How 'Frozen' has changed from screen to stage, including Elsa's brand-new power ballad

Gwynne Watkins
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Caissie Levy as Elsa, Patti Murin as Anna, and Jelani Alladin as Kristoff. (Photo: Andrew Eccles/Disney Theatrical Group)

Composers Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez break down new moments and songs film fans will see in Broadway musical, plus give an update on the status of the sequel.

When Yahoo Entertainment called Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez to talk about their Oscar-nominated Coco song “Remember Me,” the songwriters first had to find a quiet corner — because they were in a tech rehearsal for Broadway’s Frozen (in previews now). For the stage adaptation, the frequent Disney collaborators wrote 12 new songs to be performed alongside those from the 2013 film, including the megahit that won them their first Oscar for Best Original Song, “Let It Go.”

Between Broadway rehearsals and Oscar luncheons, the married songwriting team is also working on a score for the Frozen sequel, about which little has been revealed beyond a release date (November 2019) and the return of voice actors Kristen Bell (Anna), Idina Menzel (Elsa), Josh Gad (Olaf), and Jonathan Groff (Kristoff). The Lopezes were not at liberty to share story details of Frozen 2. They did, however, discuss the themes and ideas that keep them coming back to Arendelle. “I think all of us have patterns that get solidified in early childhood that we spend our whole lives working out,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez said, referencing Frozen’s sibling heroines.  “I think that’s in the zeitgeist with This Is Us right now too. Our stories are always connected to the past.” The songwriters also talked to Yahoo Entertainment about what to expect from Frozen’s Broadway debut. “We put so much love and so much new depth into this thing,” said Bobby Lopez. “I really can’t wait to share it.”

Jelani Alladin as Kristoff and Andrew Pirozzi as Sven. (Photo: Deen van Meer/Disney Theatrical Group)

Yahoo Entertainment: Do you want to talk about Frozen on Broadway, or are you too in the weeds with it?
Kristen Anderson-Lopez: We can talk about it. I talked about it all day yesterday! I had a press junket for four hours yesterday.

Can I guess what three questions you answered over and over again?
Kristen Anderson-Lopez: [Laughs] “How do you feel about taking Frozen to Broadway?” I can say, “It’s really extraordinary. It’s wonderful.” Because when we were writing Frozen, we were chasing a moving target. The story was constantly changing, and we were just writing songs hoping they would stick and land on something that wasn’t going to change. And the whole thing came together at the very last moment. We were literally writing “Fixer Upper” in July. And the movie had to be done by August. This time we have the luxury of a story that has proven itself to resonate, that we can just deepen and make so much more emotional and sophisticated and much more adult and psychological. Bobby, do you want to add to that? Because I talked about this for four hours yesterday while he was in rehearsal.
Bobby Lopez: We’ve added so many new songs to this thing. And I’ve been getting reacquainted with them after some time away from it, and we just put some of them down on tape to share with people before the show goes into previews. And I’m falling in love with it again. There’s so much new stuff. We put so much love and so much new depth into this thing, I really can’t wait to share it. 

Watch Caissie Levy as Elsa sing the new power ballad “Monster” from the Frozen Broadway musical:

When you were writing the new songs, did you learn anything about any of the characters that surprised you?
Kristen Anderson-Lopez: Heck, yeah. We learned so much more about Anna and what’s underneath this need for true love, this idea, and how sometimes childhood patterns can manifest in making bad decisions as adults. I think we learned a lot about Kristoff, because Kristoff only gets to sing half a song in the movie. And so we’ve learned a lot about, when are moments that Kristof can sing, and when are moments that it feels wrong?
Bobby Lopez: We wrote a song in Act I for the two of them that we really could sing to each other. It’s like a traveling song where they go up the mountain and they save each other from a treacherous ice bridge, all the while bickering back and forth. It’s a Tracy-Hepburn kind of moment. And Kristen and I, it’s gonna be in our cabaret one day. [Laughs]

Jelani Alladin as Kristoff and Patti Murin as Anna. (Photo: Deen van Meer/Disney Theatrical Group)

Is there a moment you can reveal that you are really excited to see in the production for the first time?
Kristen Anderson-Lopez: Bobby and I probably have different answers. This fall we finally found the right ending, and I’ve never seen it in front of an audience before, but it makes me cry every time, and I’m really excited to see it. I’ve only seen it teched once. How about you, Bobby?
Bobby Lopez: We took a song for Kristoff — it’s a reprise of the same song I just mentioned before, but Kristof sings it as a solo when they finally learn Anna is freezing to death. In Denver [where the show premiered], it was sort of a ballad where he comes out and just sings it. And now we’ve placed it in this moment of, they’re trying to save her and time sort of stops, and he sings it. I’m really excited to see how that changes the moment. I think it’s going to really work much better.

Are you guys officially attached to Frozen 2?
Kristen Anderson-Lopez: We are. And we have written some songs. And we are working with Jennifer Lee, our co-writer on Frozen Broadway. And it is going well. And that’s, I guess, what I’m allowed to say!
Bobby Lopez: Yeah, we’re excited. It’s again a deepening, and a return to characters we love who, when we put it out the first time, it definitely got embraced by the world, and they made what they were going to make of it. And now we get to return to it and clarify and deepen what we’ve been trying to say with it.

The original Broadway cast: John Riddle as Hans, Caissie Levy as Elsa, Patti Murin as Anna, Jelani Alladin as Kristoff. (Photo: Andrew Eccles/Disney Theatrical Group)

Now that you’ve been through the movie and this Broadway adaptation, and now another film — what is it that keeps you coming back to these characters and this story?
Kristen Anderson-Lopez: Well, they are like a weird version of our own kids by this point. Not that they are like our kids, because our kids are very different individuals, but meaning they were birthed by us, and we’ve been raising them and nurturing them and taking them on these journeys. And I think there’s still a lot to say about — I think all of us have patterns that get solidified in early childhood that we spend our whole lives working out. We spend our whole lives having to toggle back and forth to these moments of trauma and look at the patterns and look at where they came from so that we can move forward in our own adult lives to the next chapter and the next chapter. I think that’s in the zeitgeist with This Is Us right now too, and in Coco also, that we are not our stories in the moment; our stories are always connected to the past.
Bobby Lopez: The people that precede us too. They’re not just our pasts — it’s our relatives’ pasts and the pasts of our countrymen and all that stuff. It all precedes us, and it all predates us.
Kristen Anderson-Lopez:  And I think that’s something we’re all talking about. And also just, from a feminist point of view, the fact that there’s a movie with two female protagonists and it’s not about their romantic connections — yes, there’s romance in it, but these are two three-dimensional women with faults who make bad choices, and that’s OK. We’re following them, and they aren’t always talking about a man, and so few movies pass the Bechdel test. That’s another reason why I will always be there if Anna and Elsa need a song.

I remember seeing Moana and realizing she never even talks about falling in love, and thinking that Frozen opened the door for that.
Kristen Anderson-Lopez:  I think Disney sure saw that there’s a bottom line that is good when you tell stories about women, for women, that aren’t always about “the prince is going to come and kiss me.”

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