First things first, kids: there’s no strict narrative to Disney on Ice: Let's Celebrate! It’s really more of a party. According the company director Stuart McDonald, the show's aim is to “celebrate all seasons and festivities that all cultures have to offer. It’s a montage of different celebrations.”
Montage is right. During the performance, Time Out was taken from Brazil to Hawaii via Japan, and from a birthday party to a Christmas celebration, and eventually a pretty gnarly Halloween do hosted by Pumpkin Jack. It’s all sort of tied together with a time-space bending love story starring Mickey and Minnie, but the how and why is largely irrelevant. More characters than we’ve got time to name (although trying throughout the show is quite fun) get their groove on, and Buzz Lightyear doesn’t quite go on a magic carpet ride, but that’s the level of intertextuality at play here.
It must be said that the production values, at least at the show Time Out caught, were at times poorer than we expected from entertainment juggernauts Disney and Feld Productions. Often it was hard to know exactly which character the dialogue was coming from, the song lyrics tended to dip into inaudibility, and the big screen graphics were Super Nintendo-esque.
But there are some great moments in this show. The dancing broom scene from Fantasia has been beautifully adapted for the ice, flawlessly choreographed and blissfully psychedelic. And we won’t tell you exactly which beloved Disney characters burst from the giant Christmas presents to the tune of ‘The Toys are Back in Town’, but expect the night’s biggest cheer when they do.
More importantly, this is a kids’ show, so perhaps this type of analysis pales into insignificance next to the reaction from the young ones. And if our stinging ears were anything to go by, they liked it. A lot. And impressing kids is no mean feat, as Andrew Buchanan who plays Aladin was quick to point out. “They are the toughest audience," he says. "If you’re not putting in, they’ll let you know.”
The standard of the skating truly deserves commendation. The majority of performers ended up on Walt’s books after starting their careers in other ice sports like speed or figure skating, but the demands are no less here. Buchannan, a former hockey player, discovered things can be just as tough in show biz when he was forced to have his wrist reconstructed after a mid-show mishap a few years back. While catching his skating partner from a throw, his arm was pushed the wrong way. "I still caught her and managed to get through three more shows the next day,” he recalls. That’s what we call ‘doing it for the kids!’
This show is a good time and well worth a look if you’ve got little ones. A more engaging story may have helped bring in an older crowd, but there is plenty to marvel at all the same.