Disney still making magic

By: Rebecca Celli rebecca.celli@gazette.com
March 27, 2014 Updated: March 27, 2014 at 9:01 am
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7 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. April 5, 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. April 6, World Arena, 3185 Venetucci Blvd., $15-$58; 576-2626, ticketswest.com.

At age 86, Mickey Mouse doesn't wear bifocals. His spry girlfriend, Minerva or "Minnie," also 86, is not a member of the AARP.

As perhaps the most youthful elderly couple in the public eye, the duo will be taking to World Arena on ice skates Thursday as part of "Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic," a show akin to a lavish Disney family reunion. It features floats, synchronized dance numbers to famous jingles and a rink filled with the Mouse's iconic friends, including everyone from Jiminy Cricket, now in his 74th year, to the spunky little fish Nemo, who is all of 11.

Disney purists need not fear this contemporary rendition. Although the performance features original skating routines and dialogue, choreographer Sarah Kawahara says that the show's producers "go to the nth degree to stay true to the familiar stories" aesthetically and narratively.

The producers meet with the original creators, study the films and, when possible, hire the original actors to do voice recordings for the productions, Kawahara said. Even the skaters, who perform clad in fabric versions faithful to their cartoon characters' traditional garb, are required to be well-versed in Disney history. The company, which features performers from around the world, travels with a Disney film library and "when they're not on the ice, the skaters are watching those movies."

With good reason. Natasha Kuchiki, who skates as Aladdin's Jasmine and Mulan in this show, acknowledges the pressures associated with working with such a timeless and sacred enterprise. Old and young people have remained connected to original stories, songs and characters for decades, she says.

The kids know these characters so well, and so they are "often our biggest critics."

With this said, the show presents a unique convergence of classic and contemporary Disney. The production's dramatic finale features 76 characters from Disney's history accompanied by colorful fireworks.

Kuchiki calls it "a show that speaks to the inner child in all of us." These are stories that bring joy to children and evoke childhood memories in adult audiences, she says.

"There's not much else like it."

Rebecca Celli, The Gazette, rebecca.celli@gazette.com

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