June 29, 2024

Nature and Norway

When Disney Theatrical Group decided to adapt the animated film Frozen for the Broadway stage, they enlisted a team with more than just stellar theatrical bona fides. Not only do they have a collective 16 Tony Awards®, but they also have art and design in their bones.

When it came time to design the sets and costumes, Christopher Oram had an artistic game plan. He filled, as he put it, “sketchbook after sketchbook of scribbles and ideas and shapes” inspired by everything from Nordic architecture to royal costuming.

What emerged from those early ideas are the beautifully icy winterscapes and earth-toned greenways that today greet audiences on tour across North America.

Oram said his designs were primarily inspired by research trips he took to Scandinavia, where “glaciers and forests and churches” inspired his lush design concepts that reflect the region’s magic and mystery.

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“You’re out in the middle of a fjord and there’s literally no one else around,” he said of his visit to Norway. “You see tiny houses clinging to the bottom of giant steep cliffs. The water is bottomless beneath you, and it’s pitch black. You get that there may be goblins in the woods and fairies under the rocks. Nature is so present around you.”

He drew on those inspirations in his scenic design. He took cues from the timber-based architecture in Norway, all heavy woods and pillars and planks. Oram embedded the traditional Norwegian folk art called Rosemåling—a type of decorative painting that features stylized flowers—into many elements of the set. It’s a nod to the “wonderful juxtaposition of heavy wood and delicate floral motifs,” giving a “big masculine space with all this feminine detailing.”

“It’s all in service of the narrative of the story, visually,” he said.

The costumes are just as inspired.

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“All Disney animated characters have iconic looks,” he said. “But for the stage you have to interpret that work for an older, more sophisticated audience.”

“You have to conceive of garments in a different way, but make them iconic and recognizable and beautiful,” he said.

Oram did that by maintaining the silhouettes from the film but using fabrics that move in certain ways to give the actors physicality and weight. The costumes feature layers of satins and silks, with beading and embroidery as lush accents. Hand dying created stunning ombré effects in blues, golds, scarlets and whites.

Oram was especially excited about a scene featuring Elsa in a pant suit, a switch which gave her “modern-day independence and fierceness.”

“You can’t stage a fight scene with her in a ball gown,” he said with a laugh.

Oram said he was thrilled to design and conjure the world of Frozen for the stage. Critics agreed. Variety called his work “very theatrical,” and the Los Angeles Times had high praise for the designer’s “imaginative handiwork.”

“I’m absolutely an aesthetic designer,” said Oram. “I love beauty. I love texture. I love design. I love the world around me.”

That sense of enchantment, inspired by Mother Nature, ultimately infuses every lavish stage picture that Oram created for Frozen. It’s a universe that’s splendid, rustic and charming, but also chic, smart and stately.

“And that’s what makes it wondrous,” he said.

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July 24 - Aug 4, 2024

Disney's FROZEN

“A Can’t-Miss Broadway Event!” – NBC