Disney fans and ice skating aficionados will have something to cheer about as one of Disney’s classic stories, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” will be brought to life for six days in a rare Queen City ice show production, Jan. 10-15 at the Bass Park Civic Center Auditorium.
Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse and other favorite Disney characters also will show up to wave a hello and take part in an on-ice “fun to read” segment.
Audiences will have their pick of nine different performances of Kenneth Feld’s Disney On Ice production, and to make it easy for families to attend there will be one morning event and five afternoon showtimes available, as well as the evening performances.
The Disney On Ice event also will offer a row of special rink-side seats, called VIP seating, for those who would like an up-close view of the production. These seats will surround the skating area. The shows will be at 7 p.m. Jan 10, 11 and 12; 11:30 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Jan. 13; 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Jan. 14; and a final 2 p.m. show on Jan. 15, the Martin Luther King national holiday.
Tickets are available through the Civic Center box office at 990-4444; or from the TicketMaster outlet at Filene’s customer service center, Bangor Mall; and through TicketMaster, by telephone, at 207-775-3331. Ticket prices are $18.50 for all seats, and $30 for the first-row, rink-side seats (VIP seating).
This ice performance will be only the second to visit Bangor since 1996, according to Bangor Auditorium director Mike Dyer. “The auditorium used to have ice productions during the auditorium’s early days in the 1950s, but they ended in 1963, and we eliminated the ability to make ice in the late 1960s,” he said.
So, how does the production manage to build a state-of-the-art skating rink in order to create its theater-on-ice magic?
“It doesn’t come cheap,” Dyer said, “but the Disney production group brings its own ‘tank’ system with them to make the ice.
The system combines a series of aluminum plates that are 24 feet long by about 21/2 feet wide. The crew connects the plates together like a giant puzzle. Then it hooks up an interconnecting piping system throughout the entire construction to pipe refrigerant through it. A 6-inch-high border is installed around the edges, and that way the production can create its own self-contained rink,” he said.
But that’s just the “puzzle” part of the rink system. In order to make it a real ice rink capable of sustaining a full-scale professional ice show, the crew takes a day or so to patiently spray fine layers of water across the 90-foot-long by approximately 50-foot-wide aluminum construction, and wait for each one to freeze. When they have approximately three-quarters of an inch of ice put down they tint the ice with a special white paint. When the paint is dry the crew again sprays and waits, until the ice measures approximately 21/2 inches thick.
Throughout the event, the ice surface is maintained at 22 degrees Fahrenheit, with adjustments, to ensure a smooth, solid surface. The production crew even brings along its own small-sized Zamboni machine to keep the surface in perfect skating condition.
Dyer says this procedure, with its attending generator and compressor, costs in the neighborhood of $30,000.
One of the areas of the creative process that is essential to breathing life into the ice production of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is the scenery. The large sets, including the “Queen’s Castle,” one of the most elaborate sets ever built for a live production, and the smaller props, including the “Queen’s Mirror,” are under the design supervision of Robert Little and Mark Freddes. “We used the original 1937 storyboards and sketches from the Disney movie to design the show, down to each individual chair and bed in the seven dwarfs’ cottage,” Little said.
Then the lighting designer, Leroy Bennett, and sound designer, Roger Gans, work their own brand of magic. The sound must be remastered to combat the acoustical difficulties found in performing in ice arenas whose large spaces and hard walls and ceilings can make normally recorded lyrics and dialogue unintelligible. Using cutting-edge equipment, Gans ensures that the beloved tunes from “Snow White” are heard by everyone.
Bennett, known in the business for his work with such performers as Prince and Faith Hill, says he took his inspiration from the original Disney film: “I animated the entire ice with lights, making the lighting, in a sense, the colored strokes of the original animator’s paintbrush,” he said. “We actually can use the lights to give the live ice show the look of an animated movie.”
The cast, from Snow White to each of the seven dwarfs, is made up of world-class figure skaters, according to skating director and choreographer Bob Paul, who is a former Olympic gold medalist. Canadian senior ladies champion Angelique Tamara Franklin of British Columbia is cast in the role of Snow White. She is joined by figure skating master Roland Burghart of Austria as the prince. The Russian pairs skating team of Svetlana Dragaeva and Stanislav Joukov will be seen as the Apple Furies and Aladdin and Jasmine. The duo has been seen across the United States in televised professional pairs-skating events. The Evil Queen’s role will be skated by Bianca Szijgyarto of Hungary.
Paul said, “This is a production show, not just an ice show, and our skaters must be able to act … as they skate. There is as much drama in a production show on ice as on a stage, and the skaters have to make audiences feel as if they are in a theater.”
No ice show would be complete without thrilling audiences with how the skaters are dressed. Arthur Boccia, the Disney On Ice costume designer, combined the classic movie-inspired looks with the high-tech demands of today’s professional skater. Boca uses special materials to keep the skaters safe and warm, as well as designing style and function into each costume.
As a special attraction, Disney stars Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy appear on ice, along with characters from “The Jungle Book,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin.”
Dyer said, “In 1996, we drew a big crowd from Canada and the Maritimes,” he said, “especially for the weekend shows. They don’t get this kind of show in those areas, and they bring families down for an overnight to see the show. It’s a long drive, but I guess they think it’s worth it,” he said.
Fifteen percent of the ticket sales in 1996 were sold to a Canadian audience, Dyer added.