Disney on Ice has returned for its annual holiday visit to Boston. This year the show is performing at Boston University’s Agganis Arena, and the production, although once again filled with astonishingly talented skaters, feels a bit more modest in scale than previous incarnations.
This year’s theme is “Passport to Adventure” and consists of a mix of highlights from some of Disney’s animated favorites. My two 7-year-old critic/companions were familiar with only two out of the four films presented in the show, and while that meant that the heavily edited story lines didn’t always make sense to them, it didn’t get in the way of their enjoyment of the athletic and acrobatic solo and pairs skating.
The show opens, as always, with Mickey and his pals, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy, introducing the setup for the evening, and then returning between each story sequence to help with the transitions. First up is “The Lion King,” which opens with an ensemble of more than a dozen monkeys skating in a synchronized routine. We meet Rafiki and a delightfully energetic young Simba and Nala, followed by the crowd-pleasing appearance of Timon and Pumbaa (how does that skater manipulate those two additional legs?). But my young companions sat up in awe when the grown-up Simba and Nala skated a jaw-dropping duet to “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” that included lifts and spins that made one of the boys wonder how Nala avoided having her head hit the ice.
“The Lion King” was followed by “The Little Mermaid” and “Lilo and Stitch.” The boys were familiar with the story of “The Little Mermaid” and loved the parade of fish. They both cautioned me not to be afraid of Ursula the sea witch, who appears on the ice as a large and impressive inflatable doll. The boys found the next story, “Lilo and Stitch,” a little confusing, since they weren’t familiar with the film or Elvis, but they loved the look of Stitch and his fellow creatures from outer space and bopped along to “Burning Love.”
The second act was devoted entirely to “Peter Pan,” although this section opened with a variation of “Jolly Holiday” from “Mary Poppins,” complete with a chorus of skaters wearing Cockney-style “pearly” button costumes to place us in London and at the home of the Darling family. When Peter and Tinkerbell arrive, Peter and his shadow perform a wonderful synchronized dance, followed by flying routines that were impressive not only for the technical beauty of having four performers soar over the ice, but for the skaters’ ability to land gracefully and move immediately into another routine.
Once on Peter’s island of Neverland, however, the crew of skating pirates are the standouts as they perform to “A Pirate’s Life.” Although it would be easy to focus only on the synchronized skating, members of the ensemble each create individual quirks for their rascally pirates and seem to be having fun while performing precise moves.
The abbreviated story lines may confuse some kids, but the colorful costumes and engaging performers make this an enjoyable adventure for anyone under the age of 10.