WHERE St. James Theatre, 246 W. 44th
INFO $99-$327.50; 877-250-2929, ticketmaster.com
BOTTOM LINE Let the expectations go and enjoy the love between two sisters.
You just have to let them go.
I’m talking about the lofty expectations for “Frozen,” the hyped-through-the roof stage version of the most successful animated film ever that just opened at the St. James Theatre. Could any show hope to rise to those expectations? Probably not. Does it matter? Probably not.
The show has all the makings of a serious megahit — tickets are hard to come by and even before opening producers announced prices would be going up. All the requisites for a major Disney spectacle have been checked off: amazing special effects, eye-popping costumes, incredible performances, a curtain-call blizzard that had me still picking paper snowflakes out of my hair the next morning. Does the show lack the emotional wallop and grandeur of “The Lion King,” the humanity and sophisticated wit of “Aladdin”? Yes. Does it matter? Probably not.
There are new songs from Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez — the best, “Monster,” will surely attract some impressive covers. But mostly director Michael Grandage rests the tale on the shoulders of the two actresses playing Elsa and Anna, and they come through with loving, heartfelt performances as sisters forced to live apart because one of them has dangerous magical powers. Caissie Levy, at one point in a killer pants ensemble that has Twitter abuzz, is all controlled combustion as Elsa, the ice queen with the steely glare freezing anything in its path. Patti Murin’s Anna is the delightful cutup in the family, looking for love in all the wrong places and longing for the sister she has lost.
There’s only minor tinkering with the familiar story (the movie’s trolls are replaced by a tribe straight out of Norwegian folklore) as Anna struggles through glacial terrain to bring her sister out of exile. She’s left Hans (John Riddle, hiding his malevolence as the prince with the hidden agenda) back at the palace and along the way gets some help from Kristoff (the charming Jelani Alladin), his adorable reindeer Sven (Andrew Pirozzi in a demanding costume that should come with lifetime chiropractic care) and snowman Olaf (Greg Hildreth, perhaps underplaying the comic potential). Oh, and there’s a naked chorus line that comes tumbling out of a sauna — no worries, parents, the thick bodysuits reveal nothing.
By the time they all make their way to Elsa’s crystal-studded castle, the audience is primed for the Act 1 finale, the ubiquitous, Oscar-winning song that’s been on everyone’s lips from the beginning. And when Levy belts out “Let It Go,” well, those expectations are suddenly very much in reach.