IT was Motley Crue that helped let the producers of the traditional ice skating show know what he had in mind. Bart Doerfler had been brought in to pitch his idea for the next production by Holiday On Ice. The Californian, who had just enjoyed a successful launch of a show at the Hard Rock Theme Park in California, wasn’t planning on going in to the pitch lightly.
“The first 45 seconds was a video of Motley Crue,” says Doefler, the show’s creative director.
“I blasted that out in the room, turned on the lights and said to them, ‘Now this is what I do’.”
It was a risky idea. Holiday On Ice has been seen worldwide by more than 325 million people in its 69-year history.
In 1988 it was recognised by Guinness World Record as the most-watched show of all time.
In other words, they know what they’re doing.
And its tradition of family fun, smiling skaters and costume changes has been an integral part of its success.
“I wanted to broaden their audience so kids would think that it’s kind of cool,” continues Doefler, who got the go-ahead to create Speed, which will be coming to the Capital FM Arena later this year.
“It’s a brand new show that takes Holiday On Ice in a new direction. ‘It’s a rock’n’roll ice show.
“We don’t just have skaters who are flying, we have dancers, we have a professional fly team and we have motorcycles on the ice, which is a first.
“That was the most difficult to create because it’s the most dangerous, but it’s the most exciting part of the show.
“So it’s not just for fans of ice shows.”
The former Chippendale dancer, who came to Nottingham 20 years ago with the male troupe, admits: “Five years ago I wasn’t interested in ice shows.
“But when I got a chance to control this show and do it my way, then I was excited.”
Speed is the 98th production by Holiday On Ice, which got its name from its origins as a Christmas Day show in Toledo, Ohio.
“It’s more dramatic, more dangerous and sexier than ever before.
“There’s the legendary Holiday on Ice wheel and the famous kick line, stunt skaters, motorbikes and flying acrobats.”
We’re in Lille, France, at the end of an eight-month European tour for Speed
Above the ice is a giant, inflatable car engine, complete with grill, wheels, fan belt and headlights.
As skaters rehearse, an enthused Doerfler explains: “I told my set designer to imagine that we’d gone 1,000 years into the future and stumbled upon an old fuelling station in the middle of the desert.
“There’s a tribe which lives in the gas station that takes us on a journey.”
The story is no sci-fi blockbuster. In fact, it’s difficult to actually perceive any story at all.
But that’s hardly the point. There is a theme _ speed of light, speed of sound; speed of love, etc. but it’s the sheer spectacle that is its selling point.
The show features 28 skaters, four dancers and two special act performers.
It’s the latter who steal the show, roaring on to the ice on a pair of black trail bikes and walking around the aforementioned Holiday On Ice Wheel suspended 60 feet above the ice, with no safety wires.
There are around 50 nationalities among the cast and crew and two of them are from Nottingham.
Katie Brotherhood has been with Holiday On Ice for three years.
The 28-year-old from Radcliffe-on-Trent, who started skating at the Nottingham’s original ice rink when she was five, has been on tour with Speed for eight months.
“We started rehearsals in September in Utrecht and opened in Hamburg in November,” she says.
“We did quite a few shows in Germany, then Switzerland and now France and France is great. When you’re in cool cities like Paris you do the tourist thing.”
She was joined by her mum, now retired from her job at West Bridgford Library, in Montpellier.
“It was boiling,” she laughs.
“We went sightseeing, we went to the beach... it was like we were on holiday.”
Like most of the performers in Speed, Brotherhood doesn’t play one particular character.
“I’m a dancer and a skater in this show, so it’s ideal for me because I have a background in both.”
The dancing happens on a bridge that rolls out over the ice above the skaters.
She says: “I was in pantomimes when I was little at the Theatre Royal, the Playhouse and at the ice rink.”
After working through her grades at the ice stadium and competing in competitions, she spent five years as a dancer on cruise ships.
Her first professional job on the ice was three years ago.
Of Speed she says: “It’s very fast paced. And unlike other skating shows it’s more about showing off our abilities on the ice.
“You can let your personality come out with Holiday On Ice because you don’t have to play one particular character.”
Tom Paulson is another local member of the cast who also started out at the Ice Stadium.
“It was the last year before it was demolished,” says the 24-year-old from Long Eaton.
“I was 11 and I took to it really quickly. I was a silver medallist at the national championships five times.”
He joined Holiday On Ice last year in the Club Tropicana show which toured the UK and Holland over three months.
He joined Speed for its final five weeks in Europe when another skater left.
“It’s been quite challenging having to learn on a new piece on the fly,” he says.
“I had to learn it as I was doing it, which was quite tricky.
“I’m the one who stands out because I don’t know what I’m doing,” he laughs.
You stand out because you keep falling over...
“I hide my mistakes,” he grins.
“What’s great about Speed is that it’s spectacular, with fire and stunts and motorbikes but it’s also about the skating. You see the jumps and the tricks that we would do in competitions.”