BY TRICIA DESPRES | FOR THE SUN-TIMES
“Disney On Ice Presents Frozen” hits its emotional peak about halfway through the production, with five little words that everyone in attendance has come to hear: “The cold never bothered me anyway.”
And with those words, the first act of one of the most anticipated Disney on Ice productions in its history, comes to a close.
“The expectation for that moment alone was astronomical,” explains “Disney on Ice presents Frozen” lighting director Sam Doty of the show’s now iconic song “Let It Go” at the end of the show’s first act.
“Here is this girl [Elsa] who comes out and is basically creating the whole ice palace from the palm of her hand, which is next to impossible in a practical world.”
Of course, Disney has always had a way of making the impossible possible, but certainly not easy, especially when done on the slippery surface of ice.
DISNEY ON ICE PRESENTS ‘FROZEN’
Jan. 21 -26 at Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim, Rosemont
Tickets start at $25
Jan. 28 – Feb. 8 at United Center, 1901 W. Madison
Tickets start at $20
“It’s a 4-minute song where the audience is just bombarded by technology and special effects and things we have never ever done before on Disney on Ice,” adds Dody, a Terre Haute, Indiana, native who routinely traveled to Chicago when he was younger to see shows in Chicago. “Usually we fill the ice with everything we have during the last [scene] before admission and have a huge production number; but [with “Frozen”] we wanted to do a production number with one skater, which put the pressure on the rest of the departments.”
The task of recreating the Oscar-winning and top animated feature film of all time on ice was one that was heavy on Doty’s from the minute he first watched the movie.
“I was blown away by how much texture and detail that particular scene had for an animated film,” recalls Doty, who began tinkering with lights as a kid, building spotlights with magnifying glasses and light bulbs from his grandma’s house. “It was breathtaking. As a designer, it was a huge pressure to meet the expectations of the audience for that moment.”
Arriving in Chicago this week and presenting 34 shows between dates at both Allstate Arena and the United Center, the cast and crew of “Disney on Ice Presents Frozen” are well aware of the expectations put on them by audiences consisting of avid fans of the movie, which has evolved into something far greater than just another Disney fairy tale.
“‘Frozen’ was a film that [Disney] had been talking about [translating to an ice show production] for a while, and in particular John Lasseter felt like that it would be absolutely perfect for us, not just because it’s called ‘Frozen’ and we are in the ice business [laughs], but because the story and the characters are so rich and they have so much depth to them along with the fact that it is a musical,” said Nicole Feld, the show’s producer. “And I think that really works and it lends itself to the ice medium perfectly. We really view ‘Disney on Ice’ as ballet [on ice] for kids.”
“This show includes technical and lighting effects never done before anywhere,” says Doty of the production, which also includes anticipated musical numbers such as “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and “Fixer Upper.”
“We have automated scenery that drives on its own and costumes with LED lights all over them. Seeing the reaction of the kids and how completely engrossed and engaged they are in the show is the reward for any lighting designer.”
“It’s the first time in my life in all these years in show business that I have heard people applaud for a dress and costume,” Feld added. [Elsa’s cape costume for ‘Let It Go’] has 3,000 crystals and is breathtaking. It’s one of the most powerful numbers on ice that I have ever seen.”
Celebrating his 11th year on the road with Disney on Ice and his fifth time back in Chicago, “Disney on Ice Presents Frozen” featured skater Adam Loosely says he sees and feels that emotional connection firsthand, every night.
“It’s definitely an atmosphere that is motivating to perform to,” adds Loosely, who plays Prince Hans in the Disney on Ice production. “During the course of the show, I go from the handsome and romantic and cheesy type, to evil, and you can feel the audience get pretty angry with me. I get booed — often. [Laughs] But yes, I enjoy that because it means that they are really allowing themselves to go there in terms of the storyline.”
Tricia Despres is a local freelance writer.