Disney Replaces Director of Broadway-Bound 'Frozen' Musical

Sarah Lee/ the Guardian/Sipa USA
Michael Grandage

Tony winner Michael Grandage reportedly will now stage the eagerly anticipated project, which despite the creative shakeup remains on track to bow in August 2017.

Looks like Disney's Frozen has a new director in place.

Following the exit early last month of the project's original director, Alex Timbers, sources with knowledge of the production say lauded Brit director Michael Grandage has now signed on to stage the Broadway-bound musical, bringing his regular design collaborator, Christopher Oram, as part of the package.

Grandage won the Tony Award for best direction of a play in 2010 for John Logan's Red, and was nominated two other times, for Frost/Nixon in 2007 and for The Cripple of Inishmaan in 2014.

His experience directing musicals on Broadway has been limited to the 2012 revival of Evita, with Elena Roger and Ricky Martin. However, Grandage has staged both musicals and opera in London, notably Grand Hotel in 2004, during his tenure as artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse; and a hit West End revival of Guys and Dolls the following year, with Ewan McGregor, Jane Krakowski and Douglas Hodge. Both those shows won Olivier Awards for outstanding musical production.

After making his film directing debut this year with the period drama Genius, which starred Colin Firth, Jude Law and Nicole Kidman, Grandage also is attached to direct a screen remake of Guys and Dolls for Fox.

Disney has not confirmed Grandage's hire and declined to comment on this story, but if the deal goes through, the Frozen gig would put him into partnership with the studio's theatrical division for the first time on a massive project that is widely expected to be another stage juggernaut for the company. The show is scheduled to join stablemates The Lion King and Aladdin on Broadway in spring 2018. Released in 2013, the film version of Frozen is the top-grossing animated feature of all time, with worldwide box office of close to $1.3 billion.

Prior to Broadway, the Frozen musical will play a tryout engagement at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, beginning performances in Aug. 2017. That timeline remains in place, despite the switch in directors after it became clear that Timbers' vision for the show was not what Disney had in mind.

A change in the director and key creatives of a major Broadway musical is not uncommon; Finding Neverland opened in New York in 2015 with an entirely different creative team from the original U.K. production, while Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will open next April with director Jack O'Brien stepping in for Sam Mendes, who staged the show in London.

The stage adaptation of Frozen features music and lyrics by the creators of the film score, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and a book by Jennifer Lee, who wrote and co-directed the movie. Taking the reins from previously announced designer Bob Crowley under the brewing deal, two-time Tony winner Oram would design sets and costumes for the show. Lighting is by prolific designer Natasha Katz, whose six Tonys include one for Disney's Aida, while as previously announced, Christopher Gattelli, a Tony winner for Disney's Newsies, is now on board as choreographer.

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, Frozen follows a princess named Anna on her journey across an icy landscape to find her estranged sister Elsa, whose dark powers have locked the kingdom in eternal winter. The movie also launched a chart-topping hit with the Oscar-winning song, "Let It Go." The show will feature that number as well as others from the movie and new songs by the husband-and-wife composing team.

It's an open secret on Broadway that Frozen will take up residence at the St. James Theatre, which is undergoing backstage renovations to accommodate the large-scale production's sets. However, like news of Grandage's involvement, which first appeared in The New York Post, plans for the Broadway venue have not been confirmed by Disney. Casting on the show also remains to be announced.

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