do it. Or they could have done more with the bridge than simply walk across it and dump it in the wings! The other similar moment comes at the very last bars. For anyone other than those in the stalls it was obvious there was a revolve and a centre circular platform cut into the stage. Unless I missed it they were never used until the final 30 seconds of the show. Again, an extravagance which added little to the story and created only minimal impact.