On Thursday evening, about a half-hour before “Frozen” got underway at Citizens Bank Opera House, a little girl buoyantly sang “Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore” as she walked toward the theater, one arm slung around a friend’s shoulders.
During the subsequent performance of “Frozen,” very few of the youngsters in the audience held anything back.
They were mostly pre-teen girls, some of them in gowns, and it was clearly a special night for them. They erupted in joy and sang along at the end of Act 1 when Caroline Bowman, as Queen Elsa, belted out — consider this a content warning for parents weary of hearing this tune — “Let It Go.”
Very loosely based on “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen, the film version of “Frozen” was released a decade ago, then adapted into a Broadway musical that ran from 2018-20.
Within the universe of stage musicals Disney has mined from its animated blockbusters, “Frozen” sits somewhere between the sublime, game-changing inventiveness of Julie Taymor’s “The Lion King” (which premiered on Broadway in 1997 and is still running) and the formulaic, assembly-line cash grabs of “The Little Mermaid," “Aladdin," and “Beauty and the Beast."
Directed by Michael Grandage and choreographed by Rob Ashford, this touring production of “Frozen” does offer some moments of enchantment.
Bowman’s all-out rendition of “Let It Go” is not just a vocal but a visual stunner, complete with a lightning-quick costume change. (Finn Ross’s video design, Jeremy Chernick’s special effects, and the scenic and costume design by Christopher Oram add considerably to the production’s overall impact.) As sung by Bowman, “Let It Go” registers as a defiant declaration of independence and selfhood akin to Elphaba’s “Defying Gravity” in “Wicked.” (Bowman played Elphaba for a time on Broadway.)
But there are periods of filler in “Frozen." The musical gets off to a sluggish, exposition-heavy start before finding its groove, only to drag again with a protracted scene of labored whimsy involving trolls called the Hidden Folk at the top of Act 2.
Bowman is equally adept at conveying Elsa’s regal poise and her panicky vulnerability, while Lauren Nicole Chapman, as Elsa’s younger sister, Anna, projects a wiseacre, Eve Arden-ish charm. (That reference should illustrate just how far outside of “Frozen”’s target demographic I am.)
The orchestra was in fine form (Faith Seetoo is music director and conductor), and the songs by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez are expertly crafted, if seldom inspired, with a tendency to spell out the show’s themes a bit too baldly. Much the same is true of Jennifer Lee’s script.
“Frozen” takes place in the fictional Scandinavian kingdom of Arendelle, where sisters Elsa and Anna are princesses and playmates. But playtime is risky due to Elsa’s power to create ice and snow and to freeze people and objects.
Her inability to control that power scares her, and when it leads to an accidental injury for Anna, the sisters are kept apart for the rest of their upbringing. Elsa is given a pair of gloves to wear that somehow keep the whole freezing thing from happening. Um, OK.
Fast forward 10 years. Their royal parents have earlier perished at sea, and Elsa, now 21, is to be crowned queen. But her wayward powers again assert themselves, and Elsa decides to flee into the mountains. She is unaware that she has inadvertently frozen Arendelle into a state of “eternal winter."
As for Anna, she has been swept up in a whirlwind romance with Hans (Preston Perez), a prince from the Southern Isles. When Anna sets off to find her sister, she leaves Hans in control of the kingdom. The intrepid Anna meets Kristoff (Dominic Dorset), an iceman, and his reindeer, Sven, a life-size and wonderfully ungainly and loose-jointed puppet manipulated Thursday night by Collin Baja.
Just when you think Sven has cornered the market on adorability, onto the scene comes Olaf, a talking snowman (the skilled puppeteer is Jeremy Davis). The search party for Elsa is complete. Meanwhile, evil doings are afoot back in Arendelle.
Will the two sisters overcome the perils they face? Will they learn the meaning of true love along the way? Do you even need to ask?
It was fun to see and hear the thoroughly unjaded young spectators responding so vigorously to Thursday’s performance. (They ferociously booed the villain.) When it comes to “Frozen,” the kids in the audience are, in a way, part of the show — and when it comes to that power, I’m guessing they’d be reluctant to let it go.
Music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Book by Jennifer Lee. Directed by Michael Grandage. Choreographed by Rob Ashford. Presented by Broadway In Boston. At Citizens Bank Opera House. Through Nov. 12. Tickets start at $50. www.BroadwayInBoston.com