Disney princesses come together on the ice to 'Dream Big'
The places that Disney princesses call home range from Anna and Elsa's “Frozen” village of Arendelle, to Ariel's “Under the Sea” ocean digs in “The Little Mermaid” and Jasmine's Arabian city of Agrabah in “Aladdin.”
No matter where their stories take place, Disney on Ice producer Kenneth Feld says Disney princesses have one thing in common: each one had a dream and the determination to make their dream a reality.
Disney on Ice celebrates the courage of eight Disney Princesses — Ariel, Belle, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Tiana, Jasmine, Aurora and Snow White — and their friends who helped them in their journeys in its latest ice extravaganza, “Dream Big.”
Tinker Bell will guide audiences through the tales of all of the princesses in each of eight performances Feb. 23 to 26 at Pittsburgh's PPG Paints Arena. The show's second act is devoted to favorite “Frozen” characters Anna, Elsa, Olaf and Kristoff, who will recount their own courageous adventures from Disney's 2013 hit animated film.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Disney on Ice production without Mickey and Minnie Mouse making a special appearance.
One of the cast members, Ryan Coombs from Warren, in northwest Pennsylvania, portrays Ariel in the touring production that opened in September and winds down in June. An eight-year veteran of Disney on Ice shows, she also has skated the roles of Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty.
“The Little Mermaid” segment of the show is an audience favorite, she says, partly because of the upbeat music that accompanies the skating.
“There are so many colors and special effects and everybody is singing out there,” she says. “The reaction is not just from kids, but by adults, too. They are having such fun. The show takes people out of the real world for a couple of hours.”
Coombs says audience reaction reaches a high point when Olaf, the friendliest snowman in Arendelle, takes the ice during the “Frozen” portion of the show.
“It's fun to be backstage and hear the crowd when he comes out,” she says.
Another cast member, Jennifer Howie from Ada, Okla., is an ensemble skater and an understudy, which means she can be called on to play any one of several roles, from Cinderella's stepsister to Tinker Bell, depending on where she's needed for a particular performance.
“We all know each other's roles, which makes it fun,” she says. “Every day is different. It's definitely a fun challenge.”
This is Howie's ninth year with Feld Entertainment, producer of Disney on Ice. She majored in exercise science with a concentration in figure skating at the University of Delaware. She also studied modern dance while attending the Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain, Oklahoma City.
For someone who grew up in a town with no skating rinks, who started skating at age 10, and whose parents drove her two hours each way to Oklahoma City to learn her sport, she considers herself fortunate to have a job she enjoys as an ice skater. So far, she's been to 36 different countries with touring shows.
“It's a great company,” she says. “I've been very blessed to be paid to do want I love.”
Two other Pennsylvania residents are with the “Dream Big” show: Sasha Kowal from Nazareth, Northampton County, performs in the ensemble, and Jeannie Wickert from Levittown, Bucks County, is the production stage manager.
Disney has long had a strong association with princesses. The latest Disney on Ice production focuses on several who have become household names to young children everywhere.
Snow White: The raven-haired heroine was in Disney's first princess and starred in its first animated film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” released in 1937. You can get a signature edition DVD of the classic film beginning◾Feb. 28. She's also had several live-action portrayals including by Ginnifer Goodwin as one of the leads in ABC's “Once Upon a Time” and by Kristen Stewart in the non-Disney, action-packed movie “Snow White and the Huntsman” (2012).
Cinderella: The fairytale of Cinderella has been around since the 1800s, but Disney's classic animated “Cinderella” movie debuted in 1950. Disney has since made two animated sequels. The 2015 live action version starred Lily James as the poor orphan girl and Kate Blanchett as the evil stepmother. She also has appeared in “Once Upon a Time,” played by Jessy Schram. There been several non-Disney Cinderellas, starring everyone from Julie Andrews to Selena Gomez.
Aurora: The heroine of the 1959 animated classic “Sleeping Beauty,” she is portrayed by Sarah Bolger in “Once Upon a Time” and by Elle Fanning in 2014's “Maleficent.”
Ariel: The seventh daughter of King Triton wishes to be human in 1989's animated film “The Little Mermaid,” which one two Oscars for its music. Disney released two more straight-to-video “Little Mermaid” movies. A live-action modern retelling of the Hans Christian Anderson tale, starring Gina Gershon and Shirley MacLaine, is due out later this year. She's been in three seasons of “Once Upon a Time,” portrayed by Joanna Garcia.
Belle: It's a big year for Belle, from “Beauty and the Beast.” On Feb. 28, the 25th Anniversary Signature Edition DVD of the animated classic will be released, and then on◾March 17, Emma Watson, of “Harry Potter” fame, takes over the role in a live action “Beauty and the Beast” movie.
Jasmine: This princess from Agrabah is the love interest of the main character in 1992's “Aladdin.” She appeared in two animated sequels and a short-lived animated TV series.
Tiana: This New Orleans cook is the princess in 2009's “The Princess and the Frog,” although she actually doesn't become a princess until she kisses and marries the frog (prince). She's voiced by Anika Noni Rose.
Rapunzel: While the story of the long-haired Rapunzel has been around since the Brothers Grimm, Disney didn't get around to making a movie of it until 2010's “Tangled,” with Mandy Moore as the voice of Rapunzel. Moore and Zachary Levi (as the voice of her love interest Flinn Rider/Eugene) return March 10 in an animated TV movie “Tangled: Before Every After,” that will then become at series on the Disney Channel, starting March 24.
Elsa and Anna: If you don't know who these two sisters are, you've been living in a hole the past few years. The stars of 2013's “Frozen” were voiced by Idina Menzel as Queen Elsa and Kristen Bell as her younger sister, Princess Anna. The two will be back later this year in a Christmas-themed special “Olaf's Frozen Adventure,” with Josh Gad as snowman Olaf, and in a “Frozen 2,” rumored to be coming out in 2018.