Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town has become an annual holiday tradition in Hampton Roads, and the theme park’s ice skating performers have spent the month celebrating the season with eager crowds.
“It’s joyful. You walk into the park and everybody has this Christmas spirit. You feel part of a huge family,” said performer Nobahar Dadui, who was born in Iran and raised in Canada. “You feel their love. You feel the love they give back to you and we give love to them, too. It’s a joyful experience.”
For the second consecutive year, Christmas Town has featured the show “Twas That Night” in the Royal Palace Theatre. Described as a re-imagination of the famous poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” the half-hour program features both classic and original holiday songs alongside professional figure skaters.
The team of skaters is headlined by Olympic medalist and three-time World Champion figure skater Elvis Stojko and his wife, Gladys Orozco.
“The thing that’s wonderful about this is the core group. Elvis and Gladys and myself and Nobahar,” said skater Wesley Campbell, who said he skated in “Twas That Night” last year as well. “Working together and coming back, it does feel like family. That’s something that’s different than most shows. We come back here [the dressing room] and we have our family time. That’s not something you usually get in show business.”
Stojko, now 44, plays the character Poppa in the adaptation of the holiday tale. He became famous for his success in competitive figure skating, but says he relishes the time he has spent performing for the crowds in Christmas Town.
“Competition is a different feel,” said Stojko. “It’s a different mindset because you are performing but you’re competing. You’re in warrior mode and it’s like survival mode because you’re out there just trying to stay on your feet. In this situation, yeah you want to stay on your feet, but it’s not just about getting the jumps done and all the technical aspects. It’s really about connecting with that audience.”
Stojko said acting has been a critical component of the show’s popularity, and adding that to his repertoire has been a fun challenge. He also said that skaters have more artistic freedom in “Twas That Night,” since their techniques aren’t being graded, and the support from Busch Gardens has made the show a success.
“What’s great about the show — Busch Gardens really puts a lot of effort into this one. The set design is pretty awesome,” said Stojko. “When you have Broadway-level music, Broadway-level set design, the quality of skaters we have and the amount of work that’s gone into it, Busch Gardens really wanted to have a good show.”
However, his favorite part of skating in Christmas Town? The park’s guests.
“The people are really excited to come. There are a lot of fans who come back to see the show multiple times and they’re cheering like crazy,” said Stojko. “The crowd has been fantastic and they come in rain or snow or cold or freezing.”
If you want to go…
Christmas Town is open from 2-10 p.m. on select days through Jan. 2. Click here to see the calendar. “Twas That Night” gives nightly performances throughout the duration of Christmas Town.
This story was written by our sister publication, WYDaily.com.