Long before they were cast as the two sisters who drive the plot of Disney’s Frozen in the new touring production of the musical, Caroline Bowman and Caroline Innerbichler were fans of the wildly popular movie that inspired it. Bowman, in fact, who will play ice queen Elsa on the tour — set to launch November 10 at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady, New York, then open at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, where performances begin December 4 — had a bit role in the 2013 animated film.
“I took part in recording the movie,” recalls Bowman, who was appearing on Broadway in Kinky Boots at the time. “My musical director asked me, ‘Would you come and sing in the ensemble for this Disney movie? You’re going to be a troll.’” Hence, Bowman’s mighty voice wound up in the chorus featured on the song “Fixer Upper.” “It was wildly exciting to even be a small part of it. I have friends and family who love the movie; one of my girlfriends even sang ‘Love Is an Open Door’ with her husband at their wedding.” Bowman’s own husband, Austin Colby, will perform that song with Innerbichler in this touring production, which casts him as Hans, Anna’s ultimately unreliable love interest.
Innerbichler, who will play Elsa’s feisty ever-loyal sibling, Anna, remembers running out to see the film upon its release, “because it was another Disney musical, and I grew up watching The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas — the list goes on. And I’ll never forget that when the character of Anna arrived on screen, all my friends turned and looked at me. I was doing Fiddler on the Roof at the time and wearing braids for the show, and they all said, ‘Caroline, that’s you.’”
Not even six years later, the two women are preparing to bring the stage adaptation — which opened on Broadway in March 2018, starring Caissie Levy as Elsa and Patti Murin as Anna — to audiences across North America. Innerbichler says that she and Bowman forged an instant bond during their final callbacks: “We had this unspoken understanding right away. She gave me this look before we did a scene together that said ‘I got you,’ and I gave her that look too. I feel so supported and safe around her.”
That sense of trust and fellowship is crucial, Bowman notes, because “Anna and Elsa help each other tell each other’s stories. Anna is so forward with her love, whereas Elsa doesn’t know how to show her love because she’s been told her whole life to conceal everything about her. Her powers aren’t seen as a good thing, but Anna is fighting all the time for her sister, even as others tell her she can’t. Both of them prove that they will do anything for each other, and that they can stand on their own and not let anything get in their way.”
For Bowman, playing a strong, complicated, misunderstood woman — whose songs include a signature showstopper — isn’t much of a stretch: Her previous roles on Broadway and in touring productions include Elphaba in Wicked and Eva Perón in Evita. Still, Bowman admits she was a bit nervous about doing justice to “Let It Go” until she got some advice from Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who wrote the music and lyrics with husband Bobby Lopez. “She told me to just sing the words and listen to what they’re saying. ‘Just think of Elsa building the ice castle of her dreams, finally free of the burden of this secret she’s held with her, standing on that mountain and singing to the rooftops.’ That truly made a huge difference.”
Innerbichler related immediately to Anna. “On the surface she seems scatterbrained and a little ADHD, which I totally am,” she says. The actress, whose many regional credits include the roles of Liesl in The Sound of Music, Sandy in Grease, and Ariel in The Little Mermaid, notes, “Anna’s sense of humor is very similar to my own. It’s often self-deprecating; she doesn’t take herself too seriously. But her driving force is her commitment to herself and her sister, her desire to know that Elsa is protected and loved. Even when her sister does things that may be misconstrued as monstrous, Anna never gives up on Elsa’s goodness.”
Innerbichler adds, “It’s really important to me that rather than being saved by a man, these two women save each other, and themselves. You can tell it’s a story written by women,” including the librettist and original screenwriter, “and there’s a beautiful sense of autonomy in both the sisters’ stories.”
Bowman agrees. “I think these characters are quite wonderful role models, not only for kids but for adults as well,” she says. “It’s truly a magical show. I was blown away when I saw it, and now I can’t wait to blow other people away.”
Photo by Matthew Murphy.