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DISNEY’S WORLD ON ICE

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Kids in the audience were "ahh-struck" when cute little Toto scampered out on the ice during the recent Delta Center run of Kenneth Feld Entertainment's spectacular "The Wizard of Oz on Ice."

Well, brace yourself for even more four-pawed footwork during the "101 Dalmatians" segment of the upcoming "Walt Disney's World on Ice," also produced by Feld and playing March 12-17 on the Delta Center ice.Unlike the "Wizard of Oz' ice show, which told just one classic story, this new Disney production is a sort of sampler of five Walt Disney hits, with segments spotlighting "Fantasia," "Jungle Book," "101 Dalmatians," "Cinderella" and "The Little Mermaid."

This marks the 15th year that Feld, who also produces the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, has sent famous Disney characters gliding across the ice.

There are three national gold medalists in this year's cast:

- Nine-time Australian figure skating champion Cameron Medhurst as happy-go-lucky Mowgli from Rudyard Kipling's "Jungle Book."

- Andrew Naylor of Nottingham, England, six-time British pairs champion, as Prince Eric, the human being who falls head-over-gills in love with Ariel, the Little Mermaid (played by Rosanna Tovi, a world-class singles skater in her own right).

- Alex Mederic, one of the world's top black skaters and recipient of a gold medal in the French National Championships, as Mickey Mouse's elusive Magic Broom (from "Fantasia") and the Sun (in a spectacular sequence where the Sorcerer's Apprentice conjures up the powerful forces of nature).

Other principle skaters in the show include Stephanie LaRiverie, who has wicked Cruella DeVil literally spinning out of control; pairs skaters Julia Myskina and Viatcheslav Kouznetsov as Cinderella/Prince and Dalmatians Perdita/Pongo, and Mikhail Sorotchinski as Sebastian the crab, in "The Little Mermaid."

Medhurst, interviewed by telephone from San Diego, where the show was nearing the end of the West Coast leg of its tour, said he has been playing playful Mowgli for the past two years.

"This show is unique in that it's the first time that Goofy's son, Max, has been introduced on the ice. And the five different storylines make the show very lively and entertaining," said Medhurst, a native of Melbourne, Australia, who now calls Canada home.

If Medhurst had suffered the same experience as his father did - breaking his arm when he first tried skating as a teenager - the medalist might still be plying another trade somewhere Down Under. But, as luck would have it, he and his family had gone to eat at a restaurant when he was a youngster - a restaurant overlooking one of only nine ice rinks in Australia.

"I knew nothing about skating, but it looked like a lot of fun. Mum was afraid to let me try skating right then, but she inquired about lessons. I was eight years old when I started - and I was hooked. That was 23 years ago," Medhurst said.

While he went on to win the Australian men's championship title eight times, the highest placing in world competition was 10th.

"Ice skating is not a major sport in Australia," he noted. "Swimming and diving - those summer games events - that's what we're noted for. I had some good coaches and we had some good talent, but we lacked sufficient facilities for in-depth training. But I learned that if you hang in there long enough and work hard, it'll pay off."

One thing in his favor was that he was the youngest in his family - and there were several years separating him and his next oldest brother.

"My older brothers were involved in tennis but weren't really sports minded. I was lucky to come along later because ice skating became a really expensive hobby. It was difficult, financially, but I feel that I achieved something," he said.

He's been living in Canada since 1992, about the time he left the amateur ranks and turned professional. "Canada was more accessible for ice skating work and I also teach and choreograph around Edmonton," he said.

Medhurst's first touring job was with Dorothy Hamill's Ice Capades, playing Cinderella's little friend, Buttons. He later sent a video of his skating routines to Feld Entertainment.

"They're always looking for new talent, with nine ice skating productions touring around the world. Because of my size - 5 feet, 6 inches - they felt I would be suitable for the role of Mowgli. My height is about average for figure skaters. It's a good height for jumping.

"The Disney ice shows need people who're able to accurately portray well-known Disney characters. The children in the audience, especially, have these characters' appearances and movements memorized, from watching the movies and videos."

The "Walt Disney's World on Ice" stop in Salt Lake will mark Medhurst's longest visit to the city.

"I've flown through the city before and I skated in an exhibition show in Ogden once."

Medhurst was looking forward to spending more time in Salt Lake City and feeling some of the 2002 Winter Olympics excitement.

"I'll be back for that, too," he said.

Medhurst said the original songs and dialogue from the Disney movies have been incorporated into the latest `World on Ice' production. "We've all studied the videos and films to learn the right movements."

Although he's 31, Medhurst has the looks and talent to portray feisty young Mowgli, the daring and playful youngster in "The Jungle Book."

"Naturally, I'm a blond, but I have a black wig in the show. Once, for a recent television interview, I appeared in some TV shots in costume, then changed and tried to get back into the studio as myself - and they didn't believe it was really me."

Medhurst also appears briefly as the Moon during a segment early in the show when Mickey Mouse, in his role as the Sorcerer's Apprentice from "Fantasia," conjures up the powerful forces of nature - Earth, Wind, Water, Fire, Sun, Moon and Stars - with surprising results. And you might also catch a glimpse of him in a replication of the famous water bucket and magic broom sequence from "Fantasia."

But Medhurst's big turn in the spotlight will be as Mowgli, leaping and cart-wheeling his way through Rudyard Kipling's monkeyshines in the exotic jungle.

One thing Medhurst would not divulge, however, is how the Disney magic creates 101 Dalmatians when there are only 42 skaters in the entire ensemble.

"Go ahead and count them," he dared, "they're all there."

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Dalmatian parade to kick off Delta Center show

While audiences at "Walt Disney's World on Ice" will be treated to a rinkful of skaters masquerading as "101 Dalmatians," local promoters for the Delta Center event have come up with an attention-grabbing gimmick of their own - a line of 101 locally recruited Dalmatian puppies and dogs parading around the exterior of the arena at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, March 12.

The production itself will have 10 performances from March 12 through 17. Showtimes will be 7 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Monday, March 12, 13 and 17; at both 4 and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 14; at 11 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 15, and both 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 16.

Tickets range from $9.50 in the upper bowl to $12.50 and $15.50 lower down (plus a few higher-priced seats at rinkside).

There are also $3 discounts for children under 12 for specified performances (excluding premium rinkside seating) and all tickets are $4.50 less on opening night ("KSL Family Night").

Tickets may be purchased at the Delta Center box office or from all Smith'sTix outlets (where there's an additional service fee). For telephone orders, call 467-8499 or 1-800-888-8499.