From frozen in Duluth, to ‘Frozen’ on ice in St. Paul
When Duluth native Angie Lien visited a theater in the Philippines to watch the movie “Frozen” three years ago, she had no idea that one day she’d be playing its troubled lead princess, Elsa.
A skater since she was 3 (her mom, Sue, is a figure skating coach and her dad, Dan, played hockey), Lien was on an Asian tour with Disney on Ice.
“A bunch of us from the tour were in the Philippines when the movie came out just before Christmas,” recalls Lien, 35. “It was really fun because we weren’t home for Christmas but it felt like a family outing. None of us really knew what to expect from (the movie) but we all left the theater thinking it would be a fun ice show.”
Cut to Thursday through Sunday, when Lien and company will be appearing in “Disney on Ice: Passport to Adventure.” Lien, whose previous characters on tour have included Jessie from “Toy Story 2 and 3,” will glide into the role of Elsa, who is literally an ice princess because of her ability to freeze anything.
“Audiences definitely love Elsa and it’s an amazing honor to play her,” Lien says. “She’s regal, she’s strong, she’s scared, she’s bold in her movements and in her ability to create all this stuff she creates.”
Having stepped into the role of Elsa this fall, Lien says she’s still getting to know her character.
“It’s great to still be learning new things in something that I’ve done since I was a little girl. All the time, I’m trying to find little nuances in the things she does with a look or a movement of her finger to the music,” Lien says. “You hear little parts of the music and it helps you discover touches to keep fine-tuning the character.”
The skater is reluctant to give away too much of the “Passport” show, which incorporates dozens of Disney characters but, yes, there will be ice.
“We are able to create snow in the show and it brings the audience into the depth of Arendelle (Elsa’s fictional Norwegian village). And, of course, she freezes Arendelle, so that’s one of the magical parts of the show,” says Lien, who adds, “But we also go underwater with Ariel and Sebastian (from ‘The Little Mermaid’) and we feel like we’re flying with Peter Pan and going to the savanna with ‘The Lion King.’ ”
Lien’s life has been almost as much of a whirlwind. Touring with the show has brought her to much of Asia, as well as Australia, South America and throughout the United States — where she has often re-visited cities she first saw when she was a competitive figure skater. In fact, Lien’s last time at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center was in 2008, where she finished a disappointing 17th in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
“Now and again, when we get to watch competitions on TV or we’re able to attend them — last year, in Poland, we had a chance to see a competition — I do kind of miss those days. Skating in the show is such a different thing from the competitive world. There isn’t that pressure of doing five or six triple-jumps in a program, but I do still challenge myself and try to do triples as often as possible because it brings in the competitive side for me,” says Lien, who keeps the difficulty level of her skating high, whether it’s in practice or in “Passport to Adventure.”
Just like a competitive skater, Lien works hard to stay fit and eat the right foods (pro tip: those individual tubs of peanut butter are a good protein boost), despite the rigors of touring. One thing that makes it easier is that her husband, Peter Pienaar, a member of the backstage crew, is also on tour.
Married since 2011, the two met on a cruise ship ice show. They have a home in Superior that they get back to for a couple of weeks at a time, whenever there’s a break in the tour schedule. Lien — who has a degree in exercise science, with minors in Spanish and psychology, from the University of Minnesota Duluth — says they plan to have a family one day but, meanwhile, she’d like to keep skating as long as she can.
“It keeps you active. It’s good for your body, good for your joints. It’s a whole-body workout, whether you’re a professional skater or skating with your family on outdoor rinks. And it’s a lot of fun,” says Lien — who may find herself in Bangkok or Puerto Rico or Argentina but who always knows there’s an ice rink nearby to remind her of her Minnesota home.
If you go
- What: Disney on Ice Presents Passport to Adventure
- When: Dec. 1-4
- Where: Xcel Energy Center, 199 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul
- Tickets: $55-$16.50; (800) 745-300 or www.ticketmaster.com