Ice Network

'Frozen' proves to be a perfect fit for Disney on Ice

Bereswill, Firth light up the ice at Dunkin' Donuts Center in Rhode Island
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'Disney on Ice presents Frozen' dazzled the crowd in Rhode Island. -Sarah S. Brannen

Imagine 5,000 little girls singing "Let It Go" at the top of their voices, as Elsa (an elegant Becky Bereswill) skates under strings of pretty blue lights, and you'll have the essence of Disney on Ice presents Frozen.

Judging by the Sept. 11 performance at Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island, every child in the audience was enraptured. The show is excellently put together and skated, and it makes for a great night of family entertainment.

In the crowd coming in, by actual count, were 87 girls dressed as Elsa, 15 in costume as her sister Anna, and six assorted other princesses. Adults without a child in tow: four, including this reporter and her escort, Eastern senior competitor Brad Vigorito.

Waiting to take a picture with Olaf the snowman were one Anna and two Elsas.

"They're really excited," their mother said. "They're going to take skating lessons."

Inside, the crowd was agog with excitement as Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Goofy greeted the crowd. A host of Disney characters skated out to grand applause: Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel and Rapunzel with their princes, Woody and Buzz from Toy Story and Nemo and Dory from Finding Nemo. We spotted former U.S. junior champion Alexe Gilles skating in the introductory number.

After the introduction, the show got underway for real. Unlike most Disney shows of recent years, Frozen tells the story of just one movie.

Projected patterns on a pretty snowflake pattern of overhead screens set the mood, and various pieces of scenery flowed in and out, creating castle, village and mountain settings. Fireworks went off several times, drawing happy shrieks from children in the audience. The costumes were particularly impressive, from colorful villagers to dancers at a ball, swirling like a field of rainbow-hued flowers.

After the "Ice Workers" opening and a short introduction featuring the princesses as young girls, Bereswill, as Elsa, and Taylor Firth, as Anna, took the ice. In the show, as in the film, the two ladies are the undisputed leads; the male roles are distinctly secondary. Firth included a nice double Axel early in her "For the First Time in Forever" solo.

Throughout the show, Bereswill and Firth both captured the gestures of their animated film characters, from Elsa's regal grace to Anna's rambunctious effervescence. All of the skaters closely resembled their movie counterparts. The skater portraying Kristoff, in particular, looked exactly like the character come to life, and he threw in a couple of backflips as well.

Adam Loosley, playing prince Hans, skated a duet with Firth, landing side-by-side double flips and showing off a few pairs moves. Soon after, the aforementioned ballroom scene featured eight couples skating a polka, folk dance and waltz. Ben Agosto did a lot of work on the group numbers and mentioned that he made sure to include a few compulsory dance steps.

"I would be remiss if I didn't bring in some swing rolls and some waltz threes," he said earlier this summer. "The idea of having a dozen couples doing waltz steps, I'm really excited about it."

The anticipation for the big number, "Let It Go," was palpable. As Elsa/Bereswill skated out over a pattern of snowflakes, every child in the building joined in, word-perfect. However, the biggest cheer of the night greeted Olaf's entrance at the start of Act II. The producers have come up with a very clever solution to address that his character comes apart several times in the story. The enormous snow monster was also quite effective and scary. A good sound system played the superb score clearly.

A skating fan might wish for a little more skating fireworks; the show brings the movie to life, but it would be fun if the two actual skating scenes included a few big tricks. However, several moms in the audience mentioned that their daughters would now be starting skating lessons, and the crowd was entirely delighted by the skating and the show.

Alexe Gilles

Gilles is preparing for her own star turn as Elsa in Disney On Ice presents Princesses & Heroes, starting Oct. 16 in Michigan. She said she was in Frozen learning the show as an understudy.

"My tour will open Sept. 10, with the Frozen segment debuting… Oct. 16," she wrote in an email. "It will go through the end of March. We then get to go to Qatar and Dubai, which we are super excited about!"

Like Bereswill, Gilles has a twin sister; both skaters mentioned that they particularly identify with Frozen because it centers on the relationship between two sisters.

"I think it is really funny that both Becky and I [are portraying] Elsa and that we both have a twin sister!" Gilles said. "Becky, Allison [Bereswill], Piper [Gilles] and I have know each other for a long time, and it's nice to see all of us still supporting each other after all of these years."

In the Frozen show, as in other Disney shows, the skaters mouth the words their characters speak and sing throughout. Gilles said this is tricky to learn.

"The most challenging part I think is the acting and mouthing the lips in my solo," she said. "I really have to step out of my comfort zone and that is scary, but it is also a very fun experience. Elsa is such a strong, elegant character, and I think my skating and personality carry out some of those traits. It has been an exciting learning process."

Although she has moved into the professional side of skating, Gilles is still a devoted fan of her twin sister, who represents Canada in ice dance with Paul Poirier.

"I will always follow Piper and Paul's career and competitions closely," Gilles said. "Family is a big priority in my life, and I am one of their biggest fans. I do get nervous for them. I almost get more nervous watching them than I did for myself!"