(Arifa Akbar’s article appeared in the Guardian, 9/8/2021; Photo: Dazzling coups de theatre … Samantha Barks as Elsa in Frozen. Photograph: JohanPersson.)

Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London
Beyond the visual thrills and powerful ballads, this adaptation brings an unexpected depth to the relationship between two tortured sisters

This musical extravaganza about estranged sisters, an icy kingdom nd unharnessed supernatural powers arrives in the West End from Broadway as part of a plan to stage five Frozens around the world this year. As canny as that seems commercially, a mega-successful animation does not always translate into a stage hit, even with Disney money thrown at it.

The 2013 film was met with acclaim, Oscars and delirium. Does this adaptation live up to that hefty legacy? Yes, and perhaps it even exceeds it. This is a show every bit as magical as the animation, packed with visual thrills and gorgeous choreography (by Rob Ashford) alongside signature ballads that gain greater power in their live incarnation. It is big on spectacle yet never loses control with special effects that yield some dazzling coups de theatre.

Directed by Michael Grandage, it has music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-

Lopez and Robert Lopez – who created the songs for the film – and a book by Jennifer Lee, who wrote the screenplay. The production takes a few scenes to come into its own and the opening appears like a too-exact replica of the animation. Young Anna (Asanda Abbie Masike in the performance I saw) wistfully sings about building a snowman with her sister outside the room in which Elsa (Tilly-Raye Bayer) has barricaded herself, playing out the same tics and vocal inflections of her cartoon counterpart. It carries that ersatz feel even as the older versions of the sisters are introduced: Stephanie McKeon’s Anna (bold, goofy, full of yearning) and Samantha Barks’s Elsa, a melancholy ice queen from the off.

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