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Fall Arts: Frozen in SoCal

The couple that brought us Disney’s megahit will debut a new musical at La Jolla Playhouse


Frozen has captivated the country—with every four-year-old and her mother knowing the words to the film’s powerhouse Academy Award-winning ballad “Let It Go.” Now Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the husband-and-wife team behind this smash hit and others (Robert is the co-creator of Book of Mormon and Avenue Q!), are headed to La Jolla Playhouse to debut their new musical, Up Here, next summer. We chatted with them about Frozen fever, Oscar, and what San Diegans can expect from their newest project.

Does it trip you out to think that millions and millions of kids (and their parents) know all the words to your music?
K:  This spring break we were hiking in the desert and in the middle of absolutely NOWHERE heard the tune drift over the wind and bumped into a family singing it in French. That’s when it started to hit us.

Do you have a favorite lyric from Frozen?
K:  I love “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman” because my oldest daughter sings the first verse. And I love “By the way, I don’t see no ring” because that’s our youngest. At the end of the day, the proud mama is the strongest emotion.

What was the Oscar experience like?
K: Surreal. Humbling. Exhilarating. Illuminating. I had not anticipated how vulnerable I would feel to live out this uncertain thing on national television in front of everyone. Still, it was thrilling!

Robert, as the co-creator of Book of Mormon and Avenue Q, you’re known for being hilarious and irreverent. Did a Disney project ever feel too sweet for you?
R: What I love about the great Disney films is that they never feel too sugary. They are always emotional experiences. I grew up loving Disney movies, so when they came knocking, I was quick to say yes.  

Kristen, is he as funny at home as he is at work?
K: His sense of humor and way of looking at the world is what I fell in love with. He is very, very sharp and funny—except when we are late for something and navigating unknown highways, and everyone has low blood sugar, and our kids are fighting. Then he is human like everyone else. 

What are some of the challenges of working with your spouse?
K: I love working with my spouse because the same tools (communication, patience, compassion) we use in our marriage are the tools we need to be good writing partners. 
R: I feel so lucky that we get to experience the high points together—the low points too, but that’s harder. 

Walk us through a typical day of songwriting.
1. Wake up, drop kids at school. 2. Procrastinate and/or exercise for an hour or so. 3. Start talking about what the song needs. 4. Talk more. 5. Talk even more. 6. Eat something. 7. Scribble/noodle on piano. 8. See if things start to congeal into song snippets/lyrics/tune. 9. Repeat steps 3 through 8 until there is a song.

Looking ahead, what can we expect from Up Here, premiering at La Jolla Playhouse next summer?
K: We are trying to take everything we know about relationships, ourselves, and musical theater, and mash them all up in a fun, poignant, honest way.

The show is about a guy looking for love, who gets distracted by the little voices in his head. Should we anticipate any funny dream sequences, a la “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream”?
K: I think that’s fair to say.

Do you guys have any weird voices in your heads?
K: My head is full of weird voices, arguing and weighing in all of the time. The key is figuring out how to be in control of those voices instead of letting them control me. That’s what we explore in Up Here.
R: And with our therapists.

Tell us about the rest of the Up Here crew.
K: We are so excited to work with our director, Alex Timbers, and the choreographer, Josh Bergasse, who will bring our work to life with their unique, funny, smart take on everything.

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