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'Frozen' star Fontana to chill with Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Published July 12, 2014 2:17 pm

Music • "Frozen" star Santino Fontana will sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
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This year's Mormon Tabernacle Choir Pioneer Day concerts will feature Santino Fontana, one of the leading voice actors from "Frozen," the highest-grossing animated film of all time. But don't expect to hear any songs from the Disney blockbuster. Fontana's only musical number in the film is a duet. "And I'm not going to sing 'Let It Go' — that's not gonna happen," he said of co-star Idina Menzel's show-stopping hit. "But we do have a mix of stuff that will be close to that world." The program will include the traditional mix of show tunes, light classics and pioneer hymns.

Fontana provided the voice of Prince Hans of the Southern Isles, who — spoiler for those who haven't seen "Frozen" — isn't what he appears.

"It was exciting to play a different Disney villain," the actor said. "Typically, you know right away." The film's directors wanted Hans' betrayal to be a surprise to his fiancée, Princess Anna, and "to trick Anna, we had to trick the audience," Fontana said. Each of the three times he saw the film in a theater, he was delighted to hear the audience gasp at the same moment. But the actor believes Hans reveals his manipulative nature in his duet with Anna, mirroring her actions and presenting himself as her dream man by telling her what she wants to hear.

Though Prince Hans is his highest-profile role, Fontana is a Broadway veteran whose performance in Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" earned him a 2013 Tony nomination as Best Leading Actor. He won a 2010 Drama Desk Award as Stanley Jerome in "Brighton Beach Memoirs" and originated the role of Tony, the title character's brother, in the Broadway production of "Billy Elliot" in 2008.

"I'm an actor first and foremost," said Fontana, a graduate of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater actor-training program. He spent a couple of months in Utah workshopping two new plays at the 2005 Sundance Institute Theatre Lab; this will be his first real visit to Salt Lake City.

Growing up in Richland, Wash., Fontana was familiar with the Tabernacle Choir, but didn't realize until he signed on for the Pioneer Day concerts just how big the 360-voice choir — let alone its summertime home, the 21,000-seat LDS Conference Center — is. "It's a huge and prestigious group," said the singer, who noted that even the biggest Broadway house seats fewer than 2,000 patrons. "I've never performed for 21,000 people at a time; that's definitely a first."

He's currently filming the comedy "The Nest" with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, scheduled for a Christmas 2015 release, but has no intention of giving up stage for screen work. "I'm lucky to do different types of things," said Fontana, who will sing with the New York Philharmonic at a festival in Vail, Colo., the week after his Salt Lake City appearances. —

Chilling with the choir

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir presents its annual Pioneer Day concert with guest vocalist Santino Fontana, best-known as the voice of Prince Hans of the Southern Isles in the popular animated film "Frozen." Mack Wilberg and Ryan Murphy will conduct the choir and Orchestra at Temple Square.

Where • LDS Conference Center, 60 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City

When • Friday and Saturday, July 18-19, 8 p.m.

Tickets • Free, but all have been claimed; try the standby line at the north gate of Temple Square. Overflow seating venues include the Tabernacle and Conference Center Theater.

Broadcast • Saturday's performance will be live streamed at motab.org/pioneerday; BYUtv will broadcast Friday's performance at 8 p.m. Saturday