Will the ‘Frozen’ Broadway Musical Be Better Than ‘The Lion King’?

Matthew Loffhagen
Entertainment Weekly
(Photo: Entertainment Weekly)

Don’t act surprised. You knew it was coming. It was only ever a matter of time before Disney found a way to make even more money off the back of the Frozen epidemic by turning the whole thing into a stage musical.

Entertainment Weekly has released some brand new, official photos of the upcoming Broadway play, which, if you have a young girl in your life, you’ll almost certainly be dragged to see at some point or other (obviously boys like Frozen too, but Elsa and Anna are the new gold standard in little girl marketing gimmicks).

All in all, it looks as solid as you’d expect from a Disney stage show. The costumes look good, all the key cast members definitely look the part, it’s probably going to be a fun time.

But is it going to be Lion King good?

That’s a challenge.

The comparison between Frozen and The Lion King is thrown around a lot – many younger Disney fans like to argue that Frozen is the movie that has finally toppled The Lion King as the best movie of all time, and while that’s debatable (it’s obviously not true), it doesn’t mean that the comparisons are going away any time soon.

Here at Obsev we’ve made no secret of our unabashed love for The Lion King, but let’s face it – that simply proves we’re human. While the movie version of The Lion King set the gold standard for animated features, the play has been one of the biggest juggernauts on the theater scene for decades now, with its practical effects near-singlehandedly revolutionizing what we expect of modern Broadway.

Right off the bat, the Frozen musical is on the back-foot simply because of the legacy that it has to contend with. People are going to be going into Frozen expecting a new The Lion King, and that’s a difficult benchmark to live up to, especially considering how idealized The Lion King has become over time.

It’s also probably safe to say that, looking at the source material, Frozen’s array of songs are, on the whole, a lot weaker than The Lion King.

Yes, Let It Go is a big deal, and seeing an Elsa impersonator belt that out to a packed concert hall is 90% of the appeal behind the Frozen musical in the first place, but is anyone calling out for a heartwarming live action rendition of In Summer or the trolls’ Fixer Upper?

Idina Menzel’s showstopper aside, the rest of the songs in Frozen are entirely perfunctory, and forgettable at best. They exist to hurry along the plot so that everything can be wrapped up before the kids in the audience begin to need to pee.

The Lion King works so well as a stage show because the songs are all fantastic in their own way, from the powerful Circle of Life opening, past the jazzy I Just Can’t Wait to Be King, and all the way to Can You Feel the Love Tonight. These songs are perfect for the stage in a way that Do You Wanna Build a Snowman simply isn’t – if only because, let’s face it, nobody wants to see baby Anna with her back to the audience, singing directly at a big wooden door.

Then, there’s Aladdin.

No, this isn’t a random subject change, it’s important.

The Aladdin musical is such a natural next-step after The Lion King that it’s a wonder it took Disney nearly twenty years to get it on stage. In some ways, this is for the best, as distance from the original means that there was enough time to see the problematic lyrics of Arabian Nights for what they are, and the new show features a far more flattering portrait of a place that was previously described as “barbaric” for no reason other than to insult people from the Middle East.

The problem is, where The Lion King takes what works from the original movie and expands upon it, Aladdin the stage show simply spends its time trying to live up to its source material, but suffering for the lack of a big, new innovation.

It turns out that if you cut Robin Williams out of Aladdin, all you get is a by-the-numbers Disney movie – something that the House of Mouse should have learned when Return of Jafar ended up being so dull.

It’s not hard to imagine Frozen as being a lot more like Aladdin than The Lion King when it comes to its stage show. There will be no giant animatronics or funky costumes, and no innovative use of an underrepresented culture of dance and song.

But, hey, it doesn’t really matter.

Nobody’s planning to go and see Frozen because they’re hoping for the next big Broadway extravaganza. This is something to take your kids to in order to fill them with wide-eyed enchantment as they see Elsa in the flesh, performing ice magic and singing all about how you should never ever be a good girl. Or whatever that song is about.

Frozen on stage doesn’t need to be as good as The Lion King. It just needs to be good enough to entrance its primary audience, and the fact that it features Elsa and Anna is more than enough to make this thing popular.

 

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