Between the daily parades and nightly pageants, local Disney devotees can find their fill of animation-inspired entertainment in Lake Buena Vista's theme parks any day of the year, but (as the Magic Kingdom's new Princess Fantasy Faire meet & greet creeps towards completion) they grown accoustimed to all the cool stuff appearing first elsewhere, like Anaheim or Asia. In a twist (or triple axel), for this weekend only Orlando's Amway Center is hosting the world premiere of a brand new live Disney show that hearkens back to some of the very oldest -- at considerably cheaper ticket prices than a day at Walt Disney World.
Touring ice skating shows featuring Disney characters date back to 1949, and the costumes worn by in-park characters during Disneyland's early days were borrowed from the Ice Capades. So Disney On Ice: Princesses & Heroes stands in a long lineage of presenting ice-bound incarnations of Walt's classic characters that are equally as appealing as their theme park equivalents. Mickey and Minnie skate in (shadowed by a pixie dust-spraying Tinker Bell) and introduce a series of eight storybook tales, ranging from Snow White to Rapunzel. Each princess' adventure is Cliff Noted down to a few minutes that fit a familiar pattern: guy and girl meet and exchange "I want" songs; comic secondary characters cavort to cover a costume change; romantic couple skates a duet of impressively athletic lifts (some of which were scarily unsteady on opening night).
Production numbers like "Be Our Guest," and "Under the Sea," pop with creative costumes and dynamic lighting designs, and are as peppy as anything in Disney's parks, cruise ships, or Broadway tours. It's unfortunate that the villains are almost entirely excised from the pared-down plots, since Ursula and Maleficent make such an impact when they do appear; the puppet-like dragon that spews flame onto the rink (burning ice!) is the highlight of act two. It isn't until the grand finale, when all 8 royal couples appear, attended by backup skater, a telescoping pumpkin carriage, and indoor fireworks, that you fully appreciate the scale of this production.
As a thirty-something childless theatre critic, I can complain about the performers' inconsistent attempts to lip-sync, some of the unpolished choreographic subtleties, or the $12 cotton candy. But I'm not the target demographic foe this show. So I borrowed a pair of kids from a friend (don't worry, I returned them unharmed) to get a child's-eye opinion on the production:
A., a 14 year-old girl, rated the show a "4.4 out of five," liked "cool costumes" in the Little Mermaid scene. Her brother K., age 11, rated the show a "3.87 out of five", and preferred the "evil thorn bushes" and dragon battle in the Sleeping Beauty segment. Both named the short Princess and the Frog section as their least favorite because it "skipped the entire movie," and felt the show was "too fast" at times and "aimed at younger kids," but still "loved it" and called it "awesome."
Remaining performances are today (9/14) and Sunday (9/15); tickets are $16 to $55 at the Amy box office or 1-800-745-3000.