Comparing Broadway’s Frozen the Musical to Frozen – Live at the Hyperion

We were very fortunate on this trip to score great tickets to Broadway’s Frozen the Musical (from here on referred to as Broadway’s Frozen), which happened to be touring at Hollywood’s historic Pantages Theater during the time of our California visit. Broadway’s Frozen adapts the movie into an even more flushed out, two-hour spectacular, including some incredible practical stage effects and even some new songs.

Then there is Frozen – Live at the Hyperion (from here on referred to as Hyperion’s Frozen). This can be seen at Disneyland’s Hyperion Theater in California Adventure. It is a “free” play (included in the cost of your theme park admission) that is just under an hour. This adaptation of Frozen has been playing since 2016 and is completely separate from Broadway’s Frozen.

In a fun turn of events, we happened to be in California Adventure the day after we had enjoyed Broadway’s Frozen. I had already seen the Hyperion’s version a couple of times before on previous trips and had fond memories of it. Getting off our feet for an hour sounded magical at the time and we thought, what the heck? Comparing the two would be fun! How do the actors at Disneyland compare to the Broadway actors? Would the special effects be similar? How about Elsa’s transformation between her coronation outfit to her ice queen gown?

Had it really been worth the cost of the tickets to go see Broadway’s version when we could see the same story here?

Yes. Yes, it was. 100%.

Having seen them both back-to-back, it really isn’t fair to even write this article. It almost feels mean! But I am going to do it anyway, because I think other people might have the same train of thought we did.

The Stage before Broadway’s Frozen the Musical
The Stage before Frozen – Live at the Hyperion!

If you love Disney and Frozen, going to see the Broadway play is absolutely worth the cost. It is a stunning rendition of the story that moved both Adam and me. The Broadway-trained actors are spectacular – they are able to be both hilarious and dramatic on queue. Their singing is just out of this world amazing. The effects blew us away (this is before we saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child less than a week later, which is just a different league in terms of stage effects) and Elsa’s dress transformation was so smooth and effortless, my jaw dropped and tears came to my eyes. Everything about this production was sleek, well-choreographed, and professional. A lot of time and money was put into it to justify the ticket cost and we came out very happy customers.

Before getting into my thoughts on the Hyperion’s adaptation of Frozen, I want to preface all this by saying I had loved the Hyperion’s version the two previous times I had seen it. For a “free” play at Disneyland, it has its charm. It is a lovely break from the heat, especially when your feet are aching and you just want to sit for a while. That is what the Disneyland show is built for, so comparing it to Broadway really isn’t fair. In the context of this being a show in the middle of a theme park, it is actually very good. It’s just that… it is so easy to see all the flaws after watching such a spectacular version of the same story less than 24 hours before.

The Disneyland version condenses the story, instead of expanding it, which right of the bat puts it at a disadvantage – though an hour is a significant amount of time for a theme park show. Not everyone wants to be inside when there are numerous rides to ride and foods to food and experiences to experience outside the theater doors. The effects are clearly lower-budget, relying more on lighting and screen technology than practical effects that take hours and hours of rehearsal to perfect. Elsa’s dress transformation was rough. I had seen it go much better in the other times I had seen the play, but the actor accidentally got the dress hitched on something, so it wasn’t as smooth and seamless as it should have been.

This sounds so rude to say, but I actually fell asleep during the play. We had been out late watching Broadway’s Frozen and woken up very early to get to the park. After the first 30 or so minutes of not feeling wowed, I drifted off until the end of the play. It did manage to refresh me for the rest of the day at Disneyland, though, so that was a plus.

Everything about Hyperion’s Frozen is lower budget and that is honestly okay. It is phenomenal for something taking place inside a theme park, but in the context of theater, it is definitely rough around the edges. You can actually watch Hyperion’s Frozen online since there is no restriction about filming or taking pictures (or taking naps) during Disneyland shows. In fact, we were sitting next to someone who had a camera and tripod set up to film the show. It plays several times a day, every day of the week, so the actors are constantly rotating, but here is a link to a really nice recording of the play if you would like to check it out.

At the end of Broadway’s Frozen, fake snow rained down from the ceiling and it felt like that good old-fashioned Disney magic. It was the perfect end to a perfect play and a perfect experience. We can’t recommend going to see the play enough. Both children and adults will enjoy it immensely.

Snow falling at the end of Broadway’s Frozen

Adam and I couldn’t help but linger as the snow continued to fall, even as people left their seats around us. It was a wonderful immersion into a movie we already love so much and we were so grateful we had the opportunity to experience it in person.

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