Playing the home course: Fishers native to take the stage in Disney’s ‘Frozen’

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Caroline Bowman (Elsa) and Lauren Nicole Chapman (Anna) with Fishers native Evan Duff (Duke of Westleton) in the Broadway National Tour of Disney’s “Frozen.” (Photo provided/Broadway in Indianapolis)
Caroline Bowman (Elsa) and Lauren Nicole Chapman (Anna) with Fishers native Evan Duff (Duke of Westleton) in the Broadway National Tour of Disney’s “Frozen.” (Photo provided/Broadway in Indianapolis)

When Fishers native Evan Duff was younger, his parents took him to see his first Broadway show, “The Lion King,” at the Murat Theatre. Now, some several years later, Duff is returning to the Murat, only this time onstage in the role of the Duke of Weselton in Disney’s “Frozen.”

Based on the 2013 Oscar-Award winning Disney film, the musical adaptation of “Frozen” debuted on Broadway in August 2017 and follows the story of Anna and Elsa, two sisters searching for love but torn apart by a magical secret. As Elsa struggles with finding her voice and harnessing her powers, Anna sets out on an epic journey, determined to bring her family back together at any cost. The Broadway National tour of Disney’s “Frozen” will spend approximately two weeks in Indianapolis, taking the stage at the Murat Theatre at Old National Centre Nov. 16-26 — just in time to bring Duff back home for the holidays. 

Evan Duff, a Fishers, Indiana, native, is taking the stage as the Duke of Weselton in the Broadway National Tour of Disney’s “Frozen.” (Photo provided/Broadway in Indianapolis)

“I just never saw this really for my life or myself,” Duff said. “It’s not something that I always was like, ‘I’m gonna do that one day,’ so it just seems very surreal.”

Duff, a Ball State alum, said he grew up surrounded by the arts. His parents were avid theatergoers who took him to shows and signed him up for the Indianapolis Children’s Choir before he started acting in plays at Hamilton Southeastern. “Frozen” marks Duff’s Broadway National Tour debut.

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The role of Weselton, albeit portrayed as an older white man in the movie, is a welcome challenge to Duff, who said he was surprised when he got the audition for the role but quickly discovered how much he liked the character. When you strip the role down to the text, Duff said the Duke is an aristocrat who has come to a coronation and is suddenly in a life-or-death situation.

“For me, it was just understanding what is happening in the text, and how would someone in my body respond to that?” Duff said. “Then also, the Duke is a little silly, and I am quite silly, so I don’t think that part is not much of a stretch for me … It’s really just about putting yourself in the shoes of the people that have been so wonderfully written and then just sort of like bringing them to life.”

In live theater — especially with shows like “Frozen,” which is about a talking snowman and a woman with ice powers — audiences are expected to suspend their disbelief so things such as race are not seen as limiting, opening the doors for more Black and brown actors, said Saline, Michigan native Dominic Dorset. 

“These stories that we’re telling are super universal … and because I don’t look like the Kristoff from the movie, I don’t think that’s a problem because that kind of story does not happen in one kind of person,” Dorset said. “I think the point is that, like the people who represent these characters on stage, we can be anybody because these stories happened to anybody and they’re universal.”

Dorset is also making his Broadway National Tour debut, having been cast in the role of Kristoff a month after graduating from the University of Michigan in 2022. Dorset said he was fortunate to have the doors opened before him, taking on the role of Kristoff following actors such as Mason Reeves and Jelani Alladin — who originated the role on Broadway — although that is not the case for everyone.

Duff shared a similar sentiment and said the conversation about representation in theater is being held on many levels. However, Black and brown actors are very much present and play an important role in theater both on and off Broadway, and being cast in the role of Weselton has opened doors for Duff in the way of auditions and the type of work he is now receiving.  

Michigan native Dominic Dorset takes the stage as Kristoff in the Broadway National Tour of Disney’s “Frozen,” which comes to the Murat Theatre at Old National Center Nov. 16-26, 2023. (Photo provided/Broadway in Indianapolis)

“I think sometimes Black artists, we will get maybe typecast or put into boxes around the things that we can or cannot do,” Duff said. “I think what’s happening is that people are realizing that Black people are not monolithic, and we have so much to offer in so many different ways …  it’s about really just letting that shine unapologetically and also in ways that are not just what we have deemed palatable in the past.”

Being part of a Broadway National Tour is certainly gratifying, Duff said, but also a huge responsibility that pushes him to be his best every night. Because the tour makes a stop in Indianapolis, Duff will have the opportunity to not only experience a full-circle moment on the Murat Theatre stage, but also experience a homecoming as well. 

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“It still really hasn’t set in that we’re going to be playing in a theater that I have been going to since I was a kid … I don’t really know how to describe it, and I don’t know, I just feel so lucky,” Duff said. “Cause it’s Thanksgiving, so everyone’s gonna be in town, and they’re all going to get to come to the show, which is just going to be so fun.”

Much like Duff, Dorset got into the performing arts at a young age, going from piano lessons to the role of Michael Banks in the Liberty School production of “Mary Poppins.” Dorset said being a part of a Disney production is surreal, as in a few short weeks he was working alongside actors he had been reading about in class or saw perform on stages in Michigan.

“For one, being a part of a Disney musical is such a wonderful blessing,” Dorset said. “Aside from that, I think ‘Frozen’ is a great story because the theme is … that love can be a non-romantic thing, you know, it can exist between two sisters as it does in this show… And I just think that’s such a beautiful message, and I love getting to be a part of that every night.”

Disney’s “Frozen” is recommended for children ages six and up and has a runtime of two hours and 15 minutes with one intermission. For more information about ticketing and a show schedule, visit broadwayinindianapolis.com

Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848 or chloegm@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.