SALT LAKE CITY — Although Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City regularly serves as home to the Utah Jazz, hosting basketball games is far from the only thing the flexible venue is capable of.
Other March engagements include tour stops for Post Malone, Celine Dion and JoJo Siwa, not to mention a literally icy reception set for this week as the arena freezes over and “Disney on Ice Presents Mickey’s Search Party” skates into town.
Skating along with it is Disney on Ice veteran Joel Farris of Colorado Springs, who has spent the last six years performing more than 2,000 shows with the touring company, ever since graduating from high school.
According to Farris, skating runs in the family, so joining up with Disney on Ice was in the cards for his future for quite awhile before it happened.
“My mother was a coach so I was pretty much already skating most of my life,” Farris said in a recent phone interview. “My grandfather skated, and everyone on my mom’s side. My sister also performs with Disney on Ice on a different show and my cousin also … so that’s two different family members in the company.”
Farris was quick to note that the travel is one of the highlights of working with the company, with Japan, England and various parts of Europe making the list for his favorite places to visit so far. However, the positives of traveling also come with the reality that only about one month a year is spent at home.
“It is challenging but also very rewarding,” Farris said. “It makes you appreciate home more.”
During his six years skating with Disney on Ice, Farris said he spent four with “Frozen,” including time playing young Kristoff, before joining “Mickey’s Search Party” two years ago in a variety of ensemble roles — with some character work as well.
“The show is just amazing; it has so many acrobatic elements to it and so many different things to learn involved with skating,” Farris said. “There are some amazing special effects as well.”
Those effects also include extreme skating, which Farris described as “basically like a skate park on the ice,” with ramp jumping, a teeter board and tumble tracks.
“There are so many good elements in the show, along with amazing special effects,” he said.
Part of what sets “Mickey’s Search Party” apart from other Disney on Ice features is it’s the first time that Disney and Pixar’s “Coco” has made a full performance debut.
The show, which runs Thursday through Sunday, March 5-8, at Vivint, features a quest with Disney’s favorite icon Mickey Mouse and his friends as they follow Captain Hook’s treasure map in search of clues that will lead them to Tinker Bell, after Hook attempts to steal her magic.
The journey includes a look at the mystical Land of the Dead with Miguel in “Coco,” a trip through the frosted land of Arendelle with Elsa and Anna from “Frozen,” and a daring voyage in “Moana” as she bravely faces off against the fiery Te Ka, with other Disney favorites — including characters from “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “Toy Story” and “Peter Pan” coming to the ice to join in the search party and magical Disney celebration.
“This show is quite different from the average Disney on Ice show,” Farris said of the production. “It was specially put together with acro elements to kind of bring a brand new feeling into this show, and it is absolutely amazing.”
As to his hope for audiences who come to the Salt Lake run, Farris said he wants them to sit back and enjoy the magic.
“Just have a blast!” he said. “This show’s all about fun and that’s the way I’d describe it. In the story, Tinkerbell is being chased by the pirates and we have to get the magic through each story. It’s a fairly simple story, but it’s really, really fun and has a lot of comedy along with all the acro elements.”
Farris said guests can expect a hearty dose of all their favorite Disney characters, with some solid audience interaction moving the story along.
When he’s not on the ice, Farris said he’s looking forward to his second visit to Salt Lake.
“Salt Lake’s a beautiful city,” he said. “I’ll probably go skiing at Park City again. That’s really what I remember most.”
Life on the road can be difficult, but there’s something special about the magic Disney can bring.
“It’s really exciting, really fun and tiring at times,” Farris said. “But it’s a very rewarding job at the same time. You get to entertain people and do what you love, and that’s the point of it, I think.”