When Disney first explored the idea of doing Broadway productions, they had a long tradition of in-park shows under their belts. In 2013, when Frozen became a worldwide phenomenon, it seemed inevitable that the House of Mouse would look to do a Broadway musical version of the film (the production is slated to hit The Great White Way in the spring of 2018). What’s more surprising is that they have also chosen to do an in-park iteration, and Frozen – Live at the Hyperion is playing now at Disney’s California Adventure.
Overseeing the production is producer Dana Harrel, Creative Entertainment Executive with Walt Disney Imagineering. She comes to Disney after having worked at the La Jolla Playhouse, where she helped develop Xanadu – The Musical and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. “We are missing some of the things from the film,” Harrell says, “but at the same time, we wanted to make sure we had all the excitement. When we brought in the director (Liesl Tommy), she described this as a theatrical ride.”
A live show of the beloved classic Aladdin ran for 13 years in the same theatre, but Harrell believes Frozen will keep the same magic alive (despite some controversy that Disney is doing away with its vintage history to make way for newer properties). “The safest decision is to keep Aladdin running,” she says. “The more exciting decision is to keep bringing new and exciting things to our audiences. We wanted to make sure Aladdin went out on a high and that what we brought in was equally enchanting and amazing and be a family piece. Frozen did that.”
And while the Broadway run and the in-park run are sure to overlap, Harrell points out that the two are suited to their mediums. “These shows have to run 3-5 times a day, 7 days a week,” she says of the California Adventure production. “We have 126 actors with 24 on stage. We are putting everything into six Elsas and six Annas. For the Broadway production, they are going the theatrical route: blood, sweat, and tears with one cast.”
Some shows at the parks are set up as sing-along events, but Frozen isn’t one of them. Even so, the cast has been told to expect more audience participation than usual. “They are all ready for it,” Harrel says. “There’s nothing like 1,800 people singing with you at once. We’ve tried to prep them. They’ll have to live through it; especially with little girls and ‘Let It Go.’ It’s a unique experience and unlike anything we’ve done. Come with open eyes and a full heart. It’s going to be fun.”