It’s the magical wish of many little girls to become a Disney fairytale princess - but for Natasha Kuchiki the dream came true, writes Graham Walker.
She was was just 12 months old when she donned her first pair of ice skates.
And at that tender age, she was more interested in eating the snow and ice off her blades than showing off any artistic skills.
But it’s a different story now, as thousands of families will get to see next week when Disney On Ice skates back to Sheffield Motorpoint Arena,
Natasha, who hails from Los Angeles, California, dazzles in the roles of Mulan and Princess Jasmine in 100 Years of Magic, a celebration of a centenary of Disney characters.
Natasha is loving every minute of it, having been with the Disney On Ice team, for nearly two decades.
“I started ice skating when I was a wee one,” she laughs. “My parents were in the ice shows so I grew up on the road until I was five.
“They had skates on me when I was about 12 months old but I think I was just eating the snow off the blade. I’ve changed since then, I have to say.”
Mickey and Minnie Mouse and their friends from Disney’s Mulan, The Lion King and Pinocchio, and Disney/Pixar’s Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Toy Story take to the ice for a grand celebration in the latest Disney On Ice show at the Motorpoint from Wednesday to Sunday, November 5 to 9.
Produced by Feld Entertainment, this fanfare production features more than 60 unforgettable Disney stars that span the decades, a sing-along score of award-winning Disney music, stunning choreography, elaborate sets and beautiful costumes.
There’s even a never-seen-before segment to close the first half when the skaters invite you to enter their ‘Small World’, using the light parade from the Disneyland ride It’s a Small World.
In fact, this production is most probably the showstopper of Disney On Ice shows.
“The house lights go down, the show lights come up, and all the inner child comes out, even in the adults,” says Natasha.
“And the thing that is so fantastic about it is there is something for everyone in this show, whether it be pretty or dramatic or fun, it’s high-energy non-stop family fun entertainment. It never drops, so you never get bored.
“There is something for all the boys and the girls and the production has a lot of theatrical effects which are wonderful and add to the skating elements.”
She has a words of advice, too, for any youngster thinking about taking those first tentative steps on to the ice: “Don’t be afraid of it. Start out walking, you have an invisible table in front of you and you put your hands out for balance. If you fall, you just get right back up and try again.”
Joining Natasha on stage is Jamie Loper, who takes on the roles of Aladdin and Captain Shang from Mulan.
“This is my fourth time in the UK. I’ve had a wonderful time each time,” he says. “The wonderful thing about this show is that it has more than 60 Disney characters. If you are not going to Disneyland or Disneyworld this year, this is truly the show to see.
“It is a wonderful spectacle that has something for everyone in the family. It truly is an all-star parade.
“I hope everyone can come and enjoy this magic just as much as we do.
“We feature It’s A Small World’s electric light parade to conclude the act one, which is very exciting. It’s a wonderful way to let us know it is a small world.”
Jamie, from Delaware in the US, first took to the ice at the age of 11 after attending a birthday party at his local skating club.
“I fell in love with it and I’ve been skating ever since. This career has turned out to be so wonderful. It is what I want to do and where I believe I should be. So I continue to do it and I skate every performance as though it’s my last and I skate from my heart.” He has a few words for anyone still in two minds about going to see 100 Years of Magic. “Being able to see your favourite Disney characters perform like this on the ice, moving seamlessly, is wonderful.
“It inspires and there are so many people out there who love skating and enjoy watching their favourite characters floating around the ice.
“They too can also get into ice and aspire to their dreams and the wonderful things we are able to bring here on the ice.
“Every single performance is unique. I always look into the audience and I find those faces that are captivated and perform for them as well as everyone else. I take tremendous motivation from them.”
Keeping all the skaters on their toes is performance director Cory Obst. He says: “I’m in charge of everything the audience sees, feels and experiences.
“I sit in the seats with the audience for each show and watch, making sure the integrity and choreography and characterisation from the performers is all intact as well as all other aspects of the show, the sound, the lighting, the stage movement.”
There can be mishaps. “This is live entertainment. So mix live entertainment with ice and it can be a really slippery business.
“My job is to ensure the audience doesn’t notice anything, that it is seamless.
“Of course we have slips or falls and we learn as professional skaters how to deal with it. We have learned from three years old how to get back up and keep going and to make sure the audience is not affected by anything that happens during the live performance.”
And if you thought Disney On Ice was just for the little ones, think again. Cory always makes a point of chatting to the audience afterwards, and says: “I’ve met people who have come here for their first dates. They want to go to a show which is uplifting and they always leave with smiles on their faces.”
* Disney on Ice 100 Years of Magic tickets are £14.70 to £42.90, including fees. Family tickets also available. Children under 24 months sitting on an adults knee are free and do not require a ticket on this show.
Buy in person, call 0114 256 5656, or book online at www.motorpointarenasheffield.co.uk. Also see The Star’s entertainments listings site, for this and thousands of events, at www.wow247.co.uk.