‘Celebrate Memories’: New Disney on Ice show skates into PPL Center
Disney On Ice returns to PPL Center, Allentown, with “Celebrate Memories,” 7 p.m. Jan. 30 and 31; 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., Feb 1 and 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Feb. 2.
The ice-skating show, produced by Feld Entertainment Inc., features Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse and his pals, as they travel through beloved Disney settings from movies such as “Fantasia” and “Frozen,” including Arendelle.
“In this new Disney On Ice production, we pay tribute to Walt Disney and the true original icon, Mickey Mouse,” says Executive Vice President of Feld Entertainment and producer Nicole Feld.
Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy open the show with a high-energy, modern take on the film that started it all, the animated short film classic, “Steamboat Willie” (1928).
With some help from the audience, Mickey and pals venture through Disney worlds, sharing meaningful moments from treasured tales spanning generations to determine what their favorite memory of all time is.
“Each section of the show was carefully selected to immerse families in an array of beloved stories that they have grown to know and love. With live hosts and interactive segments, we hope our fans have an amazing experience that leaves them with memories that last a lifetime.”
As Mickey looks back on unforgettable Disney moments, families will be taken on a high-seas adventure with Moana as she displays courage to save her island, journey to the wintry world of Arendelle as royal sisters Anna and Elsa discover true love is the most powerful magic of all, and experience the mysterious magic of “Fantasia” as a Sorcerer’s Apprentice makes brooms come to life.
The Emotions: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust, from the Disney and Pixar “Inside Out” animated feature reel the audience into the action to help Mickey discover a beloved memory.
The hosts of the show relive classic and contemporary Disney stories in an emotional rollercoaster with Mickey and the gang.
One of the performers in the show is Mariko Heimbach, 27, whose family is originally from Emmaus. Heimbach lived in Toyko until she was 17 and now calls Allentown home.
Heimbach trained at the Kose Shin Yokohama Skate Center, Yokohama, Japan. During summers, she trained at the Steel Ice Center, Bethlehem.
“I started skating at seven-years-old. I was competitive throughout my career and auditioned for Disney on Ice in Japan when I was in high school,” Heimbach says in a phone interview.
Five months later, while preparing to attend school in Pennsylvania, Heimbach got the casting call. “And when Walt [Disney] rings, you can’t not answer,” she says.
“It was a dream come true. It’s nine years later and I’m still on the road with them, so it’s obviously a very addicting job that I don’t even consider a job. I really love it.”
Heimbach is grateful to her mother Naomi and father Rick for their support throughout her training and career. “My entire family took me to practices at four in the morning. My mom spent hours at the ice rink.”
Heimbach’s role in “Celebrate Memories” is Principal Host. “It’s one of the most rewarding roles in Disney on Ice,” says Heimbach. “I’m in the audience on a live microphone and I narrate what’s going on in the show.
“I interact with Mickey and Minnie and Donald and Goofy and I get to hang out with the kids for the entire duration. I kind of act as the bridge from the audience to the cast.
“I carry around something called the Mouse Pad, which controls the entire show. I play a game called ‘Mickey’s Memory Mayhem’ with the kids that leads into the next part of the show. I get to choose a child from the audience to start the show, so it’s a lot of responsibility but it’s really fun.”
Being cast in such an important role is an honor for Heimbach.
“Going from being a humble skater, having to work my way up to where I am now, it’s a whole different career for me. I definitely miss skating.
“I used to perform as Mulan and Jasmine and Mrs. Incredible and Dory, so I’ve had my chance at the skating world. Now I’m tackling the hosting world. It’s very rewarding to interact so closely with kids, which I didn’t get to do before as a skater.”
Her favorite Disney On Ice role as a skater was playing Pocahontas for a season. “It was the best.”
The theme of this year’s show, “Celebrate Memories,” incorporates the best of Disney from throughout its nearly 100-year history.
“We have a perfect mix of everything,” says Heimbach. “We have the classics, we have all the princesses, and we have ‘Finding Dory’ and ‘Toy Story’ and ‘Frozen’ and ‘Moana.’ There’s something for everybody in this show.”
There are also the familiar Disney songs.
“We have all your favorites. Elsa [from ‘Frozen’] skates to a solo of ‘Let it Go.’ We have ‘Love’s an Open Door.’ We have ‘Almost There - Tiana.’
“And there’s a part in the ‘Toy Story’ segment when a video camera films the audience and Woody teaches a dance to the audience. It’s a really cute, fun segment. Everyone gets on their feet and they’re all doing the same thing and watching thousands of people enjoying themselves and having a party.
“It’s really cool to see kids get excited. Even the parents get excited.”
Heimbach likes to choose children from the audience who are eager to participate, no matter how far they are seated from the stage. “Everyone is important.”
When asked why she thinks audiences love to watch ice skating, Heimbach says, “Figure skating in general is one of the toughest sports out there. You have to train, and be powerful, yet graceful. You have to take ballet, but also lift weights and run and have endurance. I think it fascinates people.
“Incorporating Disney with [ice skating] is what keeps people coming back to our shows. It’s the best of both worlds. For me to get to act and skate, and I even get to sing a little bit ... all of the things I love are in every show, which I hope reflects in my performance. I’m able to be that person to engage people in something that I love so much.
“It’s going to be mind-blowing,” adds Heimbach. “We have so much to offer. It’s gonna be amazing. I definitely want everyone in Allentown to come see the show.”
Disney on Ice “Celebrate Memories” is a two-act show with an intermission, lasting just under two hours. All seats are reserved, Tickets: PPL Center Box Office, 701 Hamilton St., Allentown; PPLCenter.com; 610-347-TIXX.