It’s rare to be a part of a true once-in-a-lifetime experience. But on Sunday night, I was lucky enough to be in the audience for Disney’s Frozen live cabaret, featuring cast members of the animated hit singing songs from the film’s No. 1 soundtrack. Though the event was timed perfectly (and purposely) in the middle of Oscar voting to promote the movie’s two nominations, including one for Best Animated Feature, it was the music that owned the night.
Josh Gad, who voiced the snowman Olaf in the film, hosted the evening and joked that though he was happy for the film’s huge success, he was no longer getting live-action film offers any more. “Apparently Disney didn’t realize they have a concert hall named after them, so we’re here at this bat mitzvah venue,” the funny guy quipped about the intimate Bel Air venue. Gad said co-star Jonathan Groff – who was supposed to co-host – couldn’t attend because he was trying to boost the ratings for his HBO show Looking. Of course, he was again joking and said that Groff was actually sick. Though it doesn’t really matter since he only has one song in the film, “Reindeers Are Better Than People” – or, as Gad referred to it, “The only Disney song without a beginning, middle, or end.”
Kristen Bell began the performance by telling the audience that becoming a Disney princess was her dream since she was 5 years old and she still couldn’t believe that it had come true. Bell channeled that inner-5-year-old with an incredibly impressive performance of “Do You Want To Build a Snowman?” The actress voiced all three ages of her character Anna, sounding almost identical to the soundtrack and film, which featured director Jennifer Lee’s daughter Agatha Lee Monn and Katie Lopez, the daughter of songwriting team Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, as Bell’s younger selves.
While performing “For the First Time in Forever,” Tony winner Idina Menzel shared the stage with her cinematic sister and told the audience that, yes, they recorded in the studio together so they really do like each other in real life too. Menzel – who is in rehearsals for her new Broadway musical If/Then – introduced Santino Fontana, who voiced the complicated Prince “Charming” Hans. He and Bell really had fun with their duet “Love Is an Open Door,” seamlessly transitioning from their interaction onstage into the song’s opening notes. The cast had very little rehearsal time for the event – in fact, they only had a sound check earlier that day to prepare. It was the first time the cast had ever sung the songs live and the first time many had sung the songs at all since they recorded the soundtrack a year and a half ago.
Spotted in the audience were Glee stars Darren Criss and Jane Lynch, Sean Hayes, Corbin Bleu, Bell’s husband Dax Shepard, and Trey Parker, Gad’s director and Lopez’s collaborator on The Book of Mormon. Of course the husband and wife Lopez team was there, as well as directors Lee and Chris Buck and composer Christophe Beck, whose score was highlighted with a rousing “Frozen Suite” played by the live Frozen orchestra. The night also celebrated the 26th wedding anniversary of John Lasseter and his wife Nancy. The Pixar and Disney Animation COO was probably also celebrating the fact that Frozen has made more than $900 million in the box office globally. Gad claimed that Lasseter was trying to continue the success and re-release the film again with all the characters repurposed as Legos. Again, he was joking, but that would be awesome.
After Gad’s hilariously heartbreaking tune “In Summer,” Menzel again took the stage to perform the song that we had been eagerly anticipating all night and that every little girl has sung on YouTube: the Oscar-nominated “Let it Go”. Menzel had to restart the song after a lyric flub, saying “snow doesn’t bother me anyway” instead of “cold.” After laughing the first try off, Menzel completely knocked it out of the park, receiving a standing ovation at the end. I can’t see why they wouldn’t want her to repeat that performance at next month’s Oscars, though Demi Lovato sang the radio version, so it’s not guaranteed.
Though some sneaky audience members snapped some shots from the phones, photography of any kind wasn’t allowed. However, there was a video camera filming it all for Disney, so there is hope for fans that this once-in-a-lifetime experience will still be frozen in time. (UPDATE: And now, a clip of performance snippets and on-the-scene interviews.)
Watch a clip of Menzel singing: