Disney on Ice is back on tour with its biggest show yet, celebrating 100 Years of Magic.
‘I thought we’d have to go to Disneyland for this!’ says my 7-year-old theatre buddy, wide-eyed as Mouse-ter of Ceremonies Mickey Mouse and his sweetheart Minnie Mouse skate into Manchester Arena with their marching band behind them.
As with all things under the Disney brand, the quality is first-class wherever you experience them. And this is the real deal Disney experience, with Donald Duck, Goofy and another 50 animated favourites out to play.
Here the floor of the arena is transformed into a giant ice rink where, for the next hour and 50 minutes, we’re taken on a whistle-stop journey through 14 Disney stories including Pinocchio, Finding Dory, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Toy Story and Mulan.
The speed and grace of the championship skaters in the cast adds to the make-believe spell of an evening filled with dragons, giant turtles, hairy beasts, enchanted castles and many of our favourite Disney characters. It is wonderful to see children excited to recognise each character as they take to the ice, and their awe when Aladdin’s Genie multiplies to make about 20 more.
The skating is beautifully choreographed by Emmy Award winner, Sarah Kawahara, who also choreographed the skating segment for the opening of the 2002 Winter Olympics, and Cindy Stuart, whose additional choreography credits include creating routines for two-time Olympic Gold medallist, Katarina Witt. The Disney Prince and Princess section gives the skaters a real chance to shine, as six couples speed across the ice displaying breath-taking lifts, spins and somersaults.
The first half closes with Frozen, a mesmerising condensing of the story with bustling market places; falling snow; crystal staircases and all of the well-known songs including: For the First Time in Forever; Love is an Open Door; In Summer and Let it Go.
In all there are 30 memorable Disney songs – all instantly recognisable. The atmosphere is electric for the Lion King’s Circle of Life/Nants’ Ingonyama and there is another surprise when Wart Hog, Pumbaa arrives with skates on all four hooves.
Few shows make such an emotional impact across all age groups as youngsters shout out to make contact with their favourite characters while grandparents connect with the dreams of their own childhood. For the audience these really are tales as old as time and still as magical. As our mini-reviewer says: ‘It’s brilliant!’★ ★ ★ ★ ★