Disney’s new hit Broadway Musical Frozen, inspired by the award-winning film opened to a magical and enchanting reception in Brisbane, complete with a standing ovation at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC. ‘For the first time in forever’ Brisbane audiences experienced the showstopping sparkling spectacle as the all-Australian cast delighted the sunshine state with their wintry production full of light, love, and snow!
Before the curtain rose, the pre-show notice about turning off phones and acknowledging the traditional owners of the land was announced. At the end of the message, it made us tear up when they said and ‘welcome to those of us who are at the theatre for the first time tonight’, how exciting that a Disney musical is their gateway into the theatre world. Then the audience roared with applause as the curtain rose.
In case you have been living in an isolated castle since 2013, the worldwide Disney phenomenon broke records at the box office when it became the highest grossing animated film of all time at 1.3 billion at original release. Only to be beaten by its sequel Frozen 2 in 2019. This tale told the story of two sisters living in the fictional Scandinavian Kingdom of Arendelle. Both princesses, the oldest daughter Elsa was born with magical ice powers and their youngest daughter Anna was quirky and loud.
Elsa’s powers were unpredictable and when the sisters were kids, they were playing with her snow abilities, and she accidentally struck Anna. They erased all Anna’s memories of her sister’s magic. Their parents went on a journey to find the source of Elsa’s magic and how to control it however were lost at sea, this part of the fable is picked up in Frozen 2.
Queenslander Courtney Monsma wholeheartedly embodied the role of the eccentric, fun, awkward younger sister Princess Anna. Courtney was born to be on stage with her natural effervescent presence shining through her character. She was bubbly, comedic, sarcastic and is the definition of ‘a tornado with pigtails’, which is how she described her character in the show. Her connection on stage with Jemma Rix who plays Elsa was undeniable as she desperately tried to get through to her sister. Particularly in her beautifully performed duet with Elsa, ‘I can’t lose you,’ their relationship is highlighted and how much they mean to each other.
Courtney’s first big number, ‘For the first time in forever’ was an absolute thrill to witness. Not only were her vocals stellar, but the way she was still in bed with messy hair on the morning of her sister’s coronation showcased her relatability that you rarely see in a Disney Princess. Her flair of delightful optimism throughout the show was joyous to watch.
Courtney’s energy and strength as a performer shone through, her dancing was second-to-none and we loved her fantastic commitment to staying true to who Anna was. Her interaction with every person, snowman and reindeer on stage was glorious and emotive with her fun-loving persona. Courtney was without a doubt a powerful jubilant star and makes the Sunshine State proud, it was exciting to see her ‘sun shine on’.
Australian musical theatre royalty Jemma Rix embodied the iconic Queen of Arendelle, Elsa. Jemma was a brilliant, solemn but enlightened as Elsa. Her powerful vocals soared through the theatre during the much-anticipated number ‘Let it go’ and spoiler alert she nailed the unforgettable on-stage infamous blue dress reveal, complete with more than 18,000 Swarovski crystals. It was pure Disney magic when Jemma fully embraced her character’s superpowers and moved her hands and feet to create the gorgeous ice castle. It formed on stage through stunning projections and sets of snow and ice crystals. She wowed and mesmerised the audience as they cheered with glee for the legendary musical feast for the senses.
Jemma emphasised Elsa’s fear of what her powers could do to others in the song ‘Dangerous to dream’ as she is being coronated. She was a brilliant scene partner to Courtney’s Anna. It was especially sweet to see their sisterly banter during the ballroom scene when they enjoy each other’s company and their connection shone through when they both smell chocolate simultaneously. However, the viewer saw a glimpse of her vulnerable side in the beautiful ‘I can’t lose you’ duet between Anna and Elsa.
Although Jemma’s ultimate defining moment of the show was her 11 o’clock number ‘Monster.’ She forcefully arrived on stage in a killer pantsuit as she belted out the brand-new song written for the musical. It was about learning to love yourself, flaws, and all. Jemma was the perfect Elsa. You can see the similarities between Elphaba from Wicked whom she embodied for several years and Elsa her current role. Both are isolated and have special talents that people are afraid of. Jemma was a wonderful force on stage and gave Elsa extra charm and mystique.
Matt Lee breathed life into the lovable comedic snowman, Olaf. The incredible talent of Disney Theatrical productions is not spared when it comes to Frozen’s infamous man of snow. The use of puppetry was genius as Matt was dressed in an all-white suit and controlled the Olaf puppet connected to his feet and hands. His clueless persona and blind faith were echoed in the musical. Matt happily sung the classic ‘In Summer’ musical number complete with hat and cane tap dancing. There was also a special nod to ‘Samantha’ from the Frozen 2 film that the audience giggled at. Lee was especially brilliant in the scene when he was comforting Anna before she froze as he opened the door with his carrot nose. Matt showcased Olaf’s sarcastic naïve moments and consequently was the comic relief of the show.
Prince Hans of the Southern Isles was portrayed by the mischievous and dreamy Thomas Mcguane. Thomas was suave and believable as the prince with 12 older brothers as he wooed Anna. The pair kicked off the hilarity with the exuberant ‘Love is an open door’ musical number. The dancing was the most entertaining aspect of this scene, they would go from sweeping classical ballroom dancing and a second later would be krumping to the drum beat of the song and then Thomas would be throwing Courtney over his shoulder as he sung gorgeously to the up-beat Disney hit. The duo went together like vegemite and cheese as they bounced off each other. Towards the conclusion of the show, it was the total opposite. The audience saw Thomas in a whole new light when he threatened Anna into marrying him so he can claim the throne. Thomas nailed the princely looks and evil character energy concurrently.
The ice man Sean Sinclair took on the character of reindeer-loving Kristoff with ease and excitement. You first see his talents in the song ‘Reindeers are better than people’ on the ukulele with his emotional support reindeer, Sven. Sean brings the boy next door energy to this role as the scruffy mountain man who sells ice for a living. This is interrupted when Elsa’s snowstorm ruins his business. As he encounters Anna, he discovers that she is going to marry a man she just met and the hilarious back and forth number ‘What do you know about love’ is born. Sean connects with Courtney’s character on a deeper level when they fall and stumble throughout this hilarious song on the magnificent ice bridge. Sean has a wonderful voice and demonstrates that in the emotional ballad ‘Kristoff’s Lullaby’ when he begins to fall in love with Anna.
Lochie Mcintyre played the fun-loving realistic looking reindeer Sven on opening night. The role is shared with Jonathan Macmillan at alternating performances. The men are asked to be on all fours night after night in a giant reindeer suit. The boys are dedicated and incredible to stay on their legs for a full-length Broadway show. The wonderful interactions Lochie and Jonathan have with Kristoff and the little nuances Lochie applied are incredible, especially with Kristoff doing their ‘voice’ they don’t need to speak, it is all about their incredible physicality that can’t go unnoticed.
Aljin Abella personified Arendelle’s main trading partner’s leader the Duke of Weselton. Aljin was committed and fabulous as he found the frantic, desperate persona and physicality of the Duke. He treated the audience to a fun flamenco style dance with the ensemble, it was incredible.
The young girls who played Young Anna and Young Elsa on opening night respectively Mila Hourmouzis and Samara Wheeler were sensational tiny actresses and singers. They were gorgeous to watch as their personalities shone, and hilarity ensued. This is especially relevant in the scene ‘Let the sun shine on’ when the family talked about Elsa not using her snow powers and Mila as Young Anna says ‘Freeze my butt’ in a low comedic voice.
Samara as Young Elsa has an incredible voice and lets it shine in the song ‘A little bit of you’ as they are building a snowman out of kids toys. Mila’s singing is stunning for a young girl in the fun but emotional number ‘Do you want to build a snowman.’
Oaken from the store ‘Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and Sauna’ was embodied by the hilarious Justin Anderson. He took the Norwegian salesman and made it his own, complete with a cheeky grin and incredible song ‘Hygge.’ This number was out of this world funny with his dry sense of humour and wit. Particularly when he says, ‘Something for climbing the mountain where many have frozen to death.’
The ensemble then joined him dancing as the family in his sauna and come out to sing the song with just a towel on and leaves to cover their bits. The audience was in stitches as the song progressed.
Jakob Ambrose and Jayme-Lee Hanekom took on the roles of Pabbie and Bulda the leaders of the Hidden Folk which replaced the Trolls from the film. They were fabulous as they healed Anna when she was a child from Elsa’s powerful strike. They also were Kristoff’s nosy and fun-loving adoptive family. The song ‘Fixer upper’ is in the movie but this one is way more up-beat and made the audience want to groove in their seat. It was toe-tap worthy and entertaining as they wanted Kristoff and Anna to be together.
Queen Iduna and King Agnarr, Anna and Elsa’s parents were embodied by the regal Tanika Anderson and Joti Gore. The pair educated their daughters on the world around them and spread love to their little ones. Tanika and Joti were a guiding force and committed to their characters especially to Young Elsa and the control of her powers but kept Anna’s joy around the castle.
The stunning ensemble filled the room with joy and hope as we are introduced to them when they float towards the front of the stage in ballgowns and suits in the beautiful number ‘For the first time in forever.’ This production would be nothing without the passionate and devoted group of ensemble members. From the ballroom dancing and belting their faces off at Elsa’s Coronation for ‘Queen Anointed’ to the hilarious Scandinavian half-dressed family folk dancing in ‘Hygge’ this talented group has it all.
They all had a wonderful presence and thrived dancing in ‘Fixer Upper’ as the fellow Hidden Folk people dressed in green leaves and pixie-like hair. During the worst of Elsa’s snowstorm in ‘Colder by the minute’ the ensemble was in big white snow coats emulating a storm with their physical movement, it was stunning to witness.
The sets, costumes, wigs, hair, make-up, and magic in this production was like no other. The ice palace set pieces stunned the audience as we heard a collective audible gasp when the hanging Swarovski crystals and ice steps were revealed. The costumes were visually breathtaking with the use of a lot of different fabrics from Scandinavian folklore inspired patterns and of course Elsa’s iconic blue dress covered in crystals.
We won’t reveal a lot, but Disney has out done itself with the level of magic and trick costumes they carefully crafted into this show. Some of our favourites include the moving Olaf toy, Elsa’s dress reveal, her magic snow projections, and the unassembled Olaf to name a few.
The snowy sensation of the season is Frozen the Musical at QPAC in Brisbane. Snap up your tickets to this captivating celebration of live theatre and ultimate Disney magic. The cast of your favourite beloved characters steal the show with their personality and incredible new music by film composers Bobby Lopez and Kristin Anderson-Lopez will have you humming a new earworm on the ride home. Come for the story of sisterhood and stay for the unquestionable joy and magical escapism of Frozen the Musical – don’t miss the most heart-warming show of the year.
5/5 Fame Stars
Frozen the Musical
Playing now until May 2022
Lyric Theatre, QPAC
All images supplied.