Thursday, June 9, 2016

Review: "Frozen - Live At The Hyperion"

It was Memorial Day, 2016 when I took the drive over to Disney California Adventure with the goal of seeing the day's first performance of The Disneyland Resort's newest stage show, "Frozen - Live At The Hyperion." Last Fall, in a somewhat controversial move, the powers that be at Disney announced the end of a successful thirteen-year run of the beloved and very popular "Aladdin: The Musical Spectacular", replacing it with a new show, based on the very popular 2013 Disney animated film, "Frozen". The "Aladdin" show would close on January 10, 2016.

Four and a half months after Aladdin and the Genie took their final bows, "Frozen - Live At The Hyperion" opened, just in time to kick-off the Summer season. Demand for the new show during its opening weekend was high, because: 1. It's something new at a Disney Park. 2. It's a holiday weekend. 3. It's Frozen. We arrived at the park just before "rope drop", and got in a FastPass line near Oswald's Service Station, just beyond the main gate. Because it was ten minutes until park opening, the line was held at the beginning of Hollywood Blvd.

After the park was opened, the line was escorted through Hollywood Land to the FastPass area, which is to the left of the Hyperion Theater, It took about thirty minutes to get to the machines, where we picked up our FastPasses for the 12:30 show. We hit a few rides, including Soarin' Over California, Toy Story Mania and Tower of Terror, before having lunch, and returning to the Hyperion for the first show.

The Orchestra queue was full, and the Mezzanine line was about three quarters full, with thirty minutes left on the FastPass return time. The "stand-by" line was a mob scene, located on the street in front of the queue entrances. It was pretty obvious that very few stand-by people would get to see the first show, and all of them would be on the balcony level. By this time, all FastPasses had been distributed for the day. The people in the stand-by line were going to have a long afternoon ahead of them, waiting for a show that they may not see.

The theater doors opened about twenty minutes before showtime. Our Mezzanine seats were on the left side of the theater, just above the side balcony. I'd say the seats weren't bad. At least weren't on the balcony above, which no longer has the benefit of characters flying by, like Aladdin, Jasmine and Genie did in the last show.
There's no big curtain hiding the stage from view. The entire stage is visible from the time you enter. Video projection technology is used to create the background of Arendelle during what is believed to be summer. Only a few over-sized set pieces are used in the show. Like giant doors, that lower from the rafters, allowing characters to enter from behind. There's also a large staircase that rotates, carrying Queen Elsa over the audience during her performance of the signature song, "Let It Go."

The show itself is fairly entertaining, with a top-notch cast of singers and actors who portray the "Frozen" characters quite well. The musical numbers were great, and all-too familiar to a crowd of "Frozen" fans. The Anna character provides many of the funny lines, while Elsa is more dramatic. Olaf the snowman is a puppet (think Iago from "Aladdin") as is Kristoff's reindeer, Sven. Both puppets provide some comic relief, as does the Duke.
The show tries to pack much of the movie into a production that lasts a little over an hour. Because the "Frozen" story in the film is complex and jumpy, the flow of this production is a bit choppy.

Projection mapping is used throughout the show, replacing traditional sets. At first, this is impressive because it is unique for a live theater show. But the gimmick got old very quickly, leaving me hoping for real sets, which never appeared. There are a few other nice effects used throughout the production.

I have little doubt that "Frozen" fans will enjoy this new musical. For a theme park show, Disney has pulled-off another big production. This is not Aladdin. And if you go in expecting to see something as entertaining and funny as that show was, you may be sorely disappointed. While I am admittedly not a big fan of "Frozen", I did find this show entertaining. But where I probably saw the Aladdin show twenty or more times, I would only go back to "Frozen" if I was bringing my nieces to see it for the first time (in forever:)
This show will not last for thirteen years, or anywhere close to it. I believe this was already Disney's plan after closing "Aladdin". The heavy use of projection mapping instead of traditional sets was more than a cost-cutting measure. It's also an easy way to change shows without constructing new sets and backgrounds. It is quite possible now for Disney to rotate shows, or switch to a new show with less downtime.

"Frozen" has been enjoying a wave of popularity that I don't think can be sustained. While the first film was a massive success, I don't think the sequel will be as big of a win for Disney. And I've always felt that this movie lacks the generational appeal that other Disney films have. With plans for a Broadway musical of "Frozen", this show will probably take its final bow at Disney California Adventure, after the Broadway version opens in New York. This will make room for the next show Disney may already have planned for the theater. That means you probably have two to three years to catch "Frozen - Live At The Hyperion."

My grade for "Frozen - Live At The Hyperion: B+

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