West Bloomfield Native Stars in Broadway Adaptation of Disney’s Frozen

The musical adaptation of the iconic film is the fifth show of the 2023-24 Broadway in Detroit season.
Caroline Bowman as Elsa and Lauren Nicole Chapman as Anna. // Photograph courtesy of Frozen: The Hit Broadway Musical, Detroit Opera House

For the first time in what seems like forever, Disney’s Frozen: The Hit Broadway Musical brings the magic of the animated film to the Detroit Opera House now through Dec. 17, right in time for the holiday season.

The Broadway adaptation of the cultural phenomenon features 12 tour-exclusive songs created by the film’s original composers, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Fans of the film will find the new compositions a nice accompaniment to the movie’s original soundtrack, which is also featured in the stage production.

Showgoers of any age will enjoy Frozen’s special effects, costumes, set design, and seeing beloved characters including Anna, Elsa, Sven, Kristoff, and Olaf come to life on stage.

The stage production stays true to the plot of the film, emphasizing the power of familial bonds, love, and finding Hygge (pronounced hee-ga), a Norwegian term meaning comfortable, cozy as explained by the beloved shopkeeper character, Oaken of Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post.

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the animated film Frozen. Since its release in 2013, Frozen has touched the hearts of kids and adults alike with its impactful message about love, specifically the love between two sisters.

“We’re used to seeing true love depicted in an animated film as between a prince and a princess. In this story, it’s two women at the helm celebrating each other’s differences and raising each other up, which is what makes it so palpable,” says Lauren Nicole Chapman, who plays Anna in the current North American Tour of Frozen. She has been with the Broadway production since 2017, playing as Anna’s understudy and part of the ensemble.

Like Anna in the film, who is voiced by Jackson-native Kristen Bell, Chapman is also a fellow Michigander hailing from West Bloomfield.

A self-proclaimed “Disney kid,” Chapman says she enjoyed playing dress-up in her Disney princess costumes, watching The Lion King, and attending various theater shows with her mother and grandmother.

“They immersed me in theater and music as much as possible growing up. I definitely think they had a hand in the choice for this to become a career path,” she says.

While attending West Bloomfield High School, Chapman was cast as Belle in the school’s production of Beauty and the Beast, further encouraging her love for performing.

“This love for Disney has just carried me through. I never thought it possible that I would be playing a Disney princess, but here we are. I guess we can blame my family for fostering that love, but it’s a beautiful love to have,” she says.

Prior to Frozen’s opening night at the Detroit Opera House, we chatted with Chapman about the musical and the film, the holiday season, and more.

What’s it like to be part of the cultural phenomenon that is Frozen?

Lauren Nicole Chapman: It is a huge honor. It is certainly a responsibility that we don’t take lightly. People have fallen in love with the animated film. They’ve fallen in love with these characters, and what an honor it is for us to flesh out Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Sven, and all of these beloved characters on stage in such a big, beautiful, magical Broadway musical. It’s incredible.

You have to come and see it to feel that energy because it’s unlike any other show that I’ve been a part of. Again, it’s a huge responsibility since it is a lot of young people’s first time seeing and experiencing a Broadway show. It might ignite a spark in somebody to pursue a career in the arts, whether it be on stage or off, there are so many facets that are worth exploring. It’s been really magical.

What was your initial reaction to learning that Frozen was going to be made into a musical?

I fell in love with the animated film, and I certainly fell in love with Anna since the first time I saw her. I identified with her joy and her quirks. I knew I wanted to be a part of Frozen in some way. I’ve been with it since 2017, in some capacity, so it’s been a long and beautiful journey.

Was there a time where you wanted to play Elsa, or was it Anna or bust?  

For me, it was Anna or bust, but I do have to say I was just in love with Frozen as a whole. I started out as a part of the ensemble, so I think one of my biggest dreams in forging a career in musical theater was to originate a new Broadway musical, so that was certainly coming true for me with Frozen.

There was the bonus that I was the understudy for Anna at the time, as well. I got to see it all come to life, from the rehearsals and the way that they made sure certain things were true to the movie and certain things were true to the new stage version. It was an interesting process to be a part of, and of course, the added dream of being able to step into Anna’s shoes occasionally.

Was it a natural progression into ultimately playing Anna? From starting out as part of the ensemble, playing the understudy for Anna, and finally playing her.

I always felt pulled to Anna. There’s a lot of Lauren in Anna. I’m certainly drawn to her humor, joy, and optimism. I was with the Broadway company when we closed during the pandemic. I thought my journey with Frozen had finished. Then, about a year and a half ago, they called and said, “Would you like to come and play Anna on the tour?” I burst into tears because I hadn’t had closure with the show yet. I felt like I wasn’t finished with Anna yet, so the last year and a half has been a total dream come true.

What would your personal show-stopping moment out of the year and a half of playing Anna be?

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we were in a Broadway shut down, and to come back to this show, to burst out of the gates of Arendelle singing “For the First Time in Forever” — that hits so much harder than it ever did before. I may be biased because that’s Anna’s song, but I think it’s just so palpable. To say, “for the first time in forever, I’m getting what I’m dreaming of” as you’re running out of the gates of Arendelle is a feeling that’s unmatched.

Out of the original songs written specifically for the musical, which would you say is your favorite? 

When you’re with a show for so long, your favorite sort of shifts. My favorite currently is a new duet that was created just for the tour. It’s called “I Can’t Lose You.” The reason I love this song so much is that it’s a beautiful duet between Anna and Elsa. It’s the moment where people of all ages connect with Frozen.

I think we can all relate to the sentiment of “I can’t lose you” or “I don’t want to lose you,” whether that be with family members, friends, or chosen family. It’s this powerful moment between the two women in the show. Bobbi and Kristen Lopez have created such a beautiful song that depicts that so well.

I feel like that song is going to be a tear-jerker because, like you said, so many people can relate and connect to that sentiment of not being able to lose someone so important and precious to them.

That’s why our show touches the hearts of all ages. Of course, it’s a lot of young people’s first experience with the theater, and that’s something we don’t take lightly (but) I think the adults have been really surprised that they’ve been walking out with a tear in their eye, thinking, “That’s something I needed to hear today.” It’s very lovely to see that it’s bringing so much joy to people old and young alike.

This Thanksgiving, you performed in America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade here in Detroit. How did you react when you learned that you were going to perform? 

I jumped up and down and cried because I couldn’t believe that A) I get to bring a show that I love so much to my hometown to share with all the people that have supported me my entire life and career, and B) I get to celebrate the holiday with my family launching the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade. It felt crazy! I never thought that something like that would be possible.

So many Disney movies have been transformed into musicals, with Frozen being among the newest. If you had to choose the next movie to receive the musical treatment, which would you choose?

I would love to see Tangled on stage! I love the music from Tangled. I think that would make a great musical. I would also say Princess and the Frog. It’s a tie. The music is so iconic in Princess and the Frog, so either one of those.

As it’s the holiday season, do you have any fun holiday traditions you take part in when you’re home?

When I can and when I’m home on Christmas Eve, we always drive around and try to look at all the holiday lights in all the neighborhoods. We listen to Christmas music, and that’s always a lot of fun for me and my family. We watch a lot of movies and just snuggle up around the fire and enjoy being together.

What’s it like spending the holidays on the road?

We become a huge family on tour. We all try to take care of each other as much as we can. I know we’ve got a couple events coming up that are just for the cast to celebrate the holiday season. I’ve spent a couple Christmases with my good friend, Kate Bailey, also a Michigander who is here with the show. It’s special because we have created a family, and to be able to celebrate multiple holidays with a few of them has been incredible.

Have you brought any of your cast members who aren’t from Michigan to any spots around town?

I’m compiling my list to give to a few people as we speak. I am planning to show them around and give them a taste of Detroit.

Frozen: The Hit Broadway Musical will play at the Detroit Opera house through Dec. 17. Tickets start at $35 and are available for purchase on the Broadway in Detroit and Ticketmaster websites and in-person at the Detroit Opera House and Fisher Theatre box offices.