The hometown actor has returned as a genuine stage star.
Caroline Innerbichler, who practically grew up onstage in the Twin Cities, triumphs as one of the leads in Disney's "Frozen: The Musical," which finally had its much postponed, comeback-from-COVID opening Saturday at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis.
True, the audience had her back, applauding the Eagan native's entrance and swooning at her first number, "For the First Time in Forever." Delivered with joy, the number was as much about her character coming out of icy isolation as it was about theatergoers gathering again — masked and vaccinated — in a 2,600-seat auditorium.
Innerbichler proved that she is worthy of such warmth and adulation with a witty and gorgeous performance that tickles the funny bone and touches the heart.
Anna, the character she plays, is an atypical Disney princess — a self-described "tornado in pigtails" who can be her quirky, genuine self as she's the spare to the real heir, sister Elsa.
But with her self-effacement and just-little-ol'-me attitude, Innerbichler made Anna less a stuffy princess than a regular Minnesotan.
Innerbichler is part of a large and capable cast, playing the comic foil to Caroline Bowman's Elsa, who has the unfathomable gift of turning things to ice. That power causes unintended injuries and ultimately gets Elsa labeled — and hunted — as a monster.
Elsa, taught from an early age to "conceal, don't feel," is constrained both by her gift, which must remain a secret, and her role. That explains many of Bowman's artistic choices and her restrained singing, which occasionally sounded a touch flat early in Saturday's performance.
But she found her footing, and was at her best when belting with passion and power. She brought down the house with both her voice, and a bit of magic, on "Let It Go."
"Frozen," based on the 2013 Disney film and composed by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez and directed briskly by Michael Grandage, has awesome spectacles. Scenic designer Christopher Oram's icy worlds and Jeremy Chernick's special effects are transporting.
The spirited and adept orchestra, conducted by Faith Seetoo, works tightly with the lights and design to make the show arresting.
And the company delivers in-the-moment performances. Standouts include Austin Colby, who plays the charming prince Hans, and Mason Reeves as the smelly but genuine ice merchant Kristoff, who falls into Anna's eyes. Investing Hans with oodles of charm and a regret about being the 13th son of a king, Colby does very little foreshadowing about this mysterious prince.
Reeves' Kristoff is more an open book — a simple, sincere figure who wears his heart and intentions on his sleeve.
This being a Disney show, it has compelling animated figures. Sven, Kristoff's reindeer companion (Collin Baja alternates with Evan Strand in the costume), shows a lot of human emotion. And snowman Olaf (manipulated by F. Michael Haynie) is clever and cute.
The show also has elements of alluring mystery, including the lit eyes of mountain folks and the crackling of ice. Such design of sound and sight adds to the sense of escapist fun.
If "Frozen" is based on fairytale tropes — the two sisters are like those in "Wicked" — the ending is different. Elsa, our ice queen, does not melt like a witch. Instead, the sisters come together in care and understanding.
It's an entertaining twist on an age-old, if tired, formula.
'Disney's Frozen: The Musical'
Who: Music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Book by Jennifer Lee. Directed by Michael Grandage.
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.
When: 7:30 p.m. Tue.-Thu. 8 p.m. Fri., 2 & 8 p.m. Sat., 1 & 6:30 p.m. Sun. Ends Oct. 20
Protocol: Proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test.
Tickets: $40-$95. 1-800-982-2787 or hennepintheatretrust.org.