Filichia Features: Warm Your Theater with Disney’s Frozen JR.

Filichia Features: Warm Your Theater with Disney’s Frozen JR.

By Peter Filichia on January 31, 2019

It's true! It's true! Timothy Allen McDonald made it clear.

When he spoke at the Junior Theater Festival last week in Atlanta, more than 6,000 in the audience couldn't believe their good fortune.

They would be given the rare chance to stage a Junior Version of a musical while the "Senior Version" is still currently running on Broadway.

Yes, Disney's Frozen JR. is now available for licensing and performing. So last year's Best Musical Tony nominee can be this year's show for you.

Probably the vast majority of your students have for years been singing Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez's Oscar-winning "Let It Go." Even if your kids have already performed it in a revue, one lucky and talented girl will be able to sing it in its actual context in your production of Disney's Frozen JR.

At the festival, it was sung twice on Saturday. Each time, thousands upon thousands of kids, parents, teachers and chaperones either joined in or mouthed the words without missing a beat or a syllable.

The big surprise Saturday afternoon was that Caissie Levy, who plays Elsa eight times a week on Broadway, skipped a show just to come south and sing the anthem for them. Comparatively few at the festival had already seen her perform it live. That changed here.

On Broadway, this moment culminates in the biggest How-Did-They-Ever-Do-That "Oooooh!" - a split-second costume change for Elsa downstage center.

Perhaps just the thought of this super-quick change will discourage you from even considering the show. That brings us to Saturday evening's presentation, which included The Jeter Backyard Theater from Gibsonia, PA performing selections from Disney's Frozen JR.

Did anyone expect that the dress in which the girl entered would be torn off mid-number and a more glamorous one revealed?

Nevertheless, it was.

Here the theatergoers' How-Did-They-Ever-Do-That "Oooooh!" had to be partly the result of their assuming they wouldn't see it. And yet, Jeter Backyard proved it can be done. So don't let this seemingly impossible task deter you.

Another thrill for the crowd was the panel discussion about the genesis of Disney's Frozen. Both Lopezes were interviewed by expert moderator Thomas Schumacher, president and producer of Disney Theatrical Group.

The songwriting team - each collaborates on both music and lyrics -- told so many fascinating stories about their adventures with the film and the stage musical.

That lyric in "Love Is an Open Door" that mentions the eating of sandwiches? It actually came to the couple when they were at their favorite bagel bakery doing just that.

Early in the development process, the writers had Elsa be more of an out-and-out, blue-haired villain. She actually kidnapped sister Anna and froze her heart with a little help from her friend Olaf. Olaf instead thankfully became an adorable snowman.

Elsa originally warbled a song called "I Want You to Be Cool with Me." Anderson-Lopez told us just before she and her husband sang it at the festival that it had only been heard in public once, and that on an Alaskan cruise.

Fitting, isn't it, that a song from a musical with "Frozen" in its title should debut in the nation's coldest state?

And yet, many a song is written only to have its songwriters or someone else maintain that a better or more apt one is needed. Rocket scientists aren't the only ones who must return to the drawing board. Hence it was dropped.

Only Scrabble champions may have noticed that the show's "Wandering Oakens" is an anagram of "Naked Norwegians"? Lest anyone who hasn't seen the Broadway show assume that actors do romp around the St. James stage in birthday suits, the songwriters hastily added that body stockings are used in abundance.

Some may have already known that Katie Lopez, the songwriting team's older daughter, recorded Young Anna for the 2013 film, but many might not have known that she sang it for the demo recording - and was paid with vanilla wafers.

Katie and Annie Lopez then emerged to sing their parents' hit song, "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?"

The Lopez children are around the same age as many of the middle-schoolers who attended the festival. If they can do it, so can your kids. Anyone who doesn't seize the chance to do a show as current as Disney's Frozen JR. is all wet.

Read more Filichia Features .


You may e-mail Peter at Check out his weekly column each Monday at and Tuesday at . He can be heard most weeks of the year on