When Michael Starr, a Sonoma native and graduate of Justin-Siena High School, first auditioned for a planned live musical version of the hit Disney movie “Frozen” – now being staged at the Hyperion Theater inside California Adventure at Anaheim’s Disney resort complex – the locally-trained actor knew that landing a part in the planned production would be a major step forward as a working actor in Los Angeles.
After all, with “Frozen,” the 2013 Disney hit, currently ranked as the most successful animated film of all time, anticipation was high for the splashy Disneyland production.
“The show is very ambitious,” Starr says, “and the audition process was crazy. But it was clear from the beginning that Disney wanted this show to be something truly special, bigger and better than any other show they’ve done at Disneyland.”
After several rounds of auditions, Starr eventually won the part of Prince Hans, one of the show’s principle roles. Now, he gets to say, “I perform at Disneyland,” sharing the high-profile part with five other full-time Prince Hans’s, who alternate through the show’s 25 to 30 performances weekly.
“It’s so much fun for me,” says Starr, clearly enjoying the moments he gets to take the stage alongside a huge cast of singers and dancers, prancing puppet reindeer and adorable dancing snowmen, surrounded by swirling snow flurries and massive ice castles, huge pivoting set pieces and mind-boggling state-of-the-art effects.
“There are huge set pieces that move around by computer, and swing out over the heads of the audience. It snows on stage and throughout the audience,” describes Starr. “There are so many fantastic Disney-style elements, and they’re adding more all the time. It’s the most money I’ve ever seen thrown at a production.”
And as icing on the “Frozen” cake, Starr gets to act out one of “Frozen’s” best, biggest, most surprising twists, dramatically setting up the show’s spectacular climax.
“It’s the best job in the world,” says Starr.
Officially titled “Frozen – Live at the Hyperion,” the show opened last May, replacing the long-running live adaptation of “Aladdin,” which had played at the grand 2,000-seat theater for the last 13 years.
The show was directed by Grammy-nominated theater artist Liesl Tommy, the director of the 2016 Broadway hit drama “Eclipsed.”
“Working with someone like Liesl is one of the greatest things about doing this show,” says Starr. While growing up in Sonoma, he got his first taste of the theatrical lifestyle at the Sebastiani Performing Arts Camp. Eventually, he began getting roles with the Avalon Players and other local theater groups.
“I feel lucky and also very, very loved to come from a town that encourages its young people to pursue their dreams,” he says.
After high school, Starr attended UCLA, and soon began finding professional work in a number of high-profile shows including “Footloose” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.”
Last July, he appeared at the Hollywood Bowl in a limited engagement production of “A Chorus Line,” in which he played the married, former-strip-club-bouncer Don.
“That was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of,” says Starr. “Performing ‘Chorus Line’ in front of 17,000 people is a very definite highlight of my professional career. Along with playing Hans in ‘Frozen,’ of course.”
See Michael Starr perform locally this month
On his Christmas break, you can see Michael Starr in San Francisco Symphony Orchestra’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” Dec. 21 to 24. With live actors, an animated backdrop, and Vince Guaraldi’s timeless music, it’s family-friendly concert. sfsymphony.org