Emily Lane and Djavan van de Fliert on becoming Frozen’s new Anna and Kristoff in the West End
The actors, who will step into the roles on 28 September, share how they’re making the roles their own and why Frozen isn’t just for kids.
Frozen in the West End marks the first time Emily Lane and Djavan van de Fliert will perform together, but their paths crossed before at school. They both studied at ArtsEd – van de Fliert just completed his third year – and when van de Fliert got the role, he messaged Lane on social media.
“I was a big fan of Emily when she was in third year,” said van de Fliert, who makes his West End debut in the role. “Watching her third year show, I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, that's what I aspire to be.’ So now, to get to work with her. It's just the biggest pleasure.”
Lane is a part of the original company, in the ensemble and covering the role of Anna, and stepping in full-time as the princess is a dream come true.
“I've done the show for a year but this is a completely new experience, so it definitely feels like I'm discovering Anna for the first time,” Lane said. “It's such a beautiful story. It speaks to so many ages. It has so many themes, and I think everyone can connect to it in their own way. I definitely do.”
Lane and van de Fliert will start performances as Anna and Kristoff on 28 September at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. London Theatre spoke with the performers on a break from rehearsals about how they relate to these iconic characters and why Frozen isn’t just for families.
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What was your relationship like to Frozen before joining the cast?
Emily Lane: I've definitely seen the movie so many times. And I remember the second movie came out whilst I was auditioning the first time round. And I remember going with my brother thinking, “I really, really want to be a part of it.” I think Disney. Disney is so special to so many people and so many ages now. There's that feeling of nostalgia. I still love watching Disney movies.
Djavan van de Fliert: Frozen is a phenomenon. “Let It Go,” “Love Is an Open Door,” For the First Time in Forever.” Every child and even kids that were born after the movie was released still know those songs. And what also made it very special to me was the driving force of the story was not necessarily the romantic love between a prince and a princess, but rather the love between two sisters. For Kristoff, that's the love between him and Sven. Those are the driving forces of the story.
These are iconic characters in the Disney canon. What do you hope to bring to the roles?
Emily: It’s such a gift as an actress, being in rehearsals, and you're really given the time to fully explore all the different layers to Anna. I think she's such an amazing character to play. She's such a role model to so many girls and to me. She's very determined. She's inquisitive. She tries to see the positive in every situation, and I definitely try to lead my life like that. But most importantly, she's brave and she's strong, and she fights for anyone that she loves and especially her family. I definitely tried to be more like Anna in my everyday life.
Djavan: To me, what's been so wonderful about this process is that we are not spending the six weeks learning the set versions of the character. Rather, they are allowing us to find our own version, how we as humans would play the character differently. What makes theatre special is that every person you see play a role is not the exact same, but brings a part of themselves to the role. That's what's been so fantastic about working with this company.
Djavan, how does it feel to be making your West End debut in a leading role in a major show?
Djavan: I have to pinch myself every time. I'm sort of still in a state of ecstasy and disbelief. But yet, it's starting to become more real. I'm just honored to be able to feed and learn from everyone really, That's been my main mindset for this. I have so much to learn. And I think that as an actor, you never stop learning. So it's just been a pleasure to be able to work with these incredible people and learn from them.
Do you have any favourite moments in the show?
Djavan: I love “For the First Time in Forever.” One, it's an iconic song. It's the one song that as soon as it starts playing, people in the audience may or may not start singing along. And that's also the first time that we see everybody on stage. Everybody comes in and the gates are open wide and and you see the whole ensemble, every cast member, except one, come in and share that moment of wonder together. And that's how I feel just stepping on that stage. That moment of oh my goodness, there's 2000 people here. Wow.
Emily: I would also say yesterday, we did “Fixer Upper” with everyone, and it was one of the first times where all of the new company came together. And we have so many new people – I think around 19. So just to feel that new, fresh energy, it was electric.
Frozen is such an incredible show for kids and families, but the stage production is also great for adults as well. What do you think makes the show so universal?
Emily: It’s about love. It's about family. It's about uniting as a whole. And I think those themes speak to everyone. For me, definitely the love between Anna and Elsa. I don't have a sister but I have a brother and I know what that feels like, to do anything for them and to fight for them. So I think everyone can connect with it in some way shape or form…It has an amazing sense of escapism, just coming to the theatre and being transported into a new world. I think there is something really magical about just that.
Djavan: I sat next to a family actually, and the parents thought, “Oh, we're doing this for the kids. We didn't think we'd enjoy this.” But they were literally in tears by the end. There's a gorgeous pre-show announcement as well that talks about if this is your first theatre experience, we hope this is a wondrous one and you have many more in the future. And Frozen is such a good show for that because there's so much love to be shared. And you know that the parents were not expecting to be so moved. And that's why it's brilliant.
Photo credit: Emily Lane and Djavan van der Fliert (Photos courtesy of production)
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