Spot On Productions Rose Theatre, Barton Peveril College, Eastleigh Anne Waggott
25 October 2023
“You’ve got to love a bit of Disney…” and this is indeed a lovely bit of Disney!
Unless you’ve been living inside an iceberg for the last few years, you’ve probably at least heard of Disney’s Frozen, thanks to ‘Let It Go’, even if you’ve not actually seen it – although if that’s the case, you could do much worse than take a trip to the Rose Theatre for Spot On Productions’ stunning Autumn Half Term show.
For the uninitiated, Frozen Jr is based on the 2018 Broadway and West End musical, bringing the magical world of Arendell vividly to life with all the much loved songs and characters, just in a shorter version. It’s the story of Princess Elsa and her sister, Princess Anna, revealing how the power of their emotional relationship, based on true love and acceptance, conquers all challenges thrown in their path (well, it is Disney – there has to be a happy ending, no spoilers there!).
Director Alick Leech, Musical Director Martin Bennetts and debut Choreographer Jemma Conner have overseen a youth production of the highest quality and of which they should be rightly proud. From the very first notes of the opening question “Do you wanna build a snowman…?”, I couldn’t stop smiling at the charm, characterisation, comical and emotive performances of the principal actors, as well as the delightful cameo performances within the ensemble.
Disney music is deceptive – you think it should be easy, but it most certainly is not! – and the entire cast cope admirably with the complex note intervals and timings, as well as the additional challenge of using mics. Occasionally the span is at the edges of their youthful voices’ range and power, but overall, their diction is excellent, meaning that the narrative is easy to follow, even if you don’t already know the story inside out. The choreography brings out the best from the entire company, suited to every ability and perfect for each musical number, with a special mention for the beautiful interpretation throughout by the Snow Chorus.
The roles of Anna and Elsa are iconic, so much so that Spot On Productions have divided the roles into two teams, the Blue and Red Teams; opening night was performed by the Blue Team, and they were simply superb. (I have no doubts at all that when it’s the Red Team’s turn, they will be equally magnificent!). There are three pairs of sisters at different ages (although the middle age pair are really there to link the youngest and ‘of age’ stages for each sister), and the chemistry of sibling relationship between each pair is palpable.
From the Blue Team, Maggie Basinger totally captures the reserved and sensitive essence of Little Elsa, the elder sister who possesses magical powers that are triggered by her emotions, resulting in her hiding herself away as a way to protect those she loves, and the ideal counterpart to her younger sister’s more outgoing mischievous and curious nature. Immy Perrin carries this through as the older Elsa, adding a regal sense of duty, angst at what her powers can do, and poignantly portraying the inner battle she faces every day, with a steely fortitude and tenacity. Her rendition of ‘Let It Go’ is absolutely one of the highlights of the show.
Esme Lang is simply stunning as Little Anna, full of charisma, energy and perfectly sharp timing – it was like watching the animated character come alive on stage, with every movement, gesture and facial expression full of purpose and intent. As Immy’s performance seems a natural aging of Elsa, so Hattie Funnell’s transition into the older Anna seems to be naturally organic. Like Esme, Hattie completely embodies Anna, with a charismatic, energetic and wonderful comic performance, full of musicality, making the role her own whilst remaining faithful to the original animated character. The chemistry between Hattie and Immy brings Anna and Elsa’s sisterly relationship to life in a delightful and moving way.
There is super support from the boys. Noah Clayton-Hart (Kristoff) and Kieran Tonks (Sven) make for a comically engaging partnership as the would-be-royal-ice-picker and his faithful reindeer companion, so much fun to watch! Kodie Carne is both charming and villainous as Hans, having an excellent rapport with Hattie in ‘Love Is An Open Door’ yet effortlessly turning on her in his quest for the throne of Arendell (again, no spoilers – it’s in the programme!). Jacob Calder has a natural aptitude for comedy and puppetry, and is a delight as he breathes life into Olaf the snowman.
With magnificent costumes, storybook scenery, wonderful backing music and atmospheric lighting enhancing the lively performances, this is a show full of energy, enthusiasm and joie de vivre, fully deserving of its opening night standing ovation. If you don’t want to be frozen out of such a heartwarming production, make sure you snap up the few remaining tickets for an evening of youthful Disney magic! Frozen Jr runs until Saturday 28 October, 7:30pm each evening with a 2:30pm Saturday matinee.