Thursday 29 June 2023

DISNEY ON ICE - 100 YEARS OF WONDER: Theatre Review

WHAT: Disney On Ice - 100 Years of Wonder
WHEN: 28 June - 2 July 2023
WHERE: Rod Laver Arena
FEATURING: Marina Bolam, Sarah Dalton, Rachael Dobson, Leo Leilling, Kirstie Nelson, Isabella Newhuis, Adriene Ott, Will Ott, Ryan Santee, Benjamin Toedte, and Matthew Young

Sarah Dalton - photo supplied

Aaah, Disney. Disney is the TV and film diet we of the Western World grew up on for most of the 20th Century and continues through to today. Disney on Ice hit the world by storm when Feld Entertainment launched it in 1981 and it is a pleasant surprise to see the concept continuing, particularly in the 100th anniversary year for The Walt Disney Company. This 100 year retrospective hit Melbourne first in the Myer Christmas window displays in 2022 and the festival continues with Disney On Ice - 100 Years of Wonder at the Rod Laver Arena this year.

100 Years of Wonder is a medley of great moments from classic Disney movies. It would be easy to mourn the absence of your favourite movie. The catalogue is so big it would be impossible to fit everything into a tight, yet spectacular, 2 hour show suitable for children on a week night. What I really loved about the selections for this show is they hit some real high notes with Beauty and the Beast, Toy Story, and The Little Mermaid, but if you look closely you can see the program has been selected to represent a more modern and diverse cultural preference from shows such as Moana and Coco. I heard people in the audience say they hadn't seen Coco. I suspect it will hit the much played list on the Disney streaming service over the next month or so.

Whilst 100 Years of Wonder is primarily an ice dancing show, sticking with its roots and mindful that this show is a retrospective. what they have cleverly done, however, is incorporate a range of circus elements, in particular many of the aerial disciplines. Riffing of the synergies with, and success of, Cirque du Soleil this show uses vertical space in very powerful ways. This has the benefit of bringing the audience in the higher auditorium seats into the production as it looks like the characters are flying, swinging, swaying right in front of our eyes!

100 Years of Wonder is truly spectacular. The costumes are amazing, and as you would expect, all of the technical elements are out of this world - bright, colourful, constantly dynamic. It is true that the content is all for children but even the adults can't help but go wow at the lighting and costumes. It is also quite magical to watch all the illuminated merchandise waving through the auditorium (the performance is in thrust configuration so we all see each other). We all know merchandising is where the big bucks lie, but I was impressed to see how all those coloured, throbbing lights added to the magic created in the auditorium rather than being a distraction.

My favourite moments:

  • The magic chandelier from Beauty and The Beast
  • The toy soldiers from Toy Story
  • 'You're Welcome' from Moana
  • The sway poles and giant puppetry in 'Un Poco Loco' from Coco
  • The ice dancing in 'A Whole New World' from Aladdin
  • The ice harvesters from Frozen
The things that didn't work for me were the treasure hunt for magic to free Tinkerbell. I didn't understand why the show was being MC'd by 50's style teenyboppers. The legacy characters (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy) are already pretty redundant and if they aren't running the show it becomes hard to justify their presence from a dramaturgical point of view. Yes, they started this amazing phenomenon known as Disney, but why wouldn't you give them character and purpose in a retrospective of this nature? 

Perhaps all the conceit elements fit better with an American audience. It doesn't really matter though. Nobody is there to see that stuff. All we really want are the movie excerpts and they ring out like a carillon. You also have to love the commitment to pack as much as they can into the two hours we are there.

Disney On Ice: 100 Years of Wonder truly does fit the 'spectacular' mould. The kids will have all the fun in the world and be singing and dancing and waving their wands. Parents can sit back and relax, knowing this show and the ongoing content available will enchant their children for at least the duration of the school holidays. Luckily Disney is committed to positive messages in their content so let the kids have their fun.

5 Stars


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