ALBANY. N.Y. -- Among the characters on ice when "Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic" opens Wednesday at Times Union Center is Cinderella.
The true Cinderella story, however, can be found backstage at the ice extravaganza.
Corey McCourt is that Cinderella story. Thirteen years ago he was selling novelties for the ice show. Today, he is arguably, the most important off-ice person connected with the show. His title is stage manager, a position he describes as "being responsible for everything that doesn't take place on ice."
In 1990, McCourt was an aimless young man, recently out of high school, living in Collingswood, N.J., near Camden.
"I had a friend who was involved with the ice show doing sound and he got me interested in joining the show." he explained during a recent interview. "When you're 20-21 the opportunity to travel and experience new places sounds exciting. So I took the job."
He started as one of those vendors running up and down the aisles selling souvenirs. After a year or two he proved reliable enough to run his own vendor booth. A couple of years of being a top producer of sales encouraged the organization to promote him again, this time as part of the crew. He was an assistant carpenter, one of the people who help load in the show and get the set organized in each venue. Soon he was head carpenter, a rigger and assistant stage manager.
Now at age 35, the young kid who started by selling trinkets is the stage manager for the entire show. He hires the crew who works the show and is responsible for the logistics of getting the show in and out of the Times Union Center safely and efficiently.
He makes virtually every decision concerning placement of the set and equipment. He even decides where the dressing areas are located so the performers have best access to the ice. He says his primary goal is always safety of the audience, performers and the crew. But a close second is to assure that the skaters are comfortable and can offer the best performances possible.
However, that goal of making performers happy might be part of a personal agenda. Besides being a Cinderella story, Corey McCourt also plays the off-ice role of Prince Charming. Two years ago he married Marina Mystrakova, a principle skater in the show who plays Belle in the "Beauty and the Beast" segment.
The kid who joined the ice show to travel estimates he's visited 67-68 countries. He and Marina got engaged in Scotland. He hasn't lost the thrill of travel and is excited that this summer he adds another continent to the list as the ice show tours South Africa.
Neither has he become jaded about the production for which he is responsible. He watches at least one full show at every location in order to see it from the "audience's perspective" and insists he is still moved by the audiences' reaction to what takes place on the ice.
"It's so exciting to see the audience, especially the kids, react to seeing their favorite Disney characters come alive. And I love the shouts of delight when a character does a backflip or something. It's just so satisfying."
But a tech guy is always a tech guy. He continues, saying, "The special effects are spectacular. We have a giant castle that goes across the entire performing space from which the characters entire the ice. My favorite moment is the light show when they do the parade to ‘It's a Small World.' It's just as good as the one they do in Orlando."
McCourt has an amazing career, a happy marriage, and he travels around the world with his wife and a crew of 100 who he calls "family." A true Cinderella story.
Bob Goepfert supervises coverage of and writes about the arts and entertainment scene in New York's Capital District for the Troy (N.Y.) Record, a sister newspaper of the Berkshire Eagle.