Markets edgy on US-China trade war fears

Asian shares have been hit by fears that US President Donald Trump’s plan for tariffs on up to $60bn of Chinese products could trigger a trade war.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 4.5% and the Shanghai Composite fell 3.6%.

China responded to news of the planned tariffs by saying that while it did not want a trade war, it was “absolutely not afraid” of one.

Mr Trump’s proposed tariffs are a response to allegations of intellectual property theft by China.

The US launched a complaint against China at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Friday.

Its statement said: “China appears to be breaking WTO rules by denying foreign patent holders, including US companies, basic patent rights to stop a Chinese entity from using the technology after a licensing contract ends.”

“China also appears to be breaking WTO rules by imposing mandatory adverse contract terms that discriminate against and are less favourable for imported foreign technology.”

  • Trump: Tariffs on $60bn in Chinese goods
  • US exempts EU from steel tariffs
  • Reality Check: Is Trump right about US trade deficit?
  • How a trade war might affect you

    ‘Prepared to defend’

    Beijing said it firmly opposed the planned tariffs but China’s ministry of commerce said it was “confident and capable of meeting any challenge”.

    “China will not sit idly by its own legitimate rights and interests. We are fully prepared to defend our legitimate interests,” the ministry said.

    But it said it hoped the US would not drag bilateral economic and trade relations into danger.

    Fears of a trade war pushed Asian stock markets down sharply. China’s Shanghai Composite Index closed down 3.6% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index ended 2.5% lower.

    “Equity markets have sold-off heavily this morning as investors are fearful we are entering a trade war,” said David Maddon, market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

    “Traders don’t like the look of the political landscape, and they are seeking safe-haven assets.”

    Earlier on Friday, China announced its own set of proposed tariffs worth $3bn. Beijing said these were in response to US tariffs on steel and aluminium imports announced by Mr Trump earlier this month.

    The US tariffs on steel and aluminium imports come into effect this week.

    China’s commerce ministry said it was planning two steps of retaliatory action:

    • a 15% tariff on 120 goods worth almost $1bn – including fresh fruit, nuts and wine
    • a 25% tariff on eight goods worth nearly $2bn – including pork and aluminium scrap.

      Why is the US taking tariff action?

      The US imports billions more goods from China each year than it exports, creating a deficit of about $375bn last year – a figures which Mr Trump has railed against.

      The president said on Thursday he had asked China to cut that deficit by $100bn “immediately”.

      Last August, Mr Trump ordered an investigation into Chinese policies and his proposed tariffs reflect the outcome of that probe.

      The White House said the investigation found a range of “unfair” practices in China, including restrictions on foreign ownership that pressured foreign companies into transferring technology.

      The review also found evidence that China imposes unfair terms on US companies; steers investments in the US to strategic industries; and conducts and supports cyber attacks.

      • Trump: Political heir to Abe Lincoln?
      • The problem facing Trump’s China probe
      • EU and six other countries exempted from US metals tariffs

        The White House said it had a list of more than 1,000 products that could be targeted by tariffs of 25%. Businesses will have the opportunity to comment before the final list goes into effect.

        The US is also exploring ways to limit Chinese investment in the US. It says it will bring any matter it thinks is unfair to the WTO – as it is doing in the case of intellectual property.

        Who are the potential losers in a trade war?

        US officials had acknowledged the possibility of retaliation from China, but said the Asian giant ultimately had more to lose.

        If imposed as described, the US tariffs could lead to higher costs for consumers, while China’s retaliation would hit key sectors of the US economy including agriculture and aerospace, analysts say.

        China was the third largest market for US exports in 2016 and among the biggest buyers of American corn, pork and aircraft.

        China is also the world’s biggest consumer of soybeans and consumes about one third of the US crop.

        But in news which will come as a relief to US farmers, Friday’s announcement did not include the soybeans.

        Is there wider support in America for the plan?

        Critics of Mr Trump’s policies dismiss worries about the trade deficit, saying the exchange benefits both sides.

        However, there is growing bipartisan concern in America about China’s state-led economy and there is a worry that China is seeking technology that could be deployed for military purposes.

        Mr Trump’s America First policy remains popular with large sections of the US public.

        However, trade watchers in Asia says China’s retaliation will no doubt be carefully targeted to hit key Trump-supporting areas of the US.

        “The Chinese have been developing their list for more than a year and they are very good,” said Deborah Elms, executive director of the Asian Trade Centre in Singapore.

        “If things get very nasty, they can also make life very difficult for US companies doing business in China. It’s going to be very interesting.”

Markets edgy on US-China trade war fears

Asian shares have been hit by fears that US President Donald Trump’s plan for tariffs on up to $60bn of Chinese products could trigger a trade war.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 4.5% and the Shanghai Composite fell 3.6%.

China responded to news of the planned tariffs by saying that while it did not want a trade war, it was “absolutely not afraid” of one.

Mr Trump’s proposed tariffs are a response to allegations of intellectual property theft by China.

The US launched a complaint against China at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Friday.

Its statement said: “China appears to be breaking WTO rules by denying foreign patent holders, including US companies, basic patent rights to stop a Chinese entity from using the technology after a licensing contract ends.”

“China also appears to be breaking WTO rules by imposing mandatory adverse contract terms that discriminate against and are less favourable for imported foreign technology.”

  • Trump: Tariffs on $60bn in Chinese goods
  • US exempts EU from steel tariffs
  • Reality Check: Is Trump right about US trade deficit?
  • How a trade war might affect you

    ‘Prepared to defend’

    Beijing said it firmly opposed the planned tariffs but China’s ministry of commerce said it was “confident and capable of meeting any challenge”.

    “China will not sit idly by its own legitimate rights and interests. We are fully prepared to defend our legitimate interests,” the ministry said.

    But it said it hoped the US would not drag bilateral economic and trade relations into danger.

    Fears of a trade war pushed Asian stock markets down sharply. China’s Shanghai Composite Index closed down 3.6% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index ended 2.5% lower.

    “Equity markets have sold-off heavily this morning as investors are fearful we are entering a trade war,” said David Maddon, market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

    “Traders don’t like the look of the political landscape, and they are seeking safe-haven assets.”

    Earlier on Friday, China announced its own set of proposed tariffs worth $3bn. Beijing said these were in response to US tariffs on steel and aluminium imports announced by Mr Trump earlier this month.

    The US tariffs on steel and aluminium imports come into effect this week.

    China’s commerce ministry said it was planning two steps of retaliatory action:

    • a 15% tariff on 120 goods worth almost $1bn – including fresh fruit, nuts and wine
    • a 25% tariff on eight goods worth nearly $2bn – including pork and aluminium scrap.

      Why is the US taking tariff action?

      The US imports billions more goods from China each year than it exports, creating a deficit of about $375bn last year – a figures which Mr Trump has railed against.

      The president said on Thursday he had asked China to cut that deficit by $100bn “immediately”.

      Last August, Mr Trump ordered an investigation into Chinese policies and his proposed tariffs reflect the outcome of that probe.

      The White House said the investigation found a range of “unfair” practices in China, including restrictions on foreign ownership that pressured foreign companies into transferring technology.

      The review also found evidence that China imposes unfair terms on US companies; steers investments in the US to strategic industries; and conducts and supports cyber attacks.

      • Trump: Political heir to Abe Lincoln?
      • The problem facing Trump’s China probe
      • EU and six other countries exempted from US metals tariffs

        The White House said it had a list of more than 1,000 products that could be targeted by tariffs of 25%. Businesses will have the opportunity to comment before the final list goes into effect.

        The US is also exploring ways to limit Chinese investment in the US. It says it will bring any matter it thinks is unfair to the WTO – as it is doing in the case of intellectual property.

        Who are the potential losers in a trade war?

        US officials had acknowledged the possibility of retaliation from China, but said the Asian giant ultimately had more to lose.

        If imposed as described, the US tariffs could lead to higher costs for consumers, while China’s retaliation would hit key sectors of the US economy including agriculture and aerospace, analysts say.

        China was the third largest market for US exports in 2016 and among the biggest buyers of American corn, pork and aircraft.

        China is also the world’s biggest consumer of soybeans and consumes about one third of the US crop.

        But in news which will come as a relief to US farmers, Friday’s announcement did not include the soybeans.

        Is there wider support in America for the plan?

        Critics of Mr Trump’s policies dismiss worries about the trade deficit, saying the exchange benefits both sides.

        However, there is growing bipartisan concern in America about China’s state-led economy and there is a worry that China is seeking technology that could be deployed for military purposes.

        Mr Trump’s America First policy remains popular with large sections of the US public.

        However, trade watchers in Asia says China’s retaliation will no doubt be carefully targeted to hit key Trump-supporting areas of the US.

        “The Chinese have been developing their list for more than a year and they are very good,” said Deborah Elms, executive director of the Asian Trade Centre in Singapore.

        “If things get very nasty, they can also make life very difficult for US companies doing business in China. It’s going to be very interesting.”

Craigslist drops dating ads after new law

Classified advertising website Craigslist has closed its dating ads section in the US, in response to a new bill against sex trafficking.

The bill states that websites can now be punished for “facilitating” prostitution and sex trafficking.

Ads promoting prostitution and child sexual abuse have previously been posted in the “personals” section of Craigslist.

The company said keeping the section open in the US was too much of a risk.

In a statement, Craigslist said the new law would “subject websites to criminal and civil liability when third parties (users) misuse online personals unlawfully”.

“Any tool or service can be misused. We can’t take such risk without jeopardising all our other services, so we are regretfully taking Craigslist personals offline,” it said.

In March, US congress passed the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (Fosta). It will apply to all states in the US.

Websites are not usually held responsible for the content that members post – as long as illegal material is removed as soon as the service provider is made aware.

However, the bill states that “websites that facilitate traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts” should not be protected.

It imposes fines and prison terms for those who own or operate a website that facilitates prostitution.

On Thursday, social network Reddit also banned its escorts message board.

It said “paid services involving physical sexual contact” were against its latest policies.

Sir Rod Stewart says Sir Elton John’s final tour ‘stinks of selling tickets’

Sir Rod Stewart has given his scathing view on Sir Elton John’s retirement tour, saying it “stinks of selling tickets” and is “not rock and roll”.

Speaking to US chat show host Andy Cohen on Bravo TV, Sir Rod said he did not believe in retirement tours.

“I’ve never spoken about it and if I do retire, I won’t make an announcement. I’ll just fade away,” he said, adding that retirement tours were “dishonest”.

Sir Elton, who announced his farewell tour in February, hasn’t responded.

Sir Rod was responding to a question from a caller on Cohen’s Watch What Happens Live, asking what he thought about his fellow pop legend’s tour.

He responded: “Well I did email her [Sir Elton] and said ‘what, again dear?’ But I didn’t hear anything back.”

  • Elton John ‘to go out with a bang’ on final world tour
  • When does farewell ACTUALLY mean farewell?

    He added that when people made “a big deal” about announcing their retirement, it “stinks of selling tickets”.

    Sir Elton first announced his retirement from performing in 1977. In February, he announced he will finally say goodbye to fans with a series of 300 dates spanning three years.

    “I always thought I was going to be like Ray Charles, BB King – on the road forever,” Sir Elton said.

    “My priorities have changed. We had children and it changed our lives. That doesn’t mean to say I’m not going to be creative. But I’m not going to travel.”

    Sir Elton’s representatives have not responded to a request for comment.

    Follow us on Facebook, on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts, or on Instagram at bbcnewsents. If you have a story suggestion email entertainment.news@bbc.co.uk.

Ice cream uncle gives 1,000 freebies on his birthday

For most people, birthdays are a time for receiving gifts. But for one man in Singapore, it’s the exact opposite.

Meet ‘Uncle Jimmy’, the ice cream seller who gives out 1,000 free treats each year on his birthday.

Every weekday, the 72-year-old drives his motorcycle to the same spot he’s been working at for the past 15 years, sets up his stall and waits for customers to trickle in.

But 22 March – his birthday – is a little different.

On that day a long queue of customers forms in front of his stall, all hoping to get their hands on the free ice cream he gives out.

“I attended an event at NUS (National University of Singapore) and some students said they would help me set up a Facebook page,” he said. “My children taught me how to use it and now I update it by myself.”

Despite his sunny demeanour, the businessman has had difficult times in recent years.

“My wife passed away three years ago, before that I had to work to pay her hospitalisation bills,” he said. “After she passed I wanted to give up my business, but after three months I found myself coming out and selling ice cream again.”

He proudly said he works from 1-6pm every weekday in Singapore’s Lavender area.

“I’ve been here for 15 years. My daughter keeps telling me ‘Pa, just stop working’, but I want to do it for as long as I can,” he said.

“Some people look at me and ask why I’m not at home resting, but if I don’t come out I’ll be in the house alone… that’s even more boring.”

And how long does he plan on giving out free ice cream?

“I’ll give [them] out every birthday, as long as I live,” he says, before cracking into a grin. “I feel happy here.”

Ice cream uncle gives 1,000 freebies on his birthday

For most people, birthdays are a time for receiving gifts. But for one man in Singapore, it’s the exact opposite.

Meet ‘Uncle Jimmy’, the ice cream seller who gives out 1,000 free treats each year on his birthday.

Every weekday, the 72-year-old drives his motorcycle to the same spot he’s been working at for the past 15 years, sets up his stall and waits for customers to trickle in.

But 22 March – his birthday – is a little different.

On that day a long queue of customers forms in front of his stall, all hoping to get their hands on the free ice cream he gives out.

“I attended an event at NUS (National University of Singapore) and some students said they would help me set up a Facebook page,” he said. “My children taught me how to use it and now I update it by myself.”

Despite his sunny demeanour, the businessman has had difficult times in recent years.

“My wife passed away three years ago, before that I had to work to pay her hospitalisation bills,” he said. “After she passed I wanted to give up my business, but after three months I found myself coming out and selling ice cream again.”

He proudly said he works from 1-6pm every weekday in Singapore’s Lavender area.

“I’ve been here for 15 years. My daughter keeps telling me ‘Pa, just stop working’, but I want to do it for as long as I can,” he said.

“Some people look at me and ask why I’m not at home resting, but if I don’t come out I’ll be in the house alone… that’s even more boring.”

And how long does he plan on giving out free ice cream?

“I’ll give [them] out every birthday, as long as I live,” he says, before cracking into a grin. “I feel happy here.”

Russia ‘arming the Afghan Taliban’, says US

Russia is supporting and even supplying arms to the Taliban, the head of US forces in Afghanistan has told the BBC.

In an exclusive interview, Gen John Nicholson said he’d seen “destabilising activity by the Russians.”

He said Russian weapons were smuggled across the Tajik border to the Taliban, but could not say in what quantity. Russia has denied such US allegations in the past, citing a lack of evidence.

But the new claims come at a sensitive time in Russia’s ties with Nato powers.

Britain and Russia are locked in a dispute over claims that Russia was behind an attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter on UK soil using a deadly nerve agent.

Meanwhile a US Congressional Intelligence Committee has just published a report concluding that Russian provocateurs meddled in the 2016 election.

  • Russian spy: What we know so far
  • US punishes Russians over vote meddling
  • Russia denies supplying the Taliban

    “We see a narrative that’s being used that grossly exaggerates the number of Isis [Islamic State group] fighters here,” Gen Nicholson told BBC News. “This narrative then is used as a justification for the Russians to legitimise the actions of Taliban and provide some degree of support to the Taliban.”

    “We’ve had stories written by the Taliban that have appeared in the media about financial support provided by the enemy. We’ve had weapons brought to this headquarters and given to us by Afghan leaders and said, this was given by the Russians to the Taliban,” he continued. “We know that the Russians are involved.”

    Much of Gen Nicholson’s career has been spent in the conflict in Afghanistan. He narrowly escaped death when his office in the Pentagon was destroyed by one of the 9/11 planes and the US campaign in Afghanistan has shaped his career ever since.

    He believes this direct Russian involvement with the Taliban is relatively new. He says Russia has conducted a series of exercises on the Afghan border with Tajikistan. “These are counter terrorism exercises,” says Gen Nicholson, “but we’ve seen the Russian patterns before: they bring in large amounts of equipment and then they leave some of it behind.”

    The implication is that these weapons and other equipment are then smuggled across the border and supplied to the Taliban.

    The general admits it is hard to quantify how much support Russia is actually giving the Taliban, but senior Afghan police officers and military figures have told the BBC that it includes night vision goggles, medium and heavy machine guns as well as small arms.

    Afghan sources say these weapons are likely to have been used against Afghan forces and the Nato advisers who support them on some combat missions.

    However, Russia is not an obvious ally of the Taliban. The Soviet Union fought a bitter war against the US-backed mujahedin after it invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Many of those same mujahedin fighters joined the Taliban when it was formed during the civil war that followed the humiliating Russian withdrawal in 1989.

    The Taliban’s enmity towards Russia was enduring, says Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Network: “The Taliban always castigated the Northern Alliance for dealing with Russia,” she says.

    It may be that now Russian and Taliban interests are becoming more closely aligned, she speculates.

    President Trump has been pressuring Pakistan to sever its links with the Taliban. In January he suspended hundreds of millions of dollars of security aid after complaining on Twitter that Pakistan had “given us nothing but lies & deceit” and accusing it of providing “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan”.

    The Taliban is also keen to distance itself from Pakistan and demonstrate that it is an independent force. That makes finding new funding lines and international backers important.

    Russia, meanwhile, denies providing weapons or funds to the Taliban but has admitted that it has had talks with the insurgent group. It justified that on the basis of the shared opposition to the Islamic State group, which has been trying to establish a base in the north-east of Afghanistan.

    However Russia may well believe there are wider geo-political benefits to be had from supporting the Taliban.

    When I asked Gen Nicholson whether he thought that Russia was fighting a proxy war against America in Afghanistan he didn’t address the question directly.

    “This activity really picked up in the last 18 to 24 months,” he replied. “Prior to that we had not seen this kind of destabilising activity by Russia here. When you look at the timing it roughly correlates to when things started to heat up in Syria. So it’s interesting to note the timing of the whole thing.”

Thrills and chills at Broadway’s Frozen musical

As the musical version of Disney’s hit film Frozen opens on Broadway, reporter Elysa Gardner takes a trip to Arendelle with some excited fans.

On a late winter’s evening in New York City, fans young and old gathered to be transported to an even chillier place.

Their destination, technically speaking, was Times Square, where Disney’s latest stage outing, an adaptation of its 2013 screen musical Frozen – the highest-grossing animated film of all time – was in previews.

But even before the curtain rose inside Broadway’s St James Theatre on 17 March, audience members were ready to suspend disbelief and enter the gates of Arendelle, the fictional kingdom where royal sisters Elsa and Anna grow up and apart and are then reunited – with a little help from an ice salesman, his reindeer and an indomitable snowman.

“I want to see what the characters look like in real life,” said nine-year-old Margaux Knepper, from suburban Long Island.

Gabriel and Grace Stevens, aged 12 and nine respectively, had travelled all the way from Destin, Florida with their parents and were especially eager to see how Sven the reindeer would be recreated onstage.

The puppet design provided for Sven and Olaf the snowman is a highlight of this Frozen, which had its official opening night on Thursday.

Credit for this goes to puppet designer Michael Curry, who previously made magic as Julie Taymor’s collaborator on The Lion King, Disney’s longest-running Broadway hit.

Yet for all the clever design elements involved in the production, it’s the performances, guided with wit and tenderness by acclaimed British director Michael Grandage, that propel the story.

That story is spun by librettist Jennifer Lee, adapting her own screenplay, and composer/lyricists Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez – Academy Award winners both for Frozen and, more recently, Coco.

The journeys of the two spirited young women at the centre of Frozen have both classical elements – Grandage has cited Shakespeare in describing the story’s arc – and aspects that seem freshly topical in the #MeToo era.

Elder sibling Elsa is burdened with the ability to literally freeze her environment – a power that nearly kills her sister in childhood and compels their parents to separate the once inseparable girls and isolate the castle in which they live.

The parents then perish in a storm. (This is Disney after all.) No sooner has Elsa been crowned, however than her strange magic is inadvertently revealed, sending Arendelle into a state of perpetual winter and its young queen fleeing into exile.

Princess Anna bravely follows her, hoping to finally connect with her sister. Meanwhile, a prince who has proposed to Anna on their first meeting organises a search party to rescue her and find Elsa.

The twists that follow – on the off chance you’re not already familiar with them – reference and defy sexist stereotypes. These include the myth – previously shot down in another Broadway musical, the long-popular Wicked – that strong women are more likely to compete with than support one another.

As Elsa, Caissie Levy – a formidable belter whose previous Broadway roles include Wicked’s Elphaba – lends heft and gleam to Frozen’s signature siren call, Let It Go.

She brings the same qualities to the no less turbo-charged Monster, one of several new songs Anderson-Lopez and Lopez have crafted for the show.

Plucky Anna provides more of a comic showcase and may well prove a breakout role for Patti Murin, who is both delightfully playful in her scenes with Kristoff the iceman – charmingly played by Jelani Alladin – and poignant in a darker sequence that introduces fetching new ballad True Love.

Anna is joined in the latter scene by Olaf, who is given just the right goofy sweetness by Greg Hildreth and his accompanying puppet. Revisiting a choice line from the film (“Some people are worth melting for”), Hildreth reaped a well-deserved “awwww” from Saturday’s audience.

Andrew Pirozzi has a more physically demanding task manipulating the more elaborate and expressive puppet designed for Sven. Yet he nonetheless gives the creature a wry soulfulness.

Without speaking a word or singing a note, Pirozzi also factors in some of the show’s funniest moments, nearly upstaging Olaf’s entrance as he slowly manoeuvres the reindeer’s bulky frame around to gawk at the snowman.

Scenic and costume designer Christopher Oram, Grandage’s frequent collaborator, manages the same balance of sprit and spectacle, whether summoning the cultural and spiritual traditions of local townsfolk or bringing us deep into Elsa’s domain.

Natasha Katz’s lighting and Finn Ross’s video design, meanwhile, help evoke a sparkling winter wonderland – occasionally marked by icy spikes that pop up when Elsa’s anger piques.

The spikes were a hit with Teegan Witock, a seven-year-old from Brooklyn, while her 10-year-old sister Anderson cited Elsa’s lightning-fast costume change into a glittering ice-blue gown during Let It Go.

Other audience members got a kick out of Mattea Conforti, the super-perky actress who played Anna as a young girl at Saturday night’s performance.

There was also praise for the graceful Ayla Schwartz, who played young Elsa. (Two actresses alternate in each role.)

To no one’s surprise, the evening ended with a standing ovation, during which Margaux Knepper and her friend Phoebe Talamas, also nine, scooted down the aisle to get a closer look at the players.

They were real all right, and both girls no doubt walked back into the frosty night air feeling a little warmer inside.

Frozen continues at New York’s St James Theatre. A UK production has yet to be confirmed.

Follow us on Facebook, on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts, or on Instagram at bbcnewsents. If you have a story suggestion email entertainment.news@bbc.co.uk.

Thrills and chills at Broadway’s Frozen musical

As the musical version of Disney’s hit film Frozen opens on Broadway, reporter Elysa Gardner takes a trip to Arendelle with some excited fans.

On a late winter’s evening in New York City, fans young and old gathered to be transported to an even chillier place.

Their destination, technically speaking, was Times Square, where Disney’s latest stage outing, an adaptation of its 2013 screen musical Frozen – the highest-grossing animated film of all time – was in previews.

But even before the curtain rose inside Broadway’s St James Theatre on 17 March, audience members were ready to suspend disbelief and enter the gates of Arendelle, the fictional kingdom where royal sisters Elsa and Anna grow up and apart and are then reunited – with a little help from an ice salesman, his reindeer and an indomitable snowman.

“I want to see what the characters look like in real life,” said nine-year-old Margaux Knepper, from suburban Long Island.

Gabriel and Grace Stevens, aged 12 and nine respectively, had travelled all the way from Destin, Florida with their parents and were especially eager to see how Sven the reindeer would be recreated onstage.

The puppet design provided for Sven and Olaf the snowman is a highlight of this Frozen, which had its official opening night on Thursday.

Credit for this goes to puppet designer Michael Curry, who previously made magic as Julie Taymor’s collaborator on The Lion King, Disney’s longest-running Broadway hit.

Yet for all the clever design elements involved in the production, it’s the performances, guided with wit and tenderness by acclaimed British director Michael Grandage, that propel the story.

That story is spun by librettist Jennifer Lee, adapting her own screenplay, and composer/lyricists Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez – Academy Award winners both for Frozen and, more recently, Coco.

The journeys of the two spirited young women at the centre of Frozen have both classical elements – Grandage has cited Shakespeare in describing the story’s arc – and aspects that seem freshly topical in the #MeToo era.

Elder sibling Elsa is burdened with the ability to literally freeze her environment – a power that nearly kills her sister in childhood and compels their parents to separate the once inseparable girls and isolate the castle in which they live.

The parents then perish in a storm. (This is Disney after all.) No sooner has Elsa been crowned, however than her strange magic is inadvertently revealed, sending Arendelle into a state of perpetual winter and its young queen fleeing into exile.

Princess Anna bravely follows her, hoping to finally connect with her sister. Meanwhile, a prince who has proposed to Anna on their first meeting organises a search party to rescue her and find Elsa.

The twists that follow – on the off chance you’re not already familiar with them – reference and defy sexist stereotypes. These include the myth – previously shot down in another Broadway musical, the long-popular Wicked – that strong women are more likely to compete with than support one another.

As Elsa, Caissie Levy – a formidable belter whose previous Broadway roles include Wicked’s Elphaba – lends heft and gleam to Frozen’s signature siren call, Let It Go.

She brings the same qualities to the no less turbo-charged Monster, one of several new songs Anderson-Lopez and Lopez have crafted for the show.

Plucky Anna provides more of a comic showcase and may well prove a breakout role for Patti Murin, who is both delightfully playful in her scenes with Kristoff the iceman – charmingly played by Jelani Alladin – and poignant in a darker sequence that introduces fetching new ballad True Love.

Anna is joined in the latter scene by Olaf, who is given just the right goofy sweetness by Greg Hildreth and his accompanying puppet. Revisiting a choice line from the film (“Some people are worth melting for”), Hildreth reaped a well-deserved “awwww” from Saturday’s audience.

Andrew Pirozzi has a more physically demanding task manipulating the more elaborate and expressive puppet designed for Sven. Yet he nonetheless gives the creature a wry soulfulness.

Without speaking a word or singing a note, Pirozzi also factors in some of the show’s funniest moments, nearly upstaging Olaf’s entrance as he slowly manoeuvres the reindeer’s bulky frame around to gawk at the snowman.

Scenic and costume designer Christopher Oram, Grandage’s frequent collaborator, manages the same balance of sprit and spectacle, whether summoning the cultural and spiritual traditions of local townsfolk or bringing us deep into Elsa’s domain.

Natasha Katz’s lighting and Finn Ross’s video design, meanwhile, help evoke a sparkling winter wonderland – occasionally marked by icy spikes that pop up when Elsa’s anger piques.

The spikes were a hit with Teegan Witock, a seven-year-old from Brooklyn, while her 10-year-old sister Anderson cited Elsa’s lightning-fast costume change into a glittering ice-blue gown during Let It Go.

Other audience members got a kick out of Mattea Conforti, the super-perky actress who played Anna as a young girl at Saturday night’s performance.

There was also praise for the graceful Ayla Schwartz, who played young Elsa. (Two actresses alternate in each role.)

To no one’s surprise, the evening ended with a standing ovation, during which Margaux Knepper and her friend Phoebe Talamas, also nine, scooted down the aisle to get a closer look at the players.

They were real all right, and both girls no doubt walked back into the frosty night air feeling a little warmer inside.

Frozen continues at New York’s St James Theatre. A UK production has yet to be confirmed.

Follow us on Facebook, on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts, or on Instagram at bbcnewsents. If you have a story suggestion email entertainment.news@bbc.co.uk.

Katie Brennan: Australia’s AFL accused of gender discrimination

The captain of an Australian rules football team has launched a high-profile gender discrimination complaint after she was banned from playing in her league’s biggest match.

Katie Brennan was suspended from the Australian Football League Women’s (AFLW) over a rough tackle.

A similar offence in the men’s league would attract a fine, not a suspension.

Brennan has taken her case to the Australian Human Rights Commission. League officials have denied sexism.

What was wrong with the tackle?

Australian rules football is a contact sport that involves two teams of 18 people who use their feet or hands to move an oval-shaped ball.

Skip Twitter post by @Kate_Seear

Whatever the result, Katie Brennan’s bid to play in the #AFLWGF raises vital questions about gender equity in the current AFLW tribunal system. A whole new tribunal system will be essential for AFLW season 3; otherwise, more legal challenges are inevitable.

— A/Prof Kate Seear (@Kate_Seear) March 22, 2018

Report

End of Twitter post by @Kate_Seear

What does the league say?

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said it was unfair to call Brennan’s case an example of sexism.

“I guess I would say that in different competitions, we have different rules,” he said on Melbourne radio station 3AW.

However, he said the current rules would be reviewed.

“It will definitely be looked at, whether there’s change is a different issue. I think there’s a fair question to be asked there,” he said.

Western Bulldogs chief executive Ameet Bains said: “We share Katie’s view that her suspension was wrong and we will fully support her challenging the AFL rules on the basis of gender discrimination.”

What happens now?

Brennan will seek to overturn her suspension through the Australian Human Rights Commission – an independent statutory body that is government-funded. The commission resolves matters through conciliation.

There will be no outcome before Saturday, but Brennan said her main aim was to make rules consistent between AFL and AFLW.

“The fight for gender equality is as every bit as important to me as the grand final,” she said.

AFLW began as a professional competition only last year. It has faced controversy over why its players are paid significantly less than men.