The highest-grossing animated film of all time is now a Broadway show — but Disney’s Frozen is no straight-ahead screen-to-stage transfer.
Composers Bobby Lopez (a double EGOT-winner!) and Kristen Anderson-Lopez expanded the score threefold from its original, precisely 7.5-song version, which entailed significantly fleshing out the film’s story as well — along with casting actors in the leading ladies’ roles (sisters Anna and Elsa) who were not mere Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel clones. As the Lopezes and their stars, Patti Murin (Anna) and Caissie Levy (Elsa), discuss on the Billboard on Broadway podcast, translating Frozen to live musical form was a deceptively complex undertaking.
“The songs use the same muscles, but the overall vision, the structure is different,” Anderson-Lopez says of writing songs for movies vs. musicals (she and Lopez — who are married — wrote the Oscar-winning “Remember Me” for Pixar’s Coco as well). “The fundamentals are the same, but then there are very specific skills we’ve spent a decade trying to learn about movies.”
In a musical, Bobby Lopez notes, “Music really bears the weight of all the storytelling and anything that’s important has to be in a song, whereas in the movies — like a Disney cartoon fairytale — there’s a lot of other arts going on that bear the storytelling that music doesn’t have to do … not every part of the story has to be sung.” Creating a two-and-a-half hour musical, he adds, was “almost like making the songwriter’s cut of Frozen — the music tells the story completely.”
Levy and Murin go on to discuss the unique tasks they had taking on roles made memorable by other actors’ voices (and cartoon characters). “These people created these iconic characters and voices and general nature, but we’re the ones who have to embody them and give them….human bodies!” says Murin. “We get to actually be the people to play the whole person for the first time.” “As actors, you have to be able to replace in a role and you have to be able to create one, and what Patti and I do in this show is somewhere in between,” explains Levy. “It’s a tricky thing, but an exciting thing.”
In their chat with host Rebecca Milzoff, the foursome go on to discuss the intricate planning that went into the Lopezes’ writing process, the musical’s “deeper and more sophisticated” approach, how Levy manages to sing “Let It Go” eight shows a week, and why the Broadway acting community (and film and theater audiences) love the Lopezes’ songs so much.