The Inside Edge: 'Frozen' makes natural move to iceBereswill and Firth to skate leading roles in ice version of Disney hit
The animated Disney movie Frozen has been a runaway hit, wildly popular with kids and adults alike. The story is thrilling and heartwarming, and the soundtrack is the most memorable in years, even producing radio hits. We both enjoyed it, particularly the happy skating scene at the end of the story. It seemed like a perfect fit for Disney On Ice, and sure enough, Disney On Ice presents Frozen will be entertaining audiences in arenas starting in September.
The cast is not yet complete, but Becky Bereswill will skate the role of Elsa, and Taylor Firth is tailor-made for the part of her sister, Anna. Patty Vincent is the director, Steve Bass is the scenic designer, and Ben Agosto will assist choreographer Cindy Stuart. The film's directors, Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, have consulted on the production, saying "To watch [the show's] creation come to life on ice is thrilling."
Rehearsals start in July, prior to a Sept. 5 opening in Orlando, Fla. Vincent promises stunning visual effects to go along with the high-quality skating.
"We are revolutionizing the ice space for this production," Vincent said. "When families walk into the arena, they'll feel completely transported into a winter wonderland. With Elsa's ice palace, we've created a floor-to-ceiling visual featuring beautiful ice crystals that shimmer with light, a unique grand staircase that will elevate Elsa into the sky far above the ice surface. We'll have plenty of special effects, and there'll be a lot of snow, blizzards, flurries, glitter, sparkles and magic."
Vincent says that the movie is a "match made in heaven" for an ice show.
"The songs in the film are so moving, emotional and powerful, and skaters can express those emotions through speed, athleticism and spectacular skating," she said. "We want to capture and reproduce the humor with Olaf, and that means a few body parts need to pop off! With a live production, that can get a little tricky. But we've got some great ideas that will definitely have you laughing in your seat."
Elsa on Ice
Bereswill has been studying business at the University of Michigan since she stopped competing in 2013. She was in New York City for an internship when presented with the opportunity to skate in Frozen. She said she had been interested in show skating, and she was excited by this show in particular.
"It was something I always considered," she said. "I loved the performance aspect, and I really loved the movie. It was this specific show that really motivated me. I really identified with this character, Elsa."
Bereswill, who has a twin sister, relates strongly to the story of the love between the two sisters that lies at the heart of the movie.
"She's an incredible role model, a very strong character," Bereswill said of Elsa. "But she's also vulnerable. There are times where she lets fear overcome her. When she has this incredible moment during 'Let It Go,' it's about releasing yourself from past doubt, and becoming the person you've always dreamed. It's very transformative. For me as a skater, it's an incredible outlet to show really strong skating."
Bereswill says she has watched the movie about six times so far, and she plans to watch it many more times as she prepares for the role.
"The process is very interesting," Bereswill said. "It's very much a live creation of the movie; a multimedia process. I had the opportunity to meet with the director of the film, Chris Buck. He came to the campus to do a presentation. It's been in the works for years."
She says that audiences will see world-class skating, including lots of triple jumps and speed.
"For me, coming from training a competitive program with several triples, my skating for the show is even harder than a competitive program," she said. "They're going to be testing out a lot of new technology. ... lighting, projections, snow. They're going to be rehearsing in a brand-new facility in Florida that they've never used before. There are going to be several blizzards, there's going to be a lot going on. The energy really builds upon itself; it's going to start very high, and it's just going to build."
Any story with princesses must of course include a ball scene, and Frozen is no exception. In the Disney show, several couples will be waltzing on the ice, displaying correct compulsory waltz steps taught to them by Olympic silver medalist ice dancer Agosto.
"I would be remiss if I didn't bring in some swing rolls and some waltz threes," Agosto said, laughing. "I dreaded compulsories until the very end of my career. And now it's one of the things I miss doing at a high level. The idea of having a dozen couples doing waltz steps, I'm really excited about it. That'll be where most of my energy will be spent. Well, maybe not most, but a lot!"
Agosto previously worked on choreography for two Disney shows, Dare To Dream and Rockin' Ever After. As he prepares to work with Stuart and the cast of Frozen, he has also just moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., where he is the new director of ice dance at the Ice Den. He is brimming with enthusiasm for Frozen.
"I'm so excited; it's been an incredible experience every time," he said.
Stuart got to know Agosto while he and Tanith Belbin were skating in Stars on Ice, and she reached out to him to see if he would be interested in assisting her with a Disney show.
"I was honored and excited and I dove right in," Agosto said. "I was blown away by what an immersive and all-encompassing experience it is to put together a show of such epic proportions. Each time I've done it was equally rewarding. Patty Vincent is a genius, and Cindy is wonderful to work with."
Agosto has been coaching and choreographing for some time, and although the scale is different, he says he still focuses on telling a story and connecting with the audience.
"It's just a matter of following the music and how can we make shapes with the cast members and work off those same emotional guidelines," he said. "Obviously, there are 35 people on the ice. Sometimes we have to work off a concept of controlled chaos, sometimes it's very precise. Cindy… is the artist, and I'm her paintbrush in a way. Especially when it comes to some of the partnering things. She's wonderful to skate with, and it's really very intuitive and it flows very naturally."
As with everyone else involved in the show, Agosto is excited to work on a show that lends itself so naturally to ice and skating.
"It already exists in this frozen landscape," he said. "They glide around in the movie, and there's actually a skating segment. It gives us even more freedom to embrace the nature of figure skating. We're in our element already, so we can just do what we do."
We'll do our best to attend an early show in September and write a full review. We can't wait to see it!
Sarah and Drew
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