Characters from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” perform to the song “Be Our Guest” as part of “Disney on Ice: Rockin’ Ever After,” coming to the Times Union Center next week. (Feld Entertainment)
Jordan Brauninger knows the truth — he’s never going to find true love on the ice.
Brauninger plays egotistical hunter Gaston, who competes for the lovely Belle in the “Beauty and the Beast” saga, part of “Disney on Ice: Rockin’ Ever After.” The “Beauty” story always ends with the big guy in the fangs winning the girl.
“What are you gonna do?” Brauninger asked.
What he’s gonna do is skate. The latest Disney production begins a five-day, eight-show run at the Times Union Center in Albany on Wednesday, and Gaston and Belle along with Ariel, Rapunzel and newcomer Merida from Disney’s recent movie “Brave” will all lace up and stretch out.
‘Disney on Ice: Rockin’ Ever After’
WHERE: Times Union Center, 51 S. Pearl St., Albany
WHEN: Wednesday through Sunday, Dec. 23, eight shows. Performance times vary.
HOW MUCH: $55-$22. Some $14 tickets are available on opening night.
MORE INFO: www.timesunioncenter-albany.com
There’s enough attention for everyone. Brauninger knows some young Disney fans love to see live versions of their favorite characters, and that means old Gaston is competing with graceful gals. But that’s OK.
“All the roles in the show shine in their own light,” Brauninger said in a recent interview from a Disney encampment in Raleigh, N.C. “Everybody comes for a different reason. Some of the little girls may be coming to see all the princesses. Maybe I put something in the show that the parents who bring their kids to see the show can enjoy and laugh at.”
Hard time adapting
And while some young fans might not care for the loutish Gaston, who believes he’s the only man for Belle, Brauninger tackles the role with gusto. Making the character likable is not an issue.
“Who said I make the guy likable?” asked Brauninger, a 25-year-old native of Cincinnati and a former top U.S. figure skater. “It’s just a lot of fun to play the role, because if you look at it from a different perspective, I think he’s just misunderstood. He’s had people telling him he’s the best his whole life and now somebody’s trying to tell him he’s not. He doesn’t know how to take it. Just having a hard time adapting, I think.”
The show premise takes a cue from reality television shows. Disney characters use comical segments in a competition to determine the next superstar. As usual, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck are around for the athletic endeavors.
Skaters can find ways to put personal spins on characters Disney fans have known for decades.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into it,” Brauninger said. “The creative team with the choreographer and the director — we just do different things with it and try to get it out there in a fresh light. We’re trying to do this with a new show every year. I think it’s really worked out well, though.”
Brauninger knows why people keep coming back. They may have seen the characters on movie and television screens dozens of times; they rarely get to see the princes and cartoon characters live and large.
A time to skate
“To watch it live, there’s almost an interaction with the audience that keeps it fresh and different because you’re never going to have the same crowd twice,” Brauninger said. “Nothing’s ever going to be exactly the same twice. It gives you the opportunity to bring the audience into the world that you live in.”
“Rockin’ Ever After” will be in town through Sunday — a time when many small children will be excited for the Christmas holidays. Brauninger said there’s a special kind of fun that comes with performing so close to Dec. 25.
“It’s cold out,” he said. “And cold makes people think of ice skating.”
The skater doesn’t mind working the holiday season.
“If I can’t be home, I might as well be working,” he said. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had.”
Even if that job means a lonely time for old Gaston.
“Ain’t won her yet,” he said of Belle, with a smile in his voice.