It all started with the film Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory. When my six-year-old self saw it for the first time I couldn’t get over the fact that singing was part of the story. Coming from a tone-deaf family, it seemed crazy…but I loved it.
After that, there was no stopping me. There were animated Disney classics like The Jungle Book, The Aristocats and Lady And The Tramp plus live-action movies such as The Wizard Of Oz, Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Annie, Oliver!, Bugsy Malone and The King and I.
If films were better than real life, then films with people bursting into song at the drop of a hat were ten times better than real life! This feeling stayed with me through The Producers, Rocky Horror, The Blues Brothers and (on TV) The Singing Detective and even that musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
But then, for some reason, when I hit my 30s, the music died. I kept trying but Les Mis? Made me miserable. Mamma Mia? Do me a favour. Chicago? Chica-no! I put away childish things, swapped Radio 1 for Radio 4 and stopped humming along to life. With two young children to look after, toe-tapping seemed a bit, well, frivolous.
The kids are a bit bigger now – six and ten. The perfect ages in fact to experience Sing-a-long-a Frozen. And I wondered – would it put a spring in my step and a song in my heart too? Could it re-awaken the jazz hands that had lain dormant all these years?
For the purposes of this review let’s assume you’re all familiar with the CGI juggernaut that is Disney’s Frozen (the fifth biggest film of all time and the biggest animated film of, like, ever). So why should you part with your hard-earned dosh to watch the flippin’ thing yet again? Well, the ‘Sing-a-long-a’ version differs from a usual run-of-the-mill screening in a variety of ways.
The first thing is the fancy dress. The crowds tipping out of the Metro at Salford’s MediaCity and thronging towards The Lowry were uncharacteristically turquoise (Elsa outnumbered Anna 99 to 1) while a fair few babies and toddlers had plumped for Olaf (if you long to stand out in a crowd, go as Sven the reindeer – he seemed deeply unpopular outfit-wise).
The second main difference is the interactive element. Yes, the words to each and every song appear on-screen as they are sung, karaoke-stylee, but the Sing-a-long-a experience is more than just that.
Twenty minutes before the movie was due to start, our host – who introduced herself as Oaken the shopkeeper’s cousin – appeared on stage. She took us through the props in the goody-bags on our chairs: the clacker was to rattle every time things got chilly, the paper crown was to be worn at Elsa’s coronation and, er, the balloon? The balloon was a troll, silly. We also learnt some pantomimey cheers and jeers to shout as various characters appeared on screen. She then introduced us to ‘Anna’ and ‘Elsa’ – two lasses who could certainly hold a tune – who took to the stage in full princess finery, as they would for every main musical number in the film.
And so it began. It’s a safe bet that almost everyone in the jam-packed theatre had seen Frozen before, probably on numerous occasions, but this didn’t dampen enthusiasm for the film. We booed, we hissed, we clacked our clackers and waggled our balloons. A snow machine sent a gentle drift of bubbles floating down from the ceiling. I even mouthed the words to most of the songs. And then it dawned on me – the stars of the show are not the bobble-headed doe-eyed characters on screen. Neither are they the three actors who take to the stage before, during and after the screening. The real stars of this show are the audience. The mums and the grans but, mostly, the little girls who are singing their hearts out, totally caught up in the moment.
Hearing a couple of hundred earnest, reedy-voices joining in with Let It Go is guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye. If it doesn’t, you must have a shard of ice in your heart put there by Elsa herself.
Nell’s verdict (aged six): “I loved it. It was better than a normal movie because no-one told you to shush and the lady [the host] was very funny.”
Lily’s verdict (aged ten): “It was really good because instead of just singing along there were people at the front and a goody bag to use. But there could have been a bit more snow.”
Jo’s verdict (aged 40): “Guaranteed to put a spring in your step and a song in your heart (not really for dads ’n’ lads, more for mum-chums and their gals).”
By Jo Dearden
NB: Sing-a-long-a Frozen runs for 2 hours and 30 minutes (including a 20 minute interval). The recommended age for optimum enjoyment is 5+.
Rating out of five:
Where: The Lowry, Manchester
When: March 8, 2015 at 11am & 2.30pm
More info: www.thelowry.com/event/singalonga-frozen
For the latest list of all tour dates, visit: www.singalonga.net/frozen
View a video that gives you a flavour of the performance here