Disney Replaces Director of Broadway-Bound 'Frozen' Musical

Sarah Lee/ the Guardian/Sipa USA
Michael Grandage

Disney has confirmed Tony winner Michael Grandage will now stage the eagerly anticipated project, which despite the creative shakeup remains on track to bow at the St. James Theatre in spring 2018.

Disney's Frozen has a new director in place.

Following the exit early last month of the project's original director, Alex Timbers, 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 Merrily We Roll Along in 2000 and Grand Hotel in 2004, during his decade-long tenure as artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse; and a hit West End revival of Guys and Dolls in 2005, with Ewan McGregor, Jane Krakowski and Douglas Hodge. All three of 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. In 2012, he founded the Michael Grandage Company, staging West End productions including Photograph 51 with Kidman, Henry V with Jude Law, Peter and Alice with Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw, and The Cripple of Inishmaan with Daniel Radcliffe, which transferred to Broadway.

Disney confirmed Grandage's hire a few days after the news broke in The New York Post. The Frozen gig puts 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 new deal, two-time Tony winner Oram will 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 had long been an open secret on Broadway that Frozen would take up residence at the St. James Theatre, which is undergoing backstage renovations to accommodate the large-scale production's sets — Disney also confirmed that venue Tuesday. Casting on the show remains to be announced.

Sept. 27, 5:30 a.m. Updated with confirmation of Grandage's hire and Broadway theater location.