“Usually, this is not the crowd you’d want to see your first live show as a test audience,” Robert Lopez told me last night, his eyes scanning the packed Vibrato Grill Jazz Club, where scads of high-powered executives, celebrities, and bloggers had all turned out for Frozen Live, a one-night-only concert in Los Angeles devoted to the songs penned by Lopez (with his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez) for Disney’s current animated juggernaut.
He needn’t have worried. The front-runner to take home this year’s Oscar for Best Animated Film, Frozen’s cast is packed with nimble singing veterans, and most of them were in fine form at the microphone last night, including actors Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, and Josh Gad. (A sick Jonathan Groff wasn’t able to make it to the show; “He wanted to stay home and pump up the DVR numbers for Looking,” cracked Gad, who played emcee.) Both Gad and Menzel are Broadway veterans, so they turned in some typically terrific numbers; the real revelation was Bell, who’s more known for her sardonic wisecracks on Veronica Mars than for her Broadway-worthy pipes. When Bell took the stage to sing “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” adorably tackling even the little-kid part sung in the film by Lopez’s young daughter Katie, she was flawless and funny.
Menzel was a tad shakier: About a minute into belting “Let It Go,” which Gad introduced as “the song that every little girl in the world has sung on YouTube,” she asked for a do-over after biffing the crucial kiss-off line, “The cold never bothered me anyway.” Menzel had accidentally substituted the word “snow” for “cold” — ironically, she may be the only mother in the world who doesn’t have the lyrics to “Let It Go” tattooed permanently on her brain — and laughed, “A lot of little girls say, 'A cold never bothered me anyway.' But I'm not blaming the little girls for my screwup.” In any case, it meant that Menzel had to perform the song a second time, and the assembled audience (including Pixar head John Lasseter, Bell’s enthusiastic husband Dax Shepard, and Menzel’s former Glee castmates Jane Lynch and Darren Criss) certainly didn’t mind.
“We've never seen the songs in this context,” Lopez said afterwards, relieved by the reception. “It was super exciting. We heard brand-new arrangements of every song, and the original cast singing their hearts out live. It’s more akin to what a Broadway show might be, and it's a nice little test case of how the music might sound live.”
Anderson-Lopez confirmed that the two are currently in early talks with Disney about adapting Frozen into a Broadway musical — Disney chief Bob Iger touted its “franchise potential” during a call with analysts last week, and a sequel should be coming, too — but first, they’re focused on the Oscars, where a Best Original Song trophy for “Let It Go” could make Lopez the youngest EGOT winner ever, meaning he’s netted all four major awards, including a Tony (for composing the score to Avenue Q), a Grammy (for The Book of Mormon’s cast album), and an Emmy (Lopez copped a Daytime Emmy for his work on the show The Wonder Pets). Most pundits have “Let It Go” picked to win, although the category has seen some upheaval lately, as the nomination for minor ballad “Alone Yet Not Alone” was controversially rescinded. “It’s bizarre,” said Lopez. “I feel bad for anyone who didn’t get nominated as a result of that.” Still, Lopez wanted to make one thing clear: “To me, the success of this movie is bigger than any award. It's really landed with a lot of people.”
His wife concurred. “Every time I go on Facebook, I get these personal testimonials about how 'Let It Go' helped somebody through something really horrible,” said Anderson-Lopez. “People who have been molested, people who are dealing with cancer … there was a mother who said that her daughter has a terrible speech impediment, but when she sings 'Let It Go,' she doesn't have it anymore. I know this sounds so Hallmark-y and weird, but I'm so glad that the song is out there giving a hug to people who have dealt with fear or shame.”
And now, with the sing-along version of Frozen in theaters, Disney can hear “Let It Go” belted out by still-growing crowds; with $368 million in the till domestically, the film is expected to hit the billion-dollar mark worldwide. If they have any trouble getting there, Gad expects the studio to have a solution. “Our creative team will rerelease the film,” he joked, “repurposing all our characters as Lego figures.”