‘Frozen’ warms hearts at Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton

APPLETON — With an enchanting special effects show, miraculous costume changes and captivating music, “Frozen” brings the magic to life. The musical’s two-week run at Fox Cities Performing Arts Center began Tuesday and will run through May 29.

Based on the 2013 Disney animated film, “Frozen” tells the story of two sister princesses, Elsa and Anna. Elsa, the older of the two, possesses the power to control ice and snow. After causing a childhood accident that injures Anna, Elsa vows to isolate herself from the world to keep her powers hidden and in check. On the day of her coronation to be queen, Elsa accidentally traps the entire kingdom in eternal winter, and Anna embarks on a journey to find her sister and break the spell.

The audience for Wednesday night’s show was a mix of spectators of all ages, including a few children wearing Elsa dresses. Judging by the gasps and cheers throughout the show, the audience was completely absorbed in the story. It would be hard not to be; in true Disney fashion, “Frozen” pulls out all the stops to bring the magic to life. The special effects, lighting and scenography are breathtaking. Some moments in the series — like Elsa’s freezing powers and her gloves and cape miraculously flying off stage during the Act 1 finale “Let It Go” — almost defy logical explanation.

Fans of the film going to the musical won’t be disappointed. “Frozen” the musical has all of the same iconic songs and lines from the show, with new music added that gives a deeper dive into the characters. The musical also feels more adult than the animated film, with heavier songs and a few jokes aimed at older audiences.

Jeremy Morse (Weselton), Hans (Austin Colby) and Caroline Bowman (Elsa) perform in the North American Tour of "Frozen."

Leading the cast of Wednesday’s show were Caroline Bowman as Elsa and Berklea Going as Anna. A new actress playing Anna, Lauren Nicole Chapman, took the stage for the first time with the North American tour on Thursday. Going, a stunt double for the role, perfectly encapsulates the bubbly, stubborn and fierce charm that Anna portrays in the animated film. Bowman’s Elsa was just as powerful, with a commanding stage presence and a belt that sends shivers down your spine. The couple’s Act 2 duet “I Can’t Lose You”, a special song added in 2019 for the touring production Frozen – delivered a powerful moment between the two sisters that illustrated their deep love for each other .

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Beyond the two leads, a standout performance came from Mason Reeves as Kristoff, the kind-hearted mountaineer who befriends Anna and aids her in her quest to save the kingdom. Reeves has a buttery voice that effortlessly commands the stage. While the 2013 film only gives Kristoff one song (“Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People”), the musical’s Kristoff can show off more of his vocal qualities, with a duet as he goes up against Anna (“What Do You Know About Love”) and a second-act ballad revealing his growing romantic feelings for her (“Kristoff Lullaby”).

Mason Reeves (Kristoff) and Collin Baja (Sven) perform on the North American tour of "Frozen."

Other notable performances include Hans, the suave but untrustworthy prince that Anna quickly falls for, played by Austin Colby (who, fun fact, is married to Bowman in real life) and Young Anna and Young Elsa, played during of Wednesday’s performance by real-life sisters Victoria Hope Chan and Natalie Grace Chan, respectively. The young actresses captured the hearts of audiences with their realistic portrayal of sisters and best friends, setting the script for adult Anna and Elsa’s entrance.

It was interesting to see how the musical brought some of the fantastic characters from the Frozen universe to life. Olaf, the adorable, naive snowman created by Elsa from the sisters’ childhood imagination, was a puppet operated and voiced by actor Daniel Switzer during Wednesday’s performance. Switzer took to the stage, bringing moves that brought extra life to the puppet in front of him. Sven, Kristoff’s reindeer sidekick, was played by a single actor – Collin Baja – in a costume that appeared to involve the actor moving around on all fours with stilts attached to his legs and arms. It was surprisingly realistic – although the limbs were a little lanky and clumsy, Sven’s ears, head and eyes moved to reflect the reindeer’s emotions.

A change from screen to stage was the replacement of rock trolls with the Hidden Folk, a tribe of people from true Scandinavian folklore. In the show, the Hidden Folk can be summoned by song and offer help when Anna is injured by frozen magic. It’s a change that makes the show feel a bit more realistic and sophisticated than the animated film.

Tickets for “Frozen” can be purchased online through Ticketmaster, by phone at 800-982-2787 or through the Fox Cities PAC box office in person or by phone at 920-730-3760. The PAC ticket office is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Contact Kelli Arseneau at (920) 213-3721 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @ArseneauKelli.