If the ice skaters performing as Rapunzel and Flynn Rider in "Disney on Ice: Dream Big" production seem to really be selling their relationship, it might be because the skaters, like the characters they portray, have a fairytale romance of their own.
The "Tangled" tale will be just one of several Disney stories on the ice when the touring production comes to Rabobank Arena this weekend for six shows, starting Thursday. Characters from classics like "Cinderella" and modern favorites like "Frozen" will join the Princess and Prince of Corona as each story follows them on adventures to make their dreams come true.
"'Dream Big' is exactly that," said performer Bonard Muck. "It's every girl's princess dream. We have eight different princesses and one queen (Elsa), all under one roof."
While the show will focus on the princesses' dreams, Muck also gets to live his as he performs as the lovable thief and eventual prince Eugene Fitzherbert, better known by his alias, Flynn Rider. His wife, Tatjana Zaharjeva, performs as Rapunzel.
"I've been (skating) all my life, and now I get the opportunity to make my own fairytale because I skate with my wife," Muck said.
In the production's off-the-ice fairytale, Muck and his wife met eight years ago when they were skating for another "Disney on Ice" production. He was Prince Eric from "The Little Mermaid" and she was Cinderella.
"At the time, 'Tangled' was coming out, and we really enjoyed the music," Muck said, especially "I See the Light," which the two characters sing together in the film. "As we come to Bakersfield, that's the song we skate to."
Traveling with his wife, some of the hardships of life on the road disappear. The couple is constantly in a new city, which they usually have some time to explore between shows. Muck said it's similar to a vacation, especially since he loves his job so much it's hardly work.
"It makes life a lot more easy, a lot more complete," Muck said of touring with his wife. "It's a very unique living situation."
Muck, 37, has been skating since he was a kid in Canada, first in hockey and later in competitive figure skating. He joined Feld Entertainment, which puts on "Disney on Ice," in 2001 and has skated as Prince Charming from "Cinderella," Ryan from "High School Musical," Aladdin from the film of the same name and Ken from "Toy Story." The last two have been some of his favorites, since they allowed him to play up the silliness.
"I'm kind of a goofball," he said, adding that the quality works well for Flynn too.
Though much of the performance is the ice-skating itself, Muck said he approaches each character he plays differently, watching the cartoons they're based on to study their mannerisms. Creative directors for the show will also give Muck, and the other skaters, specific actions or quirks unique to their characters.
"We have the athletic side down, so when it comes to certain characters, (directors) give you certain movements to differentiate you from other characters."
With much of his life spent on the ice, Muck acknowledged that his time as one Disney prince or another will probably be coming to an end in a few years. What's kept him going, he said, is "the absolute joy of it," getting to skate professionally, travel the world and make kids smile.
"Doing it with the person I'm going to spend my life with," he said, "is the cherry on top."
Muck, who has performed at the Rabobank with previous "Disney on Ice" productions, will return to Bakersfield for six shows of "Dream Big." Although it's getting cooler here, it's nothing compared to a Canadian fall, so Muck said he knows he will enjoy the weather while he's here.
Disney fans of all ages will enjoy "Dream Big," Muck said, from the kids who still can't get enough Elsa and Anna to their grandparents who grew up with the classic princesses.
"I love it because it's a collection of new and old," Muck said. "It has 'Cinderella' and 'Snow White,' and newer stories like 'Tangled' and 'Frozen.' It just flows into one show. You get all of them."