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Friend of Mickey, Miami U grad returns with Disney on Ice

Miami University grad returns to rink

Hope Alexander skates the role of Princess Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog” in Disney on Ice’s “Mickey and Friends,” which comes to the Covelli Centre for seven performances. (Submitted photo / Feld Entertainment)

Hope Alexander’s first time on the ice was at age 2.

She started skating competitively as a child and has been a professional skater with Disney on Ice / Feld Entertainment since 2012. From the time she started competitive skating, Alexander guessed she’d never gone more than few weeks without hitting the ice.

That is, until 2020.

COVID-19 imposed an unplanned several-month break in her usual skating routine, but she’s been back performing for more than a year and will portray Princess Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog” when Disney on Ice opens tonight at the Covelli Centre for seven performances.

“The break was nice,” she said during a telephone interview. “When you travel so much, you forget about the aspect of quote unquote normal life. I was back at home with my parents. My younger sister was there as well. It was the first time we were all in the house together in so many years. It was nice, having that family time but also bad, not being able to work and skate for so long.”

Alexander was part of the first Disney on Ice production to resume performances in October 2020, but things were hardly back to normal.

“All the venues we played had pod seating. Only a certain number of people could sit together. It was definitely a different experience, but it was nice to be doing live entertainment again, and people were itching to be able to go out again.”

Alexander grew up in Delaware, but she went to college at Miami University in Oxford as an international studies major. She originally was drawn to Miami because of its skating program, she said, but she ended up attending the southwestern Ohio university on a track scholarship. That international studies background was put to use when she joined an international Disney on Ice tour that took her to Japan, China, South Korea and other countries around the Asian continent as well as Australia and New Zealand.

Regardless of where the tour takes her, the reaction was the same.

“I think Disney is pretty universal,” Alexander said. “Not matter where you are in the world, people are going to clap and shout and jump up and down.”

Alexander has been playing Princess Tiana as her primary character since joining Disney on Ice nine years ago. She’s certainly spent more time as Disney’s first African-American princess than Anika Noni Rose, who voiced the character in the 2009 animated feature.

“I think she’s just a great character,” she said. “I’m honored to play her. She has a lot of great qualities — hard work, dedication.”

Tiana is one of the many Disney friends Mickey Mouse encounters in the production — which was created to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the rodent’s debut in the 1928 animated short “Steamboat Willie,” although Mickey was featured in an another short, “Plane Crazy” — which features the Disney Princesses and Woody and Buzz Lightyear from “Toy Story” as well as familiar characters from more recent films like “Moana,” “Frozen” and “Inside Out.”

“It celebrates 90 years of Mickey,” Alexander said. “Throughout the show the live hosts are helping Mickey find his favorite memory.”

If you go …

WHAT: Disney on Ice — “Mickey and Friends”

WHEN: 7 p.m. today and Friday, 11 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Covelli Centre, 229 E. Front St., Youngstown

HOW MUCH: Tickets range from $17 to $54 and are available at the arena’s Southwoods Health box office and through Ticketmaster.

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