Disney On Ice: Passport To Adventure
The Disney on Ice show used to be an annual event that we would always attend as a family. In fact, I had been going to these shows even before I got married and had kids. These days, we get two ice shows a year at the NIA in Birmingham; one in February and one on October. When we attended the Princesses and Heroes show back in February, ... they gave us a priority booking form for the October show, which meant I was able to bag rinkside seats for this performance.
One thing I have learned is not to expect anything from Disney to be cheap! Tickets start at £14 plus booking fees. As we went rinkside, our tickets were in the most expensive band at a whopping £40 each, plus fees.
I should point out, that at the NIA, all of the seats have a good view of the ice. I have sat in the cheaper seats in the past and still had a fantastic experience.
I think that Feld, who run the shows, should be a little more realistic about their pricing. In these harsh economic times, many cannot afford shows like this, and this was reflected in the large numbers of empty seats in the auditorium. Usually, the shows are a sell-out, but I would say that only maybe half of the seats had been taken when we went, which seemed a real shame.
Another gripe I have about pricing is the price of the merchandise available at the show. When you sit down, there are people carrying all sorts of merchandise on poles, including popcorn, toys, candy floss and programmes. they are relying on "pester power" to shift their goods. I was wise and brought my own sweets and drinks, but many people were buying the overpriced £7-per-tub popcorn and £7-per-bag candy floss. Others got stung for the £15 spinning lights, which inevitably break when you get them home (I know this from past experience). The best way to do DOI cheaply is to bring plenty of your own refreshments and some cheap glowsticks from Poundland to keep the kids happy and their eyes off the pricey stuff.
The production is touring the UK, so is going to be at a variety of locations throughout the country. I like the NIA, as it is close to my home and is easily accessible by rail or bus. The NIA is easy to get to and close to the lovely canalside area of Birmingham with its restaurants and canalside cafes.
Entering the NIA was easy. A man at the door scanned our tickets and let us in. We did not have to queue for long as people were entering the building quite quickly.
The layout inside is very simple and it is easy to find your way. The toilet facilities are dotted around the outer rim of the arena and are clean and well maintained. The merchandise stalls are also around the outer area, but it never felt too crowded or claustraphobic.
Finding our seats was simple and a member of staff took our ticket and led us directly to the seat. The staff were friendly and helpful at all times.
The show theme was "Passport to Adventure" and was based on the travels of Mickey and his friends (a common theme in these DOI shows!). Their travels take them to Africa, where we meet the Lion King, Under the Sea for the Little Mermaid, then on to Hawaii for Lilo and Stitch. The last and longest section is set in London, for the story of Peter Pan.
At the start of the show, Mickey and his frinds come out onto the ice. The kids go wild! The Disney costumes are the same ones they use at the theme parks and look amazing.
I like the fact that whenever a character is talking, the other characters make their way to the edge of the ice to wave to and greet the people watching the show. My daughter got so excited when Donald skated up to us and waved!
A dance routine involving skating monkeys paved the way for the first section: The Lion King.
I was expecting a huge production number for the Lion king segment, but it was actually quite quiet and understated. The ice show itself seemed to start small and builds up to a big crescendo at the end, but more about that later....
There were not many characters in this segment, and the main focus was on the two cubs, Simba and Nala. Rafiki the mokey guides us through a very short version of the story and many of the main parts of the story, such as Scar taking over the pride, are left out.
We are then introduced to Timon and Pumbaa, the meerkat and warthog, who provide some comic relief. Again, the costumes are amazing, and I couldn't work out whether there were one or two people in the warthog outfit! They dance to Hakuna matata and weave offstage briefly as the cub Simba is replaced with the adult lion. This leads into a reunion with Nala and a stunning skating sequence to "Can you feel the love tonight". The skaters were flawless and there were many lifts and holds that wowed the audience.
Now I do have a slight gripe about the little mermaid sequence. As someone who regularly attends these events, I like a bit of variety, and i'm afraid that EVERY show I have attended has had a little mermaid sequence. I can understand why, as the undersea theme lends itself very well to the production numbers, but when I watched the sequence, a large part of it had been lifted from previous shows, and much of it felt like recycled material. When customers are paying large amounts of money for tickets, they want something fresh and new.
Nevertheless, I did actually enjoy the sequence immensely. A full-sized Sebastian crab takes to the ice and gets the crowd clapping in anticipation as three large seashells are rolled out onto the rink. We then meet Ariel's mermaid sisters who do a lively routine with the other sea creatures.
I thought it was clever how they staged Ariel's first glimpse of prince Eric. There was a balcony set above the ice and she was looking up at him steering the boat on the balcony.
The "under the sea" sequence was a huge production number, with seahorses, starfish, jellyfish and mermaids all whizzing and skating around the ice. It was really colourful and immersive.
When Ariel and Eric skated together, the sequence did not flow as well as the Simba/Nala sequence, but there were some clever skating moves included, such as when the three mer-men lifted Ariel and it looked as if she was swimming.
The thrilling climax came when a HUGE inflatable Ursula appeared on the ice, only to be defeated and deflated(!) by Eric's spear. Scary stuff indeed for me sitting so close to the ice!
Lilo and Stitch:
I haven't actually seen this movie, but the skaters did good job of telling the story about a little orphan girl from Hawaii who has no friends. She and her big sister adopt what they think is a dog, but turns out to be an alien "experiment" programmed for destruction. Lilo teaches her new friend the value of family and how to be good, as well as teaching him all about Elvis! This leads to some great skating sequences based on Elvis songs which form the soundtrack for this segment of the show.
The Lilo and Stitch section was upbeat, colourful and fun. The alien costumes were great. The skater who played Lilo's sister was very skilled and was able to perform many impressive moves during her section.
Lilo and Stitch ended the first half of the show on a real feel-good high and we couldn't wait for the second half to start.
When we next see Mickey and his friends, they have arrived in London, no, not London as we know it, but the saccharine-sweet, Disney version, complete with Mary poppins-style pearly kings and queens dancing around a cardboard Big ben singing about "London Tahn", along with the friendly neighbourhood "bobby" who had a Dick van Dyke cockney accent!
The whole second half was the story of Peter Pan. Again, the production team made good use of the balcony as the bedroom for the Darling children. We see the parents leave as Peter and Tinkerbell enter the room. Peter is looking for his shadow, and when he finds it, we are treated to a fun-filled skating sequence as Peter chases the shadow around the ice, as Tinkerbell waves and blows kisses to the audience.
The real magic begins when Peter makes the children fly. They slowly make their way over the ice, hooked up to harnesses and wires and it really gives the impression that they are flying.
We then meet the lost boys and the pirates in two more action-packed skating sequences. The skater that played Wendy was mesmerising and probably one of the best skaters in the whole show.
We have a moment of drama when Tinkerbell drinks the poison meant for Peter and the audience have to bring her back to life by showing that they really believe in fairies.
The section climaxes with a battle between Hook and pan, where Hook is finally swallowed up by a massive inflatable crocodile.
The costumes, scenery, skating and props were all absolutely fantastic and the Peter Pan section provided a suitably impressive and entertaining second half, in which the time seemed to fly by.
The whole cast returned to the ice for a final big party number which had everyone in the audience clapping and joining in.
We thoroughly enjoyed Disney on Ice and my daughter said it was the best show we had ever been to.
The skaters are skilled and the dance routines are impressive. The show would appeal to anyone who loves Disney, young or old.
My only slight gripe, as I have mentioned, is the inclusion of "recycled" routines from previous shows.
The way the characters interact with the audience is also really good
I am already planning on booking tickets to the next show, but will probably book the cheaper seats next time, as they still offer a great view of the ice.
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Disney On Ice: Passport To Adventure
My friend and I are taking our children to Disneyland Paris in March next year and so when we saw that Disney on Ice was to be visiting Manchester in October this year we decided to book tickets as a nice treat but also as a build up to the excitement of Disneyland too. This is my review of the show Disney on Ice: Passport to Adventure ... which we saw on Friday the 19th October.
==Booking tickets and price==
We booked tickets for the show via the ticket master website as I trust them to deal with our needs professionally and I use them quite a lot. The booking process was quite simple and we simply typed in the event we wanted to see and then clicked on the date which we wanted to see it at our chosen venue. The ticket master website brought up a seating plan where we were able to choose our seats from those that were still available and we could also see the price per ticket too.
We booked seats in the lower tier of the MEN arena in Manchester in block 114 which was one of the side blocks but which had a good view of the space in which the show would be performed. I have been to the MEN arena for many gigs and so I was aware of which blocks I would prefer to sit in but I think the chart on the website does help if you are not too familiar with the arena.
The tickets cost around £20 each but there were some service charges and postage and packing charges on there too which bumped the price up a bit. I think it is a bit naughty when they add high service charges to tickets but it is just the way things have gone with purchasing tickets for events. I felt the price for the show tickets were reasonable for something I felt sure my son would enjoy. The tickets arrived just a few days after booking which I felt was good service.
The MEN arena is the largest arena in Manchester for shows and gigs. It is situated in the centre of Manchester and is very close to Victoria train station for those who may travel in by train.
We actually drove to the event and parked on the Boddingtons car park next to the arena which normally costs £3 for the day but as there was an event on there was a charge of £6 which whilst isn't too over the top I think it is disgusting that you have to pay more just because you are coming to an event and I do plan to contact the NCP about that as it seems ridiculous.
You can enter the MEN arena through Victoria train station and this is how I always enter the arena for any gig. When we got to the arena it was very busy with lots of people wanting to buy merchandise and things and the staff didn't move very quickly to get people in to the arena which was disappointing to be honest. There was a stand in the main part of the MEN arena selling merchandise and we did queue here to buy teddies for the children. A small one cost £12 which is ridiculously over priced really but my son had saved and wanted to buy one. A programme cost £9 and I didn't bother getting one of those but I did buy my son a popcorn bucket which was £8 and again a total rip off but he was happy with it and the plastic bucket is a kind of memento of the day out which can be used again. There were also stalls inside the arena once you got in the main doors and these seemed quieter than the one outside and so I would advise you have a look inside if you can really.
Inside the arena there are plenty of staff who can direct you to the area you need to be in but there are also lots of well placed signs telling you which door takes you to which blocks and so it is hard to get lost or confused in there. There are plenty of places to purchase drinks inside as well as toilets for both male and females.
The arena is a large two tiered area and whilst we were on the lower tier we were on row T which felt high enough for me as I don't like heights anymore really. The seats are comfortable enough for the show and as it was a family show we were all sat down for the duration of it. At concerts people are generally stood up and so it is a good idea that the rows are tiered as you have more chance of seeing over the person in front of you that way!
The ice covered the full area of what is normally the floor section in a concert and so it was a good size to be able to watch. There was also a larger staged area which was higher up off the floor for the cast to make use of and I think the whole thing was set up really well.
The passport to adventure show followed the popular Disney characters Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald and Daisy Duck and Goofy as they went on a bit of a holiday adventure to places around the world. What is nice is that the real voices of the characters are played as they skate around and so a child who is a fan of Mickey Mouse for example won't be disappointed when he talks as it is just the normal Mickey Mouse voice.
The show first follows the characters to the African Savannah where they encounter the Lion King characters. It was this that I wanted my son to see the show for because it is his favourite film and his face was an absolute picture which actually brought tears to my eyes as I watched him sing along with the classic songs and watch in wonderment as Timon and Pumbaa made their way around the ice. The whole section of this was really beautiful I thought and the skaters really were impressive! I was amazed at how Pumbaa was in a full body costume and looked just like he does on the film and so how the person or people skated inside that costume to be honest!
From the Lion King the show moved on to the under sea delights of the little mermaid and whilst this wasn't a film my son had seen he was taken by the action on the ice. Ariel stumbled a couple of times which my friends daughter found hilarious but the show went on and it was a beautiful display really with lots of lifts from the main two dancers but lots of other things going on from the other skaters dressed as crabs, starfish and fish. My son loved Flounder the fish and the large balloon Ursula and I really liked Sebastian the red crab as I thought it was really clever how they had made the costumes so well.
From the little mermaid they went to Hawaii to see Lilo and Stitch and although my son has never seen the film he had purchased a Stitch soft toy from the stall outside and so he was happy to sit and watch this section. Again there were a few stumbles but nothing too dramatic and there was plenty of action on the ice as aliens came to earth to try and take Stitch back. This section was probably my least favourite of the whole show but it was still enjoyable.
There was a short ten or fifteen minute interval after the Lilo and Stitch section but we didn't go to the toilet or anything because the queues are always ridiculous and the children were both fine.
After the interval was a visit to Neverland with Peter Pan and this was a really fun section as ropes were used to give the effect of the Darling children and Peter flying and there was the introduction of Captain Hook to fight with Peter Pan too. At the end of the section there was a huge inflated crocodile with an open mouth in which Peter Pan pushes Captain Hook at the end and my son just loved this bit. It was really clever and there was so much to look at through the whole show that the time just flew by.
The show was on for ninety minutes and this time literally flew by I have to say. The children were both so impressed with the show that they didn't act tired despite the fact the show started at 7pm and so by the time it finished was way past their bedtimes on a Friday night when they had been at school all day.
The effects used in the show were great I think and so there were small flashes of fireworks every so often which were really nice to look at but above that the costume design and variety of colours on the ice just grabbed your attention and made you believe in the Disney magic. The skaters were really professional and although there was the odd fall they got straight back up and on with the show and some of the moves they did were really breathtaking and I was thoroughly impressed!
We came out of the show saying that we must book to go again next year to whichever show they put on which I think is testament to how much we enjoyed it really and so I am sure you can tell I recommend it. I wouldn't even say the show is just for children because as an adult I really enjoyed it and I know my 21 year old cousin and her friend also went to see the show on their own as they love Disney too.
Thank you for reading my review!
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Starlight Express 2012 (UK Tour)
****THE FASTEST SHOW ON EARTH (Background)**** Starlight Express was created by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber in 1975 as a children's story. Apparently Sir Andrew intended it to become an animated show but as this didn't happen, he went on to re-write it in 1983, as a story for his two children. The show opened in 1984 at London's ... Apollo Victoria theatre. Nine years later the music was devoted to another of his children, Alastair.
In the words of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber:
"Starlight was always meant to be fun, hopefully an entertaining piece of live theatre for a new audience...
We are all proud that Starlight not only became the second longest running musical in London theatre history in April 1992, but also has spawned a new generation of theatre-goers who perhaps never considered going to the theatre before and who may have gone on to other (perhaps more conventional!) things."
The shows lyrics are by Richard Stilgoe and I understand that additional lyrics for the tour have been written by David Yazbeck. Arlene Phillips choreographed for the West End show and is also a choreographer and director for this United Kingdome tour. The tour is presented by Bill Kenwright.
I was impressed to hear that Starlight Express has been seen by almost 20 million people and gross box office world-wide is estimated at over £270 million. It has been shown in Germany (and still is in a specially adapted stage in Bochum), the USA, Canada, Australia, Mexico and Japan and it was also shown on ice in 1997. I think it's shame that it isn't still running in London.
It's a simple story of a boy (unseen) playing with his train set. His mother tells him it's time to stop playing but he resists. The boy falls asleep and dreams of the all-important race as his trains come to life and he is the controller. His voice is heard throughout the show.
The trains are engines and carriages both male and female. The actors skate and dance through the show, imitating the movement of trains.
Starlight Express is about the preparations of the trains for the big race; a contest between steam, diesel and electric to see which really is the best. It's a tail of the underdog and of course, there's a love story in there too.
The story is simple but, in my opinion, works very well and is all that is needed as this show has so much action as well as imaginative, vibrant costumes, brilliant skating and lots of catchy tunes and much innuendo contained in the song lyrics.
**** I'VE SEEN THE STARLIGHT BUT ONCE IS NEVER ENOUGH****
I never got to see Starlight Express when it was being shown in London's Apollo Victoria theatre in London, back in March 1984. I wanted to go although admittedly I wasn't as interested in musicals at the time as I am now, and also, with two young children under the age of two and a half, I had to watch the pennies. But I regret not seeing it while it was still showing in London's West End (especially as I was living in London) in its purpose built set.
As my youngest child entered her teens she became obsessed with musicals and started performing in amateur productions. I felt I had to start taking her to see some musicals. I was pleased to see in 2004 that Starlight Express was on tour and would be at Southend-on-Sea in Essex, not too far away from us. We did go to see it and were most impressed, so much so that I wanted to see this show again. This year, after a wait of several years, I was very pleased to discover that it was again on tour in the UK.
The tour covered much of the United Kingdom and we considered seeing the show at Wimbledon, London, in May of 2012, but found that the dates weren't suitable so we settled instead on again going to the Cliffs Pavilion at Southend-on-Sea.
****MY OPINION ON THE SONGS AND MUSIC****
The songs in this show when heard but not seen in the context of the show aren't amongst my favourites from musicals but when watching the show then they seem so much better and really suit the action and story perfectly. The music is mainly upbeat, as is the show and the lyrics are very humorous. Most of the songs get the audience clapping and tapping their feet to the rhythm.
My favourites are I am the Starlight, Starlight Express and Make Up My Heart. All songs were sung well and received well by the audience. There was laughter as U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D. (a parody of D.I.V.O.R.C.E. by Tammy Wynette) was sung by Dinah the dining car and when three worst for wear trains sang, One Rock and Roll too many.
****WELL TRAINED STAR(light) CAST****
I thought this an excellent cast. On the night that we saw the show Poppa was played by Gavin Ashbarry, instead of Lothair Eaton. When I last saw Starlight, I remember the actor playing Poppa had a very memorable gospel/blues type voice, more so than Gavin Ashbarry, BUT this was made up for by Ashbarry's excellent interaction with the audience and his obvious enjoyment of playing this part.
I thought that Amanda Coutts as Pearl had a beautiful voice.
I was very impressed with Kristofer Harding (Rusty) and Jamie Capewell (Greaseball) for their singing talents and their acting.
Introducing just a few of the cast:
Kristofer Harding Rusty
Mykal Rand Electra
Jamie Capewell Greaseball
Lothair Eaton/Gavin Ashbarry Poppa
Amanda Coutts Pearl
Ruthie Stephens Dinah
Camilla Hardy Buffy
Kelsie Cobban Duvay
On entering the auditorium one is handed cardboard 3D glasses; these are for the race scenes. My son and his fiancée looked a little puzzled but as I'd seen the show before I knew what to expect. Yet, even though I'd been here before I still really enjoyed the announcement/safety warnings of: Safety alert. Please put on your safety glasses. Glasses were put on and the tunnel scenes went ahead. A screen lowers onto the stage and the 3D effect can be seen. Trains (skaters) speed through the tunnels whilst objects fly through the air, seeming to head straight at the audience. When a bat flew in the tunnel everyone jumped, including me.
I understand that when the show was at the Apollo Victoria, the actors really did race on their skates, but on tour, without a custom built train track effect this wouldn't be possible with any feeling of realism. I felt the 3D effect worked very well and added something just a little bit different.
****LITTLE STARS (Children)****
I was surprised at the amount of children in the theatre for the show as it wasn't a matinée performance and there had been matinées shown. I think some parents may think this show is aimed at children but although it may initially have been, the humour is adult in content. No bad language but plenty of innuendo. True, the adult jokes would be over the heads of young children and I don't think anything is offensive, but I thought that some very young children in the audience were a little bored, confused and too tired to really enjoy the show. I think the show is suitable for adults and older children (of course this depends on the child but I would think from around seven or eight years old upwards) and teens.
****EXPRESS INTERVAL (A race to the loo!)****
The interval wasn't long enough or I suppose more to the point there are never enough ladies toilets in any theatre that I've been to when the theatre is full or almost full. We rushed to get to the toilets but were still in for a very long wait.
As is always the case, the queue for the gents toilets is much shorter and quicker moving than for the ladies, and so fortunately my son and husband were able to undertake our bar requirements. We took a drink into the theatre contained in plastic beakers. The show only lasted a little over two hours and so I do think the interval could have been longer.
I booked on-line using the seating plan. As I've been to this theatre before, and seen this show here, I had a good idea of where it would be best to sit. As the stage is high and there is no rake in the stalls I don't think sitting too close to the stage is a good idea as a lot of the action will be missed and one would more than likely develop a very stiff neck.
I think for this show in particular where there is lot of action and the actors throughout the show are on roller skates then probably the front rows of the balcony or the boxes would be best to get the most from the action but as I couldn't acquire four seats together in these preferred areas I thought that the next best choice would be in the centre aisle and a little way back (I obtained row F, seats 13 to 16). Although I do find it good when having seats in the stalls fairly close to the stage to be bale to see the actor's expressions; this draws you into the show.
****TOUR DATES/VENUES (Get Your Skates On)****
The Starlight Express tour began in May at The New Wimbledon Theatre, London. The tour is currently showing in Aberdeen. Further dates are to be announced but here are tour dates from now until 9th February 2013.
(Information of dates and venues taken from http://www.reallyuseful.com)
Tuesday 2 - Saturday 13 October
His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen
Box Office: 01224 641122
Tuesday 16 - Saturday 27 October
Hull New Theatre
Box Office: 01482 300 300
Tuesday 29 January - Saturday 9 February 2013
Millennium Forum, Londonderry
Box Office: 028 7126 4455
**FURTHER DATES TO BE ANNOUNCED (See: http://www.reallyuseful.com)
For the tour ticket prices will vary according to which theatre you choose to see the show at. It will work out considerably cheaper in most, if not all, theatres than seeing a West End production. I paid £43 for each of my tickets (four in all) and these were top price. If I had watched a West End show then the top price would usually be over £60, often quite a bit more.
I think the price I paid was probably a little high for this theatre, but then again, for the enjoyment we all got from watching Starlight Express, I suppose it was money well spent.
I think this is a great uplifting show. I wanted to watch something that was upbeat and amusing. It isn't my favourite musical, that, I'm sure. Will always be, 'Les Miserables' which, in my opinion is an incredibly hard musical to equal, let alone beat. But, this show has a well-deserved place as a musical supplying fun from start to finish. It's very well worth watching, in my opinion.
The encore was fantastic. After everyone took their bows and encores were shouted from all corners of the audience, the cast, , sang a medley of songs from the show and Poppa (Gavin Ashbarry) standing at front centre stage, invited the audience to get up and join in. Most did! We had a great fifteen minutes or so swaying and clapping to the songs. The cast really appeared to be appreciative of their audience and seemed to enjoy performing this brilliant encore.
I was surprised the first time that I saw Starlight Express by how much I enjoyed it, as did my husband. But both my husband and myself thought it was even better the second time around. It had been updated a little with some minor changes to characters and songs. But the encore was definitely better on this tour.
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Theatre / Musical National
Theatre / Musical National / An ice show featuring 65 of Disney's unforgettable characters
Theatre / Musical National / Live tour of the popular children's TV show
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