Caroline Bowman as Elsa in "Frozen" North American Tour. Credit: Deen van Meer
Powerhouse voices, fantastic sets, ingenious lighting and the story and songs you love — it all adds up to make “Frozen,” now playing at Seattle's Paramount Theatre, an epic musical theater experience for families.
You don't even have to be a dedicated “Frozen” fan to appreciate it, as evidenced by my 10-year-old son, who exclaimed “That was so awesome!" as we walked out of the theater. This fantastic national touring Broadway production plays through Sunday, March 1.
Top 10 highlights
In no particular order, here are our favorite things about this stunning show:
1. Elsa's (Caroline Bowman) rendition of beloved song “Let It Go” absolutely brings down the house. The clever sets and remarkable lighting, along with a few other incredible tricks (sorry, no spoilers), make this scene extra impressive and dramatic. We were on the edge of our seats.
2. Caroline Innerbichler portrays Anna with possibly even more spunk and comic flair than the same character showed in the movie. I wouldn't say she stole the show, because I've always considered Anna the heroine and main character, despite Elsa's legions of young fans. Anna is in nearly every scene and she is terrific.
3. Olaf, portrayed by F. Michael Haynie wielding and voicing a very clever puppet, was as lovable and endearing as in the movie. (My son and I have a favorite line from Olaf's signature song: “Winter's a good time to stay in and cuddle, but put me in summer and I'll be a ... happy snowman!”)
4. In a nice update from the movie, actors of color portray Kristoff and the King and Queen.
5. Sven is played by an actor in a super-cool and expressive reindeer costume.
6. Child actors play young Anna and young Elsa at the beginning of the show, and they’re hilarious and ultra-talented.
7. The best scenes of the show, for us, were the performances of favorite songs from the movie. “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?,” “For the First Time in Forever,” “Love Is an Open Door,” “Reindeers Are Better Than People” and the aforementioned “Let It Go” really impressed. I also love the song “Fixer Upper” — see my note below on that.
8. Among the new songs, Oaken's song about the Scandinavian concept of hygge, pronounced kind of like “HOOO-guh” and meaning comfort and coziness, was lots of fun. When I wondered out loud to my son after the show why Oaken's scene was out of order (see more below), he wisely replied it was to have a fun, comic scene right after the intermission. (Duh, Mom.)
9. Thankfully for sensitive kids, in this stage version of the story there is no scary snow monster and no scary pack of wolves, though the parents still die. (Seriously, Disney, with all your creative power, can’t you avoid this in the kids’ movies?) The death of the King and Queen is treated in the same vague shipwreck way on stage as it is in the movie.
10. This actually might be my top favorite thing: The sets and lighting are nothing short of phenomenal. My son was very impressed. At one point, on the night we attended, the audience enthusiastically applauded a set change. It was that good. There weren't even any actors on stage!
Parents should know
The show is billed as featuring a bunch of new songs. To be honest, my son and I both felt many of them (with Oaken's fun hygge song being an exception) were unnecessary. With an 8 p.m. start time and an audience full of young kids, I don't know that the story needed to be lengthened. There were lots and lots of very tired (but happy!) little kids leaving the theater.
For “Frozen” purists, note that the Oaken scene, for example, is out of order. It takes place after Elsa sings “Let It Go.” There are a few other changes as well, so explain this to your kids ahead of time if needed.
Oaken's scene also features actors who appear to be in the nude, but are actually wearing body suits.
As mentioned, there is no scary snow monster and no wolves, but we found the troll characters in this show to be creepy and strange. They're called “Hidden Folk” and they seem like some kind of swamp creature with very long tails. In a couple of scenes, they appear behind a screen with just little lights for eyes. (Though once you get used to the Hidden Folk, the scene where they sing “Fixer Upper” is very good.)
There are gobs and gobs of merchandise for sale at every turn in the lobby and on the loge level. Plan ahead if you're going to say “no” to begging for a stuffed Sven or an Elsa doll. At least a dozen people wearing Wandering Oaken's Trading Post shirts staffed the multiple merch stations.
Booster cushions are available for kids; get there early to claim one so that your kid has a good view.
An announcement just before the show begins says singing along is not permitted. (Humpf.)
The Paramount's restrooms are downstairs and the ladies' room is always packed. If you can, get there early and take everyone for a bathroom trip so you don't have to fight the crowds to the restroom at intermission. It's much easier to stay near your seats, stretch your legs, and admire the beautiful and historic Paramount.
If you go...
When: Disney's “Frozen,” the Broadway musical, plays in Seattle through Sunday, March 1. There are multiple performances per week, including weeknights, when families will have the best luck scoring the $25 tickets.
Sensory-friendly performance: The sensory-friendly performance of “Frozen” is Saturday, Feb. 22, at 2 p.m. More information and tickets online.
Where: Find Seattle's historic Paramount Theatre at 911 Pine St., Seattle.
Cost: Tickets for “Frozen” start at $25, plus fees. Remaining weekend matinee tickets are considerably more expensive and there aren't many left. Try a weeknight.
Run time: About 2.5 hours, including one intermission.
Age recommendation: The show is recommended for ages 8 and older, but we saw tons of kids younger than that in the audience.