#LadyOlaf Ryann Redmond Proves That the Future Is Female at Frozen
Redmond (and any other woman for that matter) gets to finally do what frozen things do in summer!
When Ryann Redmond called to chat about becoming the first woman to take on the role of Disney's summer-lovin' snowman Olaf, many of the most impressive women in the Broadway industry happened to be packing into Frozen's home at the St. James Theatre for the second annual "Women's Day on Broadway."
With all the power belting and female camaraderie, it's really always "Women's Day on Broadway" at the St. James. But as Frozen turns 1 year old, #LadyOlaf is just another subtle way Frozen is chipping away at entrenched notions about the world of fairy tales and princesses — and of course their sidekicks.
Redmond has been seen in the Broadway ensembles of the Jimmy Buffett musical Escape to Margaritaville and If/Then (starring OG Elsa Idina Menzel), but she's probably best known as Bridget from Bring It On The Musical — an insecure teen who goes on a journey of self-acceptance with the help of musical theater bops by Tom Kitt and Lin-Manuel Miranda. That's a wonderful and empowering story to tell, but Redmond is having a good time trying this inexplicably confident creature on for size, and letting all the rest melt away.
How did you find out Frozen was open to casting a woman for the role of Olaf?
My agent sent me an appointment for an audition and I thought it was a mistake. It still said it was a male role, and the song was in the male key, and it said "Baritenor." So I was like, "I think you guys sent me the wrong appointment." But my agent said, "No, this is actually for you. I wish we could say that we submitted you but they asked for you." I don't know exactly who asked for me, but somebody did, and I went in and just did my own take on the role and it blossomed from there. They clearly saw what they needed to see and I found out back in November that I got it. It was extremely exciting.
Are you an experienced puppeteer, or was this new territory for you?
This is completely new territory. I had never done any puppeteering. It definitely was an interesting layer to add onto performance— because the puppet has to be alive constantly. He's gotta be expressive just like I am, so I control his eyebrows. He always had to be blinking like a normal human. Otherwise, his eyes just stay open and he kind of is lifeless. Now it's becoming second nature. But definitely the hardest thing going in was remembering to make him blink.
Most people are coming to Frozen with a very clear picture of Olaf in their minds. How are you blending that Olaf with your own?
When I went in for my first audition, I didn't have the puppet, so it sort of allowed me to establish what he was before I had all of the bells and whistles. I just infused myself into what I already know and love about the character. I sort of mixed myself and some of my "-isms" I guess you could say, and then tried to create my own version of him.
Were you already a Frozen fan going in?
I loved the movie. When it first came out I was doing If/Then with Idina Menzel, and she was catapulted to fame. We kind of got to go through the process with her. She had rented out a theater for us in Washington, DC, where we were doing our out-of-town tryout and we got to see the movie before it came out, so that was really cool. Never in a million years would I think that I would be playing Olaf!
Did Olaf steal your heart in the movie?
I loved Olaf. I thought Josh Gad was freaking hysterical. He just got so many one-liners, and the way that Josh was able to just make him so endearing and so funny through purely his voice— that really stuck out for me in the movie.
As someone who often plays characters who have to work their way to self-love, do you enjoy playing someone like Olaf, who totally owns and loves who he is from the start?
That's been the icing on the cake of this experience. You're right, a lot of the characters that I have played have been the character that goes on a journey of self-acceptance — and those characters have been amazing. Bridget in Bring It On is one of my favorite roles ever, and I just love her in that show. But even going forward I definitely played characters who needed to have a little awakening, and Olaf is not that at all. He's just so carefree and has this lackadaisical love for the world around him and all he wants is to be in the summer heat even though he has no idea what it feels like. I think that's just such an endearing quality, and it's so nice to dive into a character like that.
#LadyOlaf is now a thing on Twitter. How does it feel to receive so much enthusiasm and support from the theater community and beyond?
It's been more than I could have ever imagined. The day that it was announced, I had never experienced anything like it. My phone was basically just lit up for 24 hours straight. It's been absolutely wonderful. I got a message on Instagram from a mom the other day. Her daughter is doing Frozen Jr. at her school and she wanted to be Olaf, but she said, "Mom, I can't be Olaf." And her mom showed her my Instagram and she lit up. It's cool that I get to be part of that.