Behind the scenes at Aladdin on Ice at the Pleasure Beach Arena, Blackpool
PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 December 2013
Hours of hard work comes to a climax this month at one of the county’s top shows
It takes 600 costumes and 35 rehearsals but ask any of the 88 children and 7,000 spectators who enjoy Lancashire’s biggest amateur ice spectacular and they will tell you it is worth every stitch and every strain.
For the last 74 years they’ve staged their Christmas show, mobilising a small army of mums and dads, trainers, designers, choreographers and wardrobe mistresses. Aladdin is this year’s offering at the Blackpool Pleasure Beach Ice Arena and it promises to be another scorcher.
Kerry Ashton, chairwoman of the Blackpool Ice Drome Charities Association (BIDCA), explains that while the performers might be amateurs their standards are anything but. ‘You really wouldn’t be able to tell the difference,’ she says. ‘They perform at an incredibly high level.’
The children, aged from five to 18, are all from the Blackpool area and take private lessons at this fine old arena. ‘Once they have got through the audition they continue to be invited to take part in the show until they are over 18 so long as they maintain a certain standard,’ says Kerry.
‘Several of the youngsters have gone on skate professionally in Disney on Ice or Hot Ice shows. Others have been members of the GB squad and Dan Whiston, who won TV’s Dancing on Ice, was once one of our young performers.’
The backroom organisation is a huge logistical feat and planning starts in February. ‘It’s a massive commitment for the children and their parents - it takes up many weekends,’ says Kerry, whose ten-year-old daughter, Evie, is in the cast.
‘It’s asking a lot when they are taking GCSEs or A-levels. It also needs a big level of commitment from the parents. Because there are so many children we have a crew of chaperones to look after them.
‘But at the end of the day we want the children to have fun and there is a really nice social feel to the event. There is a lot of giddyness to start with but they soon start to take it seriously.’
Director and choreographer David Walsingham is a professional ice staking instructor, who has been in charge of three Blackpool shows. ‘The challenge is to come up with a strong story and the right songs but also something that gives the children the chance to perform. We try for a big opening and the final scene will involve all 88 performers. They all become focused and work tremendously hard – they are a fantastic bunch.’
One of the hardest jobs belongs to Lynn Craggs, the wardrobe mistress. While she has been a helper for five years, this is her first in charge.
‘It’s quite an undertaking. Even though we don’t make them all, we have to source them and measure every performer to match them to the right costume. It’s supposed to be a part-time job but I’m not sure my husband agrees! Our house is full of sparkle – it’s mostly sequins.’
There is also plenty of sparkle for local charities. On average, the shows raise £30,00 for a variety of good causes in the Blackpool area.
Aladdin on Ice is at the Pleasure Beach Arena on December 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28 and 29 and January 1. For times and ticket information call 0871 2229090.