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Home > Arts > FEATURE: After the Mermaid, Pt. 2: Caroline Innerbichler to Star in <em>Frozen</em> National Tour

FEATURE: After the Mermaid, Pt. 2: Caroline Innerbichler to Star in Frozen National Tour

Twin Cities native Caroline Innerbichler (left) and Caroline Bowman (right) will star as Princess Anna and Princess Elsa, respectively, in the upcoming National Tour of Disney’s Frozen – coming to Minneapolis in May 2020. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Looking for warmth in a Minnesota May is usually an on-again, off-again affair. This time next year, however, things will be heating up with something cool.

Read that wrong? No, you didn’t: May 2020 is when the national tour of Disney’s Frozen comes to town. From May 6-31, 2020, Frozen will be playing at the Orpheum Theatre. It’s a surefire bet for one of the hottest theatrical acts of the season, brimming with catchy songs, the powerhouse vocal anthem “Let It Go”, and a pair of dynamic leads. Caroline Bowman and Caroline Innerbichler will headline the tour as Princesses Elsa and Anna.

Innerbichler is no stranger to local audiences. A native of the Twin Cities area, her credits include starring and featured roles at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, the Guthrie, Latté Da, the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, 7th House Theater, and more. Her riveting stage presence, engaging vocal performance, and exquisite characterization have delighted critics and audiences alike across a string of iconic shows like The Sound of Music, Grease, and The Little Mermaid. (You can catch her this summer in the Guthrie’s Guys and Dolls.)

When the news of Caroline Innerbichler’s casting broke earlier this month, delight spread quickly through the local theatre community. “We are beyond thrilled for Caroline Innerbichler and this exciting new opportunity,” said Michael Brindisi, the Resident Artistic Director at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. “She was in a few of our productions here at CDT and won over the hearts of many with her delightful portrayal of Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid.”

Dieter Bierbrauer and Caroline Innerbichler in the Ordway’s 2018 production of Mamma Mia!. Bierbrauer and Innerbichler also shared the stage in the company’s The Sound of Music. Photo by Rich Ryan.

Actor Dieter Bierbrauer, who played opposite Caroline in the Ordway’s Sound of Music and Mamma Mia!, also offered words of congratulation and praise. “Over a ten-year period, I’ve had the chance to watch Caroline cultivate her craft,” Bierbrauer said. “It has been breathtaking and humbling. There are people you get to work with that you wish you could siphon talent from because of how good they are. She is one of those people for me. Her attention to detail, obsession of character, and natural ability are really something to behold.”

If colleagues are effusive, critics sometimes seem downright smitten – and directors. When contacted by the Arts Reader, both groups alike praised Innerbichler’s charisma, effusive charm, energy, and dynamism. “Every time she opens her mouth to sing,” said Michale Brindisi. “She simply melts your heart! She will make the perfect ‘Anna’.”

Broadway producer James Rocco, who directed Caroline Innerbichler in several shows at the Ordway, also singled out the actor’s star quality. “Caroline has always been special,” Rocco said. “She has it, that quality that makes you want to watch her onstage. I’ve always encouraged her to go for her dream; to stay connected to our community and to bring a part of our community to the national theatrical community. And now here she goes.”

And now, for a few words from Caroline herself, in conversation with the Arts Reader’s Basil Considine.

Auditions for a national tour often take awhile, with multiple rounds of callbacks and coachings with part of the creative team. What was the process like for you? How long did it take from start to finish?

My first audition for Frozen was in January of 2017. I was visiting my boyfriend who lived in Chicago at the time, and he suggested I hit up a few open calls while I was in town. I showed up at the Frozen EPA and sang for Rachel (the casting director) and had a few callbacks in Chicago. Then I was invited to fly out to NYC for another round of callbacks to be considered for an ensemble/Anna understudy track spanning over a week. This involved working with the casting and creative team extensively on the materials, and a dance call before a final callback for an audience of about 20 creatives. I had never experienced such a high-stakes audition setting! It was terrifying and thrilling all at once.

Needless to say, I didn’t get the job that time around, but last August I saw that they were auditioning for the national tour, so I reached out and asked to be considered again—this led to a few more rounds of “callback weeks”, the last one culminating in a final callback on stage at the St. James Theater on Broadway.

I will never forget looking out across the empty seats of the theater and thanking my lucky stars to even set foot on that stage, to hear my voice echo through the space. It was so special to me. I remember thinking, “It’s okay if I don’t get it. What an amazing experience.”

When and how did you find out that you were cast?

I was in rehearsals in NYC for a production in Connecticut at the time, and I was on my lunch break…at Macy’s on 34th Street, looking for a bigger rehearsal bag to hike all my stuff around the city.

I saw the NYC area code come up on the phone call and my heart leapt and sank all at once—you can never let yourself get too excited for random phone calls while waiting to hear back from and audition (99% of the time it’s a telemarketer)—but it was Rachel, the casting director from my first audition in Chicago, who had been to nearly all of my callbacks since then. She gave me the news and I immediately burst into sobbing in the middle of the crowded sidewalk on 7th Avenue, holding this empty backpack in my hand. It was surreal.

Caroline Innerbichler (Ariel) examines Tyler Michael (Prince Eric) in Chanhassen Dinner Theatres’ 2014 production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

Who did you tell first?

Right after I got the call from Rachel, I called my boyfriend – who was in rehearsals at the time, so he didn’t pick up. Then I called my mom, who didn’t answer until the second time I called (she was busy being a super grandma watching my nephew). I told her the news and we both laughed and cried together…I then scampered back to rehearsal and tried to act normal. It didn’t work.

You played Ariel in Chanhassen Dinner Theatres’ Midwest premiere of The Little Mermaid. How does it feel to be going national as a Disney princess?

Mermaid was such an important role for me. Apart from being the most physically and vocally demanding role I had played, there was the pressure to “do right” by all the people who grew up watching the film and hearing the music. I found the only way to “do right” was to do it honestly and completely.

If I spend too much time worrying what others think about my work; it becomes robotic, stale, and artificial. And it’s not as fun.

I did my best to immerse myself in her world, to do it with equal parts imagination and sincerity. I plan to approach Anna in the same way, and let myself enjoy every moment.

Twin Cities native Caroline Innerbichler (left) and Caroline Bowman will star as Princess Anna and Princess Elsa in the upcoming National Tour of Disney’s Frozen, coming to Minneapolis in May 2020. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Do you remember how and when you first encountered Frozen?

I was in-between shows for Fiddler on the Roof at Chanhassen, and a couple buddies from the cast and I went to see the movie. My first thought was “This needs to be on stage!” My second thought was “Dang, we look a lot alike…”

Anna in Frozen is part of what some people call a new generation of Disney princesses, with a strong sense of self-agency and independence. What are some aspects of this character that resonate with you?

Anna is her own brand of superhero. She offers up humor, kindness and joy, while exhibiting immense power and bravery. These attributes are not presented in spite of each other or as a dichotomy, but rather one aspect exists because of the other. You can be brave and silly all at once. You can be kind and strong at the same time. Hurray for more dynamic and complex female roles on the stage!

It is so important to see a young woman learning and growing and changing, not only through romantic love or lack thereof, but also through her pursuit of a loving connection with her sibling. These women save themselves while they save each other. How awesome is that?

Sandy (Caroline Innerbichler) and Danny (Aleks Knezevich) in Chanhassen Dinner Theatres’ 207 production of Grease. Photo by Dan Norman.

When we spoke in 2015, you mentioned that going on the Little House on the Prairie national tour was an important formative experience for you as an actor. Are there any particular aspects of touring that you are especially looking forward to again?

The Little House tour was my first true stab at adulthood. I only went to college for one year, and I was finally away from home for a prolonged period of time. I learned a lot about myself, and about this business, and how those two things fit together. I would imagine that this time around I’ll have a similar experience, but with different lessons attached. I’m so ready to meet this cast and start working with them!

This really is an ensemble piece that relies heavily on everyone making true connections with one another, and that is my favorite type of work…all while getting to travel to new cities and share this lovely story with all new people? What an absolute dream.

The North American tour of Frozen kicks off November 10, 2019 in Schenectady, NY and plays in Minneapolis, MN from May 6-May 31, 2020.

Basil Considine