Frozen The Musical Star Thomas McGuane Talks About Playing Hans in the Sell-Out Stage Show in This Interview

Disney are well known as being one of the premiere entertainment companies that have a mammoth library of family-friendly musicals, and there’s no bigger and better modern Disney musical than Frozen. Translated from the silver screen to the theatre stage, Frozen the stage musical is now heading to Western Australia to bring joy and entertainment to audiences of all ages.

Playing the pivotal role of Hans is Thomas McGuane, an actor who has made his name in musicals like Bring It On and Jersey Boys. In this interview, Thomas talks about his journey to working in theatre, what it’s like playing a complex character like Hans and how he brought his own personality to that role, and more.

Frozen is currently in South Australia before arriving in Perth in August.

Tickets can be purchased at FrozenTheMusical.com.au.


Courtney Monsma as Anna & Thomas McGuane as Hans

[Frozen was] the first [stage] production back after the pandemic in Sydney. Is that correct?

Thomas McGuane: Yeah, that’s correct.

What was that like?

TM: Look, the world’s eyes were on us, honestly. We were putting on a show for the first time in sort of a post almost mid COVID era which was just unheard of. And by all odds really should have been impossible but we really managed to pull through. The rehearsal period was so well organised and prepped for us all to feel safe in that rehearsal environment with all of us in the same room. We were dealing with capacity limits in buildings and social distancing and the like which we’ve all experienced, of course, in the outside world but in a workplace environment. That was a really fresh idea to us and to the world, honestly, and specifically to Australia and Australian theatre.

So yeah, we really pride ourselves on how we moved forward with the production. We were supposed to start in May of 2020 and that was pushed all the way till October of 2020, and we only were able to put the show up in Sydney at the beginning of December in 2020. So if you can imagine how almost trippy as that was, we managed to pull off such a successful opening and such a successful season there and it’s really just skyrocketed from there.

We’ve hit our road bumps and roadblocks and what not throughout our time with Frozen but it’s been such a success since then. And [with] Broadway opening up and other productions opening up, we’ve essentially created a template to put on theatre throughout the world, and that’s something that we’re really proud of. Disney has always looked after us in that respect, and therefore the world gets to enjoy theatre opening back up again which is really exciting for everyone.

What do you do in the meantime? You’re supposed to go on early in the year and then it’s not until later in the year. How do you stay performance-ready during that period of time?

TM: It’s a really good question. There’s no comparison to actually doing rehearsal and actually putting in the prep time in the room and being in the theatre, so there’s no equivalent to be able to prep yourself for that. It’s hard to replicate that. But I guess in a nutshell, like the rest of the world, because I love playing and writing music and I have all my different hobbies that I like to do, so creatively I was able to keep myself really motivated and keeping my craft up essentially, keeping on singing and keeping on moving, and the acting and the what not.

So in preparation for the show, if anything, we got heaps of time to prepare and keep ourselves fit and healthy. When the time came to it, that’s when the preparation really kicked off, learning the lines and being in the room and meeting everyone which was really exciting and then working one on one with people in a room, not over Zoom or Skype or what have you. Once we were in the room, it was gold.  That’s the amazing professional world that we were able to immerse ourselves in.

Let’s go back to when you were a kid in regional Victoria. Where did your interest in musical theatre come from?

TM: Well, my father has – his voice has been the soundtrack to my childhood. He’s a performer in his own right as well and he’s been singing and moving up on the stage since before I can even remember. Whether it’s been clear to me or not, it’s always been a driving force for me to sing and to move on stage. And that’s always been sort of a passion of mine.

But to be honest, I didn’t realise that it was something that I could even do professionally. I was under the mindset that you just go and see performances and you just go and see shows. You can do your own school musicals and you can do your community theatre, but I could never as Thomas ever get on a professional stage. It really took years and years of being a part of school musicals and community theatre where I got to meet people and experience this passion of mine more and more. I was doing my first productions and going, “Oh this is really fun. I really enjoy this” and then the next one was like, “Okay, I’m really getting the hang of this.” And then by my last production in high school, I was like, “Okay, it’s theatre or bust.”

That’s when I started meeting people outside of Colac which is where I grew up, and where I started meeting people who had studied music theatre. And in my mind, I’m going “How the hell do you study music theatre? How is this even a thing?” And these poor people were then interrogated (laughs) by myself to figure out where can I do this and how can I be a part of this world.

Funnily enough, I met a couple of people who had studied at VCA and who had studied at NIDA and WAAPA. I was lucky enough to audition for VCA at the end of 2014 and I managed to get a spot which to this day is something that I’m always super grateful for and always super mindful that I’m doing right by that point in my life. Really from there, my passion just grew and grew and grew, and my appreciation for the theatre and the athleticism of it grew.

I was able to challenge myself to degrees that I never thought I could and see avenues of how to use my body and how to use my voice that I never thought was possible and never thought I could achieve. But now I’m going out onto the stage and I’m remembering all of that and keeping all of that passion and that knowledge through what I do. It’s so fascinating to me, and that keeps motivating me and it never becomes boring. It never becomes stale. For me, it’s always like what’s the next thing or how can I make this fresh? Or how can I move to really do the piece justice?

So yeah, from a very young age, [I was] singing before I could really even understand what I was singing about or how I was singing and then doing school theatre, figuring it out and going, “Wow, this is amazing.” And then all the way to a university degree and doing it in a professional sense, and then auditioning for Jersey Boys in my final year of uni and managing to get a leading role. Which again is really not lost on me as far as the gratitude for a production taking a chance on a fresh graduate. I’m forever grateful. It’s always going to push me to challenge myself more and be better and better myself and keep learning and growing.

What was the piece that you chose to audition with? What song did you use to audition for VCA?

TM: (laughs) At the time, I was a big fan of making myself sound really classical and really sort of baritone, so I would push my voice down and make myself sound really old. I was singing songs like Anthem from Chess. And then I was doing something contemporary which was – I can’t remember the song exactly, but it’s sort of like a song cycle, the contemporary music theatre song that I chose to sing. I think it’s called Boy With Dreams.

They were my choices at the time because I was like “These are the songs that best reflect where I’m at.” Which was sort of the point, you know, auditioning for that faculty. They really encourage you to just bring yourself and bring who you are to the audition room. That’s who I thought I was. I thought I was the guy who’s doing really baritone, heavy, belty songs only to learn that there were so many more colours that I could represent in my voice throughout the degree, throughout the drama school experience.

When it comes to playing such an iconic character as Hans who is such a varied character who manages to both have the romance angle and then the villainous angle, he’s really quite an exciting character to play. How do you bring your personality to a character that other people had played and made their own?

TM: Love that question, thank you. Yeah, Hans is a beautifully complex character that in this production is really fleshed out and he’s really expanded upon. In the 2013 film, he is essentially the colloquial by the book cookie-cutter prince who then we find out has other intentions, and that was shocking enough. But in this production, we learn so much more about him.

I think as an actor, I’m able to portray this character to show the audience that there are more colours to him and that there are more sides to him. The complexity I feel can kind of confuse the audience a little bit and [they] go “Oh, I thought he was bad, but he seems to be really down to earth and really real. Maybe this is a different production, maybe this is a different telling of Frozen.” That’s what I really want to make the audience think, to question everything that they thought they knew about the show.

As far as bringing myself to the production, honestly I just feel like Thomas onstage, and I think that’s the joy of it, too. That’s where I find my realness and that’s where I find my groundedness. I can be me onstage. And then what’s disguising me as a character layer is the fabulous costumes, the amazing lights, the fantastic music that we all know and love with some extra ones to boot. I get to hide Thomas underneath all those layers and essentially just play me.

But as far as the villainous side goes, as an actor, I find that really juicy and I find that really tantalising to be able to get the audience on side and then to absolutely (laughs) – to put it bluntly, to absolutely crush their dreams. And I think that’s what Disney is really good at doing. I feel like they’re so good at writing characters and storylines where you believe one thing to be happening for only then another thing to occur. It’s that sort of misdirection that really creates a great Disney story nowadays, and Frozen does that so well.

This is a character who I’m pretty sure is the first Disney prince in Disney cinema history to turn. And that in itself is quite monumental because it redefines what we believe a Disney prince to be, and more broadly what we believe people to be as like a surface level kind of affect. It’s the whole not judging a book by its cover, but sort of in reverse where, you know, the outer layer is beautiful and lovely and charming. However, the inner layer is quite dark and sinister. I find that really tantalising as an actor to be able to play that character. [When] I’m (laughs) finishing the show and bowing, people’s claps sort of disappear and dissipate because they don’t really want to be cheering for that. I walk away and I go “Well, that means I’ve done my job. I’ve made people believe one thing and then absolutely crushed their dreams the next.”

That’s what I love about bringing myself to the characters that I get to play. I get to have fun and I get to play alongside some amazing actors and actresses who are just giving their all, and that inspires me to give my all every single show as well. It’s a lot of fun. And for anyone who’s seen it, it can be pretty clear just how much fun we’re having up there with what we do. Even something like Love Is An Open Door, the famous number that we know from 2013, it’s so much more expanded and lovely and wonderful and it has its own dance break in the middle, and that just brings so much more joy and fun to it. I can’t help but bring myself to that because I want to enjoy the fun and thrill of it as much as we’re sharing it with the audience. I think that’s the fun play that we get to have with the audience.

Of course. Let’s talk about one of your co-stars, Courtney [Monsma] who you spend quite a bit of time with. What’s it like working alongside her?

TM: First and foremost, she’s an incredibly hard-working passionate performer who wants to give her best to her role as Anna as possible. You know, in a way she is Anna personified in real life. She would probably say this herself and probably wouldn’t mind me saying it as well. There is so much alike between Anna and herself, and I think she’s perfectly cast in this role, and she really takes it on with pride, and she takes it on with an immense amount of gratitude.

I remember meeting her and working with her in the rehearsal room and figuring out how much this was working and just how similar we were in many different ways. That really created a format for us to play and have a lot of fun on stage. We still remark to this day every time we do Love Is An Open Door, we think back to the rehearsal room and remember, “Do you remember how hard it was to do this number?” We’re flipping each other around and she’s doing cartwheels and I’m throwing her over my shoulder and it’s all just so wild, all while we’re singing, of course. We just laugh about it all the time, going “Remember when this was like hard? Remember when this was so incredibly difficult that we couldn’t breathe?”

Those moments are really what captures the sort of relationship that Court and I have. We’re out there having fun and being ourselves. Honestly, it’s such a pleasure to be playing alongside someone who’s so present in what they do and who is having as much fun or if not more fun than I am on stage. She’s amazing. She’s incredible.

I think it was on Sunrise where you performed [Love Is An Open Door], and even in such a small space, there is that enthusiasm, there is that energy and the excitement there, and it’s tangible. And that’s what you want as an audience member. It’s great to be able to see that in your eyes, that both of you are having the best time in the world being able to perform this kind of music.

TM: Yeah, absolutely. Our job as actors is to make sure that Anna and Hans have such a strong connection from the get go. As far as trust is involved, we’re out there trying to really give the audience this impression that Anna is falling and Hans is falling for this young woman completely out of the blue. It’s that personification of true love, love at first sight and all those sort of colloquialisms that we want to display, and it’s so fun playing that silliness of going “Oh, hi. Like you’re incredible. Let’s get married.” It’s wild. But that’s the fun of it and that’s the joy of creating that connection.

What’s it like working with Disney and being able to perform maybe their biggest film of recent years, an iconic film really?

TM: Absolutely. I mean, you said it. This is an iconic story to begin with. And the fact that it’s now a Broadway quality stage production is just immense for Australia. You know, I remember sitting in the audience of Aladdin and just being absolutely gobsmacked at the athleticism, the music, the lighting, the special effects. Frozen has all of that and so much more. We’ve got special effects that are just to die for, the magic onstage is just thrilling. And obviously, we have music that is very familiar, Love Is An Open Door, we have First Time In Forever and of course, the award-winning Let It Go. We’ve got eleven more songs that have been written for this production on top of all of those brilliant hits. So you’re getting Broadway quality straight from that stage to here. And it’s just insane to be a part of. Disney never cease to put on a spectacle and wow audiences and absolutely enthrall them in these very relatable stories.

This is a production that has grown up with its audience since 2013. The writers and the directors and choreographers of this production know that and are very aware in the creating of this story. We’re getting themes like family and loss and love but also an unconventional love, love for family and love for your sister and, on the flip side of that, for your brothers. I think those things are so relatable to an adult audience, but then the kids have their fun with being able to recognise all of these very familiar characters that they love and know.

We have audiences that are calling out to Anna and Elsa all the time while we’re doing the show. That’s how much they’re invested in these characters, that they want to be able to connect with these real life people that are on stage playing these characters. And I think that’s what’s so great about this as well: people related to these characters so much in the animated film, but now they’re being played by real people, and I feel like that creates another level on top of that. Now it’s even more real that this magic could exist for these kids. And, you know, the fact that it’s being played in front of their eyes, it’s like, “Woah, this is incredible.”

I think being a part of this Disney production and this Disney world is so rewarding in that sense, because we’re lowkey changing lives. We’re helping people maintain their imagination and their creativity and their love for not only theatre, but for the telling of the stories which really need to be told at a time like this.

I’m excited to see it when it comes here in August. It’s going to be great. We certainly love getting to see these live shows. It’s like nothing else altogether.

TM: This is a story about isolation and being cut off from family. It’s about not being able to connect with the people you love. We sing First Time In Forever where we literally have the lyrics saying we’re opening up the gates and we’re no longer shut outside, and I think those phrases resound, they vibrate so much within us and within our soul because we know what we’ve all been through. We know the connections we’ve been trying to make with family, with friends and people that we love, and now we are metaphorically opening up the gates to allow people to connect and to find their love for theatre again and love for storytelling. It’s never lost on us as a production and as a cast and all of the crew that what we’re doing is special and will leave people leaving the theatre entertained, yes, but sort of changed and felt and related to. That’s what’s really special about this production and about this company, that we get to share that love and share that story.

We’re really excited to bring it there. And to bring it over to WA is pretty special as well. Because yeah, we know that we’re one of the biggest [stage productions] to come across that way since everything that’s happened. We’re so excited to tell this story and share the love once again with WA.

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