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Edited and Published by Robert W. McDowell

September 15, 2022 Issue
PART 9 (September 16, 2022)

A FREE Weekly E-mail Newsletter Covering Theater, Dance, Music, and Film in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill/Carrboro Area of North Carolina Since April 2001.


Disney's Frozen at DPAC Is Fun for the Whole Family

Caroline Bowman stars as Elsa in Disney Frozen at the Durham Performing Arts Center (photo by Deen van Meer)

There's nothing quite like the magic of a Disney movie. However, when you take that magic and put it on a huge stage, with cool special effects and skilled performers, you get something even better. In the case of the Durham Performing Arts Center's latest production, that "something" is Disney's Frozen. The show, which is, of course, based on the smash-hit 2013 Disney film, has won 16 Tony Awards®; and it's certainly easy to see why. Snow, sparkling costumes, and sensational songs combine to bring the world of Elsa and Anna to life and spark joy in viewers of all ages.

Just in case you've been living "on the mountain," the current national tour of Frozen tells the tale of two royal sisters living in a fictional kingdom called Arendelle. They start out as close pals; but older sister, Elsa, has a magical, freezing power that she can't quite control. And, out of fear, her parents urge her to isolate from Anna, fracturing their relationship.

The Durham Performing Arts Center will present Disney Frozen on Sept. 14-18 and 20-25 and Sept. 27-Oct. 2 (photo by Deen van Meer)

But when their parents pass away, Elsa is thrust into the role of queen and has to come to terms with her power. As is customary with a Disney story, there are lots of songs, talking creatures, and a little bit of romance thrown into the mix. What makes this story stand out, however, is its empowering feminist-tinted message of self-love, which comes through both in the film and onstage. In fact, this is one show that parents can feel good about taking their little ones to ... though it's just as enjoyable for the adults.

Viewers young and old and in-between are treated to a talented cast, belting out the hit songs from the film, as well as a few new additions. And, speaking of talented performers, no one could upstage the young girls who played the childhood versions of Anna (Saheli Khan) and Elsa (Sydney Elise Russsell) at Thursday's opening-night performance. Their playful energy and cute chemistry made them believable sisters from the start. Khan, in particular, stands out for her exuberance and comedic timing, whereas Russell nails her character's more emotional moments. And, when the girls transform into their adult counterparts, portrayed by Lauren Nicole Chapman as Anna and Caelan Creaser, subbing for Caroline Bowman, as Elsa, the transition is seamless; and the characters remain just as lovable.

The Durham Performing Arts Center will present Disney Frozen on Sept. 14-18 and 20-25 and Sept. 27-Oct. 2 (photo by Deen van Meer)

Chapman creates an Anna that is sweet, bubbly, and helplessly naïve while still being incredibly endearing, and Creaser makes for an impressive, just-the-right-amount-of-intimidating Elsa. Other cast standouts include Dominic Dorset's uber-charming portrayal of Kristoff and Jeremy Davis as the always adorable Olaf. Davis does double-duty, voicing and controlling the snowman character; and he also delivers some of the script's funniest lines with perfect aplomb.

Aside from the gifted cast, this production outdoes itself in terms of visual appeal. There are "frozen fractals," transforming dresses, and effects so real that children (and maybe a few adults) were left gasping, squealing, and completely mesmerized. In particular, Elsa's pivotal transformation, in which viewers finally see the famed blue dress from the cartoon, is especially riveting. Add all this to Rob Ashford's bouncy, joy-infused choreography and Michael Grandage's precise direction, and you've got a clear winner.

Unlike some Disney-films-turned-Broadway-shows, Frozen doesn't feel dragged out or dragged down. Instead, it moves quickly and remains engaging at every turn. It's a perfect pick for a first Broadway experience, but also a nice pick-me-up for anyone who needs a healthy dose of childlike wonder in their life.

The Durham Performing Arts Center will present Disney Frozen on Sept. 14-18 and 20-25 and Sept. 27-Oct. 2 (photo by Deen van Meer)

Disney's FROZEN (In Person at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16-18 and 20-25 and Sept. 27-Oct. 2), with music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez and book by Jennifer Lee's, based on the 2013 animated Walt Disney Pictures musical fantasy, which was inspired by "The Snow Queen," an 1844 Danish fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen, directed by Michael Grandage and associate director Adrian Sarple, choreographed by Rob Ashford and associate choreographers Sarah O'Gleby and Charlie Williams, and presented as part of Truist Broadway at DPAC, and starring Caroline Bowman as Elsa, Lauren Nicole Chapman as Anna, Dominic Dorset as Kristoff, Will Savarese as Hans, Jeremy Davis as Olaf, Tyler Jimenez as Pabbie, Evan Duff as Weselton, Michael Milkanin as Oaken, Collin Baja as Sven at certain performances, Dan Plehal as Sven at certain performances, Aria Kane as Young Anna at certain performances, Saheli Khan as Young Anna at certain performances, Mackenzie Mercer as Young Elsa at certain performances, Sydney Elise Russsell as Young Elsa at certain performances, Belinda Allyn as Queen Iduna, Kyle Lamar Mitchell as King Agnarr, and Brit West as Bulda, and Caelen Creaser as the Head Handmaiden, plus an Ensemble including (in alphabetical order) Alicia Albright, Belinda Allyn, Caelen Creaser, Colby Dezelick, C.K. Edwards, Michael Everett, Natalie Goodin, Tyler Jimenez, Tatyana Lubov, Adrianna Rose Lyons, Robin Masella, Michael Milkanin, Kyle Lamar Mitchell, Caleb Summers, Daniel Switzer, Zach Trimmer, Brit West, and Peli Naomi Woods and Swings Kristen Smith Davis, dance captain Dustin Layton, Tony Neidenbach, assistant dance captain and fight captain Jessie Peltier, Brian Steven Shaw, and Natalie Wisdom (Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham). DIGITAL PROGRAM: TRAILERS: and DPAC NEWS RELEASE: 2022-23 TRUIST BROADWAY AT DPAC SEASON: THE PRESENTER/VENUE:,,,, and DIRECTIONS: PARKING: DPAC COVID-19 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: THE TOUR:,,,,,, and TOUR CAST: TOUR CREATIVE TEAM: ENRICHMENT MATERIALS: LESSON PLANS: THE SHOW:,,, and TICKETS: $28.50 and up, plus taxes and fees. Call 800-982-2787 or click here to buy tickets. GROUPS (10+ tickets): 919-680-2787,, and INFORMATION: 919-680-2787 or Kurt Benrud's Review.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh's Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. She is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read more of Susie Potter's writings, click,, and


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