“That’s what I was going to say!”
What is Frozen – Live at the Hyperion?
This is a live-action (plus some screen effects) retelling of the story of Frozen.
There are some practical set dressing and effects (doors, a stunt with the sled in the wolf chase scene, the ice castle stairs, Elsa’s dress reveal, etc. – although the last requires a bulky, unflattering outfit being worn for the first half of the show), but it most often uses electronic screens to show the “magic” happening and change the “sets”. However, the digital sparkles may quite delight the young Frozen fans in the theater.
The stage appears surprisingly small for the space the theater provides, which makes the story feel physically enclosed instead of expanded. And it looks somehow less evocative of its setting compared to the previous Aladdin – A Music Spectacular show held here. This is probably due to the extensive use of the screens rather than actual sets – it is very reminiscent of the background and setup of the former temporary Frozen Sing-Along and it is almost like having bits of the movie running in the background of the play, which distracts from the performances – and at times caused a bit of motion sickness to watch. (If you’re sensitive to this, I’d suggest looking away from the screens when they start moving quickly.)
But you do get to see almost the entire film recreated in this show.
Who are the performers?
A fairly large cast of all the main characters of Frozen (Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Hans, Duke of Weselton, puppeted Olaf and Sven, trolls, etc.) are here along with background characters/dancers.
The roles of Anna and Elsa are actually double-cast in this show, meaning one set of actresses portray the young Anna and Elsa, while another set portray the adult incarnations. I’m not quite sure why this was necessary as both sets of performers are adults.
When and where can I find it?
The show currently plays four times daily at the Hyperion Theater in Disney California Adventure – check the Disneyland app or your daily Entertainment Times Guide for the schedule.
Mousertainment Tip: Fastpasses are pretty much mandatory as very few standby line members tend to get in right now. When the show first started, there were only three performances a day and the Fastpasses tended to run out about two hours after park opening. But as more people have seen the show and with the additional time added, my understanding is that the Fastpasses are now lasting a few hours into the day. But if your priority is seeing Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, get your Fastpasses sooner rather than later. Be advised: Fastpasses for Frozen also determine which section you are sitting in, though not a specific seat, so if you have a preference (i.e. Balcony vs. Orchestra), check with a Cast Member to see which section is being given out before you get in line. There are also dining packages available to reserve Frozen Fastpasses as well.
Be aware that the show lasts for over an hour (I clocked it at 65 minutes, but it reportedly began as closer to 70 – they may be streamlining it a bit as time goes on). While Aladdin also started as a longer show and was later edited down to a more comfortable 45 minutes, it may take some time before this show gets cut down a bit. So keep this in mind as there are no bathrooms in the Hyperion Theater!
Why spotlight it?
Looking at this strictly as park entertainment, of course it’s good. You get to see the majority of a film recreated on stage. You get to spend an hour plus in air conditioning. You get to see talented people singing and dancing to songs you know well.
But here is where it fails (in my personal opinion):
The Aladdin show at the Hyperion was already Broadway-level as is – they just made it even bigger when they took it from Disney California Adventure to the New York stage. But between the practical effects and the quality of the performances and always-refreshing experience of seeing Genie – I maintain that it was worth the entry cost to the park just to see Aladdin. I cannot say the same for this show.
Here, Frozen tries to be both fish and fowl – it uses screens (which to me cheapens the live experience though it is a current trend in theatrical productions) and it went for color-blind casting (which again is a popular trend on Broadway and works there – but can take you out of the story at a theme park where every other opportunity to see these characters shows them as accurately portrayed in the film, yet here they are not – even if the performers themselves are terrific). So it seems to be trying to present itself as the trial run showcase for the announced 2018 Broadway premiere. Yet then it uses oversized rubbery-looking costumes for the trolls as well as the odd design of the Sven puppet outfit which are pure theme park and make the Royal Theatre’s interpretation of Frozen with its bedsheets flung across the stage and hand puppets and masks suddenly seem like a near-comparable production choice.
It also tries to be closer in length to a Broadway show – but what 5 year old (or anyone else) wants to sit there for over an hour when they could be doing other things at the park? Honestly, I spent far too much time checking my watch realizing it wasn’t even close to being over yet and waiting for the lengthy experience to end.
Cutting the troll scene, the summer dance number, the sled stunt (with its motion-sickness-inducing backdrop), and editing the whole show down to no more than 45 minutes would definitely help.
But its biggest failure, in my opinion, is that it’s simply not an appealing story or show for everyone. And once you’ve seen it – you never need to see it again.
Aladdin was a four-quadrant show – meaning it was enjoyable for all ages and all genders.
Frozen – Live at the Hyperion is strictly for the young princess fans. And frankly, I’m not sure the magic is really there for them either. Did I mention how LONG this is? At least with a dvd, you can pause for a snack or restroom break for the little ones!
I will have to go once or twice more – strictly to see some performers I like. But honestly, if it wasn’t for them, I’d never go back again. It was such a slog to get through and all it really made me wish for was the relative briefness of Frozen at the Royal Theatre (which I hadn’t really cared for either) or even better to just go home and pop in the movie to get the taste of this dragging show out of my head.
You may get the impression from my comments that I hate Frozen. Just the opposite. I really liked the movie, own the blu-ray, have listened to the soundtrack about a zillion times and would sing out with gusto when I went to the Frozen Sing-Along (which I happened to really enjoy).
What I don’t like is that Frozen replaced so many unique and superior show offerings in the park (ahem, Tangled at The Royal Theatre and don’t get me started again on closing the timeless and wonderful Aladdin or how they tried to replace the popular Mad T Party with that poor excuse for a dance party…) and that it was force-fed into others such as World of Color… and I’m expecting that when Fantasmic! returns in a year or so, it will somehow be shoehorned into that, too.
The key is: if you’re going to replace something good – replace it with something BETTER.
I would have been thrilled to see The Lion King or Mary Poppins come to the Hyperion – and I still hope they do! Both of these shows appeal to everyone and have an absolute repeat watch-ability factor. And the bottom line is (for me), this Frozen show does not.
See it once to say you did, but I doubt the majority will return again as so many did regularly over the years for Aladdin. There’s simply no comparison.
Have you seen Frozen – Live at the Hyperion? Did you like it?
Update 9/10/16: I went back to see the show again and it was better due to some of the cast (see spotlighted performers below). However, even with that improvement, the show itself still needs a LOT of work before it would be something I’d want to spend time seeing again.
Update 9/13/16: I’ve uploaded several Frozen – Live at the Hyperion videos – Check out some of this show’s performances here on the Mousertainment YouTube Channel
Update 10/28/16: As of a week or so ago, Frozen – Live at the Hyperion is no longer a FastPass experience. To attend the show it is standby only – meaning you should plan to get there early if you’d like a good seat inside the theater. I’ve also heard rumblings of the show being cut down in length a bit, though I’ve not been back recently to see it. Lately there have also been fewer showings per day – sometimes three, sometimes only two. And of course, some of these continue to be canceled as well, often for technical difficulties that frequently stop the show in mid-production if they’re not detected ahead of time. So if it is a priority to see this show, I’d recommend trying for whenever the first one of the day is scheduled. This way if it gets canceled or halted, you can try again for the second show of the day.