andrew kruse-ross | disney on ice | feb. 2016
Many little girls dream of becoming princesses. That's just what Hannah Wheeler becomes every time the ice-skater laces up for the “Disney On Ice: Dare to Dream” tour, which makes a stop at the Resch Center for eight shows beginning on February 10.
But the New Richmond, Wisconsin native says her earliest ambitions were a bit removed from the sparkling castles of a Disney classic. “I wanted to be a hockey player,” says Wheeler, a self-described daddy's girl, “but my mom would not allow it; she didn't want me to get beat up.” Instead, at the age of 4, she would begin figure skating. Soon after, at age 7, she saw her first “Disney On Ice” show at a time that coincided with her to excelling in figure skating. “I was walking around the concourse during intermission and I realized that I could do this.” From that day forward, Wheeler says the thought of someday performing with “Disney On Ice” was always in the back of her mind.
In 2012, after graduating from high school, Wheeler got her wish when she was hired on as a cast member for the West Coast troupe of “Disney On Ice.” Her dream had come true, but Wheeler admits there was more to her dream job than she originally had anticipated. “I don't think anything could have prepared me for that first year,” admits Wheeler, who says the demands of the lifestyle and travel were more than she was prepared for. During her first nine-month tour, the troupe performed nearly 400 shows. Today, Wheeler has embraced the rigorous schedule and grown accustomed to living out of a suitcase. “I've gotten to see so much with this job. There was another layer to it all that I got to experience. It's about meeting new people, making new friends and traveling around the world.”
While touring on the West Coast, Wheeler's sister was visiting a university campus in Arizona with their parents. The timing was perfect and allowed her family to see her perform with the troupe in Phoenix, Ariz. This year Wheeler's family didn't need so many stars to align to see their daughter perform, as “Disney On Ice” made a recent stop in St. Paul, Minn. at Christmas — a 45-minute drive for her family. She says extended family live very near to Green Bay and are looking forward to seeing her perform at the Resch as well.
As for the show itself, “Dare to Dream” blends the old with the new and celebrates 75 years of Disney princess stories and lets them unfold live in a high-energy performance that can only happen on ice. Representing the new era of Disney princesses are Rapunzel of “Tangled” and Tiana of “The Princess and the Frog.” Representing the classics are perennial favorites Snow White and Cinderella.
Wheeler was once a competitive skater but says the freedom of skating to entertain, rather than to please judges, has been a rewarding experience. She's most happy when putting smiles on the faces of the audience, a trait that meshes seamlessly with a “Disney On Ice” show. “That's what Disney is all about,” says Wheeler. “It's putting smiles on children's faces and bringing the magic of Disney to people that can't go to Disney World.”
When asked if she has a favorite moment during the show, Wheeler says, “Definitely. I definitely do.” She goes on to explain that this special moment relies on audience interaction and occurs when a child from the audience gets chosen to lift a lantern with Rapunzel and Flynn during the performance before the pair perform a number together as the lantern floats overhead. “It's very pretty,” adds Wheeler. “It makes me cry.”
Other moments that stand out to Wheeler include a four-minute segment that's more at home under the big top of a circus than at the ice rink and has cast members flying by the length of Rapunzel's hair from the ceiling above.
And Wheeler says despite the focus on princesses, boys will find plenty of action throughout the show and often enjoy Maximus, the life-sized horse from Rapunzel who's quick to come to the aid of his friends when they get into trouble.
Wheeler performs multiple roles in “Dare to Dream,” participating in all the ensemble numbers and is easiest to spot cast in the role of Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” during the show's finale.
“Disney On Ice: Dare to Dream” visits the Resch Center for eight shows from Feb. 10 – Feb. 14. For tickets or more info visit reschcenter.com or ticketstaronline.com.