On Stage: ‘Frozen, the Musical’ comes to Philly

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times


It seems that everyone is familiar with the show “Frozen” – whether through films, live performances or songs such as “Let It Go” and “In Summer.”

“Frozen” was a blockbuster movie for Disney followed by a highly successful ice show – “Disney’s Frozen on Ice.”

Now, “Frozen” is a musical – a lively musical that was a hit on Broadway and London’s West End. “Frozen” is currently on a National Tour in North America – a tour that brings it to Philadelphia.

Ensemble Arts Philly is presenting a three-week run as part of its “Broadway Series,” which is co-presented by the Shubert Organization. The show will run now through April 7 at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia).

“Frozen” is a musical with music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and book by Jennifer Lee, based on the 2013 film of the same name. The story centers on the relationship between two sisters who are princesses, Elsa and Anna.

Elsa has magical powers to freeze objects and people, which she does not know how to control. After inheriting the throne, Elsa flees, inadvertently causing the kingdom to become frozen in an eternal winter and nearly killing her sister. She must sacrifice and show true love to save the day.

The touring cast features Caroline Bowman as Elsa, Lauren Nicole Chapman as Anna Jeremy Davis as Olaf and Dominic Dorsett as Kristoff.

“‘Frozen’ is about these two sisters who are torn apart because of this secret,” said Davis, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Providence, Rhode Island.

Davis, who shares the stage with his wife, Kristen, has been a part of the “Frozen” family since the 2016 pre-Broadway workshop.

“In 2016, I auditioned for the first developmental workshops of the show,” said Davis, who graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in musical theater performance.

“The audition went well. I did a couple workshops. Then, we opened the show on Broadway.”

“Frozen” premiered on Broadway in March 2018 at the St. James Theatre. Then, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Broadway production closed on March 11, 2020, after 26 previews and 825 regular performances.

“I did the whole run in New York until COVID hit,” said Davis. “One-and-a-half years later, the tour ramped up and they called me.”

Davis was more than familiar with “Frozen.”

“I had seen the movie a couple times,” said Davis. “It was a cool film. It was a departure for Disney. I love animation – Disney Films in particular.”

As Olaf, Davis is sort of human animation.

“Olaf is a four-foot-tall puppet,” said Davis, who has also performed on Broadway in “Cats,” “Annie,” “The Last Ship,” and “South Pacific.” “His torso is attached to me – his feet to my feet. It does feel like a dance partner. We sort of dance around the stage together.”

As a snowman Anna and Elsa built together as kids, Olaf represents innocent love and the joy the sisters once had when they were young before being split. Olaf is not just funny. He also has a “big role to play representing the innocent love in the scale of fear versus love.” Additionally, his character provides much of the comic relief while conveying lovable innocence and purity.

“Olaf is the emotional bridge,” said Davis, whose Broadway credits also include “Billy Elliot,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “9 to 5,” “The People in the Picture” and “Ghost.”

“I know he is an inanimate object, but he sure does feel alive to me. He talks all the time. I’m sort of in charge of a lot of jokes. Olaf is the archetypal fool. He sees everything as an opportunity for fun.”

Davis, who has Midwest roots, became Actor’s Equity member in 1998.

“I’m from Grand Fork, North Dakota,” said Davis. “My mom was an artist. She had all the PBS ballet videos. I watched at least one a day when I was growing up. I also loved ‘Singing in the Rain.’ I always wanted to be Gene Kelly.”

“Frozen” was nominated for a number of awards and received several. The song “Let It Go” was singled out for praise. The film was nominated for two awards at the 71st Golden Globe Awards and received the Best Animated Feature award. It received Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (“Let It Go”) and Critics’ Choice Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (“Let It Go”).

At the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, the “Frozen” soundtrack won the Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media and was nominated for Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media. “Let It Go” received the Best Song Written For Visual Media award, with credits to Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez as songwriters and Idina Menzel as performer.

“Audiences love ‘Frozen’ because the music is great and it’s a really heartfelt story,” said Davis. “There is real emotion in the story – and real humor in the story. And it has great special effects.”

Video link for “Frozen” — https://youtu.be/evYafRPWhFk.

The show is running run now through April 7 at the Academy of Music.

Ticket prices start at $25.

While “Frozen On Ice” may be in Tampa, Florida this weekend, another Disney ice show is playing in the area – in Trenton, New Jersey.

Now through March 24, Disney’s “Into the Magic” ice show will be at the CURE Insurance Arena (81 Hamilton Avenue, Trenton, N.J., www.cureinsurancearena.com).

“Into the Magic” is a Disney on Ice show which premiered in 2002 as “Princess Classics.”

There will be one show each night on March 21 and 22, three shows on March 23 and two shows on March 24.

Ticket prices start at $30.

The show will also play in Hershey at the Giant Center from March 28-31.

“The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” which is running now through April 21 at the Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org), is definitely a mystery.

The musical by Rupert Holmes has never played a major theater in Philadelphia or Wilmington. The current run at the theater in Arden will mark its Candlelight premiere.

The cast for the show includes many Candlelight veterans including Anthony Connell (Phillip Baz, Bazzard), Dan Healy (James Throttle), Julia Kershetsky (Alice Nutting, Edwin Drood), Sarah Mackus (Beatrice), Constance Clay Pelesh (Princess Puffer, Angela Prysock), Samantha Ricchiuti (Florence Gill), Shaun Yates (Nick Cricker) and Victoria Healy (Ensemble).

“I didn’t know a thing about this show,” said Connell, during a phone interview Wednesday evening.

The Candlelight Theatre provided some information with this message on its website and handout flyers –

“THE MYSTERY of EDWIN DROOD, based on Charles Dickens’ final unfinished novel, is presented by a delightfully zany, vaudeville-type company at The Music Hall Royale.

“The story features John Jasper, a Jekyll-and-Hyde choirmaster who is quite madly in love with the fair Miss Rosa Bud who is engaged to Jasper’s nephew, young Edwin Drood. Drood disappears after dinner on a stormy night and is thought to have been murdered. If so, then whodunnit?

“YOU, the audience, must decide and vote.

“Just how many possible endings can there be? The secret is in the number of combinations made possible by three separate sets of roles chosen by you, the audience. The total? 480!

“Which show will you see? You vote on the ending, so it’s entirely up to you!”

As “Drood” is metatheatrical, the characters of the play “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” are played by actors of the “Music Hall Royale,” within the production.

Metatheatre, and the closely related term metadrama, describes the aspects of a play that draw attention to its nature as drama or theatre, or to the circumstances of its performance. “Breaking the Fourth Wall” is an example of a metatheatrical device.

“It’s a murder mystery,” said Connell. “It’s a fun show with great audience participation. The audience votes on who they think murdered Edwin Drood.”

There are quite a few suspects.

John Jasper – Jasper was madly in love with Rosa Bud, and his violent split personality gladly killed Drood. His confession is a reprise of “A Man Could Go Quite Mad” and “Moonfall.” Jasper’s confession is performed no matter who is chosen as the murderer, and the audience is discouraged from voting for him since he is the obvious solution.

Rosa Bud – Meant to kill Jasper in revenge for his lustful advances and also due to her own mental instability caused by Jasper’s persecution, but killed Drood by accident as Drood was wearing Jasper’s coat. Her confession is a reprise of “A Man Could Go Quite Mad” and “No Good Can Come From Bad.”

Neville Landless – Humiliated by Drood, Neville murdered him in order to regain his pride and also to have a chance with Rosa Bud. His confession is a reprise of “A Man Could Go Quite Mad” and “No Good Can Come From Bad” in the original Broadway production, later changed to “A British Subject.”

Helena Landless – Knowing her brother’s hot temper, Helena murdered Drood so Neville would not be tempted to seek revenge. Her confession is a reprise of “A Man Could Go Quite Mad” and “No Good Can Come From Bad” in the original Broadway production, later changed to “A British Subject.”

Princess Puffer – Intended to kill Jasper in order to protect Rosa from his advances, but accidentally killed Drood because he was wearing Jasper’s coat and because she was confused after having smoked opium for Dutch courage. Her confession is a reprise of “The Wages of Sin.”

The Rev. Mr. Crisparkle – Crisparkle was madly in love with Rosa’s mother, and he saw Rosa as a reincarnation of her. He murdered Drood so that he could marry Rosa, thinking her to be the woman he loved. This version of Crisparkle’s confession was introduced in the first national tour and has been used in all productions since. His confession is a reprise of “A Man Could Go Quite Mad” and “No Good Can Come From Bad” in the original Broadway production, later changed to “A British Subject.”

Durdles – After Jasper laid Drood in the crypt, Durdles believed the still-alive Drood to be a ghost and so smashed his head in. (Even Durdles admits the silliness of this motive within his solo, but laments that because he has been chosen, he must have one.) This solo was not used in the original Broadway production and was added for the first national tour. His confession is a reprise of “Off to the Races.”

Bazzard – In an effort to boost his role in the show, murders Drood. This is definitely the most metatheatrical of the endings. His confession is a reprise of “A Man Could Go Quite Mad” and “Never the Luck.”

“Bazzard is a fun role,” said Connell, who majored in musical theater at DeSales University in Center Valley (near Allentown). “He comes on and sings one song – ‘Never the Luck.’ Then, we all have one song at the end – if we get voted in.”

There are all sorts of clues throughout the play concerning who the murderer might be. Audience members take notes and play a role in the play’s final stages.

“Audiences like it,” said Connell. “It’s something different – something interactive. Audiences always live murder mysteries. Personally, I like when actors can go into the audience.”

Like most of the actors in the show, Connell has dual character roles — Phillip Baz and Bazzard. He also has dual overall roles.

“I’m also the props master,” said Connell, a sculptor, miniaturist and painter whose painting “Opening Night at the Candlelight” hangs in the theater’s lobby.

“I have posters hung in Victorian style around the dining area. Some are authentic show posters from the era, and some are parodies like ‘Rats’ instead of ‘Cats.’”

Connell is a true Candlelight veteran. He has performed in more than 40 shows at the comfortable dinner theater in Arden.

“This is my 12th year doing shows at Candlelight,” said Connell, from his home in Chichester.

Connell has returned to live in his childhood neighborhood – partly because of its proximity to the Candlelight Theater (five miles) and partly because it’s his home turf. He attended grade school at Holy Saviour in Marcus Hook (which closed in 2015) and high school at Cardinal O’Hara in Springfield.

“My first show was ‘Miss Saigon’ in 2012. My favorites are ‘Young Frankenstein’ and ‘The Producers.’ ‘Into the Woods’ is another big favorite of mine.”

The Candlelight Theatre is presenting “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” now through April 21. Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings (doors 6 p.m./show, 8 p.m.) and Sunday afternoons (doors, 1 p.m./show, 3 p.m.). Tickets, which include dinner and show, are $63 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

On March 21, Candlelight Comedy Club will present a show with Brad Wenzel and Jason Salmon as co-headliners. The emcee duties will be handled by Katrina Braxton.

The show will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 at the door and include complimentary light snacks. A cash bar is available.

The inaugural Philadelphia Organ Festival (www.PhillyOrganFestival.org), which opened on March 15, is coming down the home stretch and Longwood Gardens will be the site of the event’s final concert.

On March 22, Longwood Gardens will host the final evening performance and penultimate event of the Festival with a concert by Alcée Chriss III in the Ballroom.

“Longwood Gardens is just an iconic spot,” said Walthausen. “We have a lot of churches but not too many gardens. Longwood has a great organ in a greenhouse – and it’s a fun place to visit.”

“Romance in the Garden: Franck and Rachmaninoff at Longwood” will feature a string ensemble joining organist Alcée Chriss III, who will be performing on a 1930 Aeolian.

Winner of both the Canadian International Competition and the Miami International Competition, Chriss delights in this concert featuring original transcriptions for organ and chamber ensemble. The audience will hear music from César Franck’s great masterwork, “the Symphony in D Minor” along with excerpts from Rachmaninoff’s vivid “Symphonic Dances,” which was premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1941.

In July 2019, Dr. Chriss, who won the Firmin Swinnen Prize at the 2016 Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition, was appointed as University Organist and Artist-in-Residence at Wesleyan University, where he teaches courses in organ and keyboard skills.

The full program at Longwood Gardens includes: Sergie Rachmaninoff – Symphonic Dances, Op. 45: I. Non-Allegro; Robert Schumann – Six Canonic Studies, Op. 56, No. 4 in A-Flat Major; Florence Price – Retrospection; Marcel Dupré – Symphonie-Passion op. 23, I. The World Awaiting the Savior; César Franck – Symphony in D Minor, M. 48: II. Allegretto; Percy Whitlock – Holiday Suite: I. Waltz in the Ballroom; Harold Arlen – Somewhere over the Rainbow; and Alexandre Guilmant – Symphony No.1, Op. 42: III. Final.

Video link for Longwood — https://youtu.be/hr_oJBmQzpw.

The show will start at 7 p.m.

Ticket prices are: Reserved Seating: $30; Gardens Preferred, Gardens Premium Members, and Innovators: $27; Seniors: $25; Students under 18: $10. Ticket includes all-day Gardens Admission.

“Longwood Gardens will have an amazing concert with Alcée,” said Walthausen. “It’s a varied program including some of his own transcriptions. It’s not every day you’re going to hear organ with an ensemble of instrumentalists.”

The Festival will wrap up with “Organ Day” at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts” (300 South Broad Street, Philadelphia) with organists Tyrone Whiting and Michael Barone performing on the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ (Dobson Organ Op. 76).

The Philadelphia Organ Festival’s final performance day on March 23 will include a special collaboration with The Philadelphia Orchestra and Ensemble Arts Philly’s Organ Day, which begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

John Walthausen, Philadelphia Organ Festival Artistic Director, and Jay Fluellen, Philadelphia Organ Festival Director, both accomplished artists, will perform a work for four hands. Organ Day is free to the public and features the incredible sounds of the dynamic Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ, the largest mechanical-action concert hall organ in the U.S.

Ensemble Arts Philly and The Philadelphia Orchestra present the 12th annual “Organ Day,” an all-day marathon of free organ music performed on the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ, which is the largest mechanical pipe organ in a concert venue in the United States.

Visitors will be able to experience jazz, classical, opera, and the unique experience of “Organ Pumps,” where audience members can lie on the Verizon Hall stage and feel the organ’s powerful vibrations.

On March 22, The Jackson Taylor Blues Co will headline a show at Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985,www.jameyshouseofmusic.com).

On Saturday night, live entertainment will be provided by The Dave Keys Band with special guest Benny Turner.

Each night, the show at Jamey’s House of Music will start at 8 p.m.

Jamey’s features either “Jazz at Jamey’s” or “Anything Goes” on Thursdays featuring the Dave Reiter Trio and occasional guest musicians.

“Jazz at Jamey’s” will be presented every second and fourth Thursday, and “Anything Goes” every first, third and fifth Thursday.

Every Sunday, Jamey’s presents “SUNDAY BLUES BRUNCH & JAM” featuring the Philly Blues Kings. On the second Sunday each month, the featured act is the Girke-Davis Project which features club owner Jamey Reilly, Roger Girke, Glenn Bickel, Fred Berman and Colgan-Davis.

Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, www.uptownwestchester.org) is presenting Young Dubliners on March 21, Tommy Froehlich on March 22 and Constantine Maroulis on March 23.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) is presenting Lizzie No on March 21, Highway Run on March 23 and the Dale Melton Trio on March 24.

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