Reviewer: Steven Ireland
This week parents all over Manchester and Salford will be dressing their children as Anna or Elsa, or making sure to take Olaf out with them. For many this is just an average trip to the supermarket, but this week some of them will be heading to the Lowry Theatre.
Singalonga Productions brings their format to Disney’s Frozen. The film marked the final stage in something of a turnaround for the film company. They’d failed for some time to recapture the magic formula that made for their string of successful animated films in the 1990s, even to the point of announcing that they would make no more animated movies; and while Disney toiled, they saw other animation houses growing around them. After a stuttering re-entry to animation, Disney finally channelled some of Uncle Walt’s mojo in 2013 with the release of this film.
It’s the perfect choice for the Sing-a-long-a treatment. Having become the highest grossing animated film of all time, Frozen is still everywhere over a year after its release. Most conceivable products are available with Anna and Elsa on them, and with a sequel on the horizon, the film’s popularity shows no signs of slowing. Added to that, the fan base can, and will, sing any of its songs at the drop of a hat.
Ashley is the host for this tour. She’s enthusiastic and knows both the film and her audience. She combines the right amount of encouragement to coax shy youngsters into joining in, with enough jokes for the enjoyment of beleaguered parents who long for the day their children will ‘Let It Go’. This is far more than just a showing of the film, and the production team have added plenty of surprises to enhance the theatrical experience, from some very special guests to lighting and props to a moment during ‘Let It Go’ that makes a young heart sing. The intermission isn’t helpful in this case, as most of the show-stopping tunes fall into the first act; one of the problems of making a theatrical production from something written as a film.
The film itself is both flawed and wonderful. Anna is one of the best female characters ever to appear in a Disney animation. Naïve and playful, but resourceful and brave, she has self-doubt which she overcomes and her destiny is driven by her own actions. She’s a great rôle model for so many young girls to be crazy about. Elsa is slightly less successful. For all the empowerment of ‘Let It Go’ her next actions are essentially a repeat of those before she sang it. The villain is also revealed in a way that doesn’t bear scrutiny. Above all, and most essential to his show, the film has the best set of songs since Disney worked with Tim Rice.
It’s in the sing-a-long element that this experience transcends a simple re-watching of the film. No-one quite loves anything the same way that pre-teen girls love Frozen. An auditorium of (mainly) young (mainly) girls singing ‘Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?’ acapella brings a lump to the throat as they respond to the rejection of an imagined older sister with a soft, “…OK, bye.”
It can be hard to review a production that relies so much on a pre-existing element, but Singalonga Frozen toes the line well between bringing fun theatrical elements and swamping the thing that brought the audience in the first place.
Currently touring, playing the Lowry again on Sunday 8 March 2015