Before she’d even turned two years old, Sue Brodie was wearing ice skates.
“My mom, she was the skater,” recalls Brodie, who is now the performance director for Disney On Ice’s “Worlds of Enchantment,” which comes to Salt Lake City this week. “She bought me my first pair of skates when I was 22 months old, and had me on the ice then.”
Brodie, who grew up in the rural Canadian community of Chatham, Ontario, loved being out on the ice rink. But becoming a professional skater wasn’t exactly her dream.
Just out of high school, a girlfriend of Brodie’s talked her into auditioning for the Ice Follies together. The two of them made grand plans for their adventure, and even attended some of the touring shows to familiarize themselves with the company.
But at the last minute, Brodie’s friend backed out.
“When it came time to audition, she was madly in love with somebody back home, so she didn’t go,” Brodie said. “But I did. So I guess, actually, it was her dream, and it became mine.”
Brodie spent the next decade and a half skating in professional ice shows.
“I performed for 15 years — which was the love of my life — but I slowly had to release my blades,” Brodie said in a recent telephone interview from a Disney On Ice stop in Bakersfield, California. “I didn’t want to move on, I’d perform until I’m 92, if I could. I still miss it.”
In her performing days, Brodie says she skated and “scared kids” as the evil Queen Maleficent.
“So when I moved to become performance director of the show, everybody joked that it was typecasting,” she said.
But before that, Brodie took a hiatus for a time. She was married “for a few years.” She eventually went to Las Vegas to work as a theater manager at the Bellagio.
But these days, Brodie is back in the ice skating business — although she’s now working behind the scenes.
As performance director, Brodie says her job is to maintain and uphold the choreography of the show, and the way it’s produced. Things like the size of the ice rink can affect performances, and Brodie has to make adjustments for that. She also works with the skaters and understudies at weekly rehearsals, making sure they’re at the top of their game.
“And I write reports every night on the show, and send them in to headquarters,” she said.
Brodie also helps new skaters make the transition from competitive skating to show skating. In addition to being technically sound, performance skaters have to live the story and tell it with their skating.
“When you make the changeover from competition to performances, it’s a whole new world of fun,” Brodie said. “In fact, I never did compete at skating — I always kept it fun.”
When skaters can wow audiences with their skating and their storytelling, that’s where the magic happens, according to Brodie.
“The beautiful thing is, when you can do both, you reach your audience and make them believe you are who you are,” she said. “Like, with Eric and Ariel, the audience has to see that love connection. You need to promote that through your skating.”
There are a lot of Disney On Ice versions floating around out there, but Brodie says there’s something really special about the “Worlds of Enchantment” show. For one, it features some unique constumes for Disney-Pixar’s “Cars.”
“That’s the big winner — between it and ‘Frozen,’” Brodie said. “The crowd loves it. Lightning McQueen, Mater, Flo … no other show has the cars — they’re beautiful-looking cars. The kids love it. The DADS love it. To see the dads’ faces in the audience, well, some kids never grow up.”
The show also features characters from “Toy Story 3,” “The Little Mermaid,” and — of course — “Frozen.”
“All the little girls get up with their princess dresses, and they’re dancing, and the mothers are singing,” she said.” It really is magic.”
Mickey and Minnie Mouse and the rest of the gang will also be on hand.
“That’s Disney for you, we all grew up with it,” Brodie says. “It’s the one thing that is sacred in this world, and it hasn’t changed. It takes everybody away from their daily bothers. At these shows I watch the audience, a lot, and it brings tears to my eyes sometimes — how adorable it is to see what it does for kids, and mothers and fathers. That’s why we do it.”