Let's talk about Bruno: Highland Park skater plays iconic 'Encanto' character for Disney On Ice
Eddy Zeidler's fate, his career with Disney On Ice and his lifelong passion were sealed early, on skates in Highland Park.
Zeidler was about 4 years old when his family moved here from Brooklyn.
"It happened to be one of the first family outings we did when we moved to Highland Park ... we went to the Centennial Ice Arena and I just took to it," Zeidler said. "While everyone else was clinging to the boards, I was a maniac. I wouldn't stop. I just kept going from there."
Today, Zeidler, 52, plays the iconic character of Bruno in Feld Entertainment's "Disney On Ice Presents Frozen & Encanto."
The show runs Thursday through Sunday at the United Center in Chicago and Feb. 2-5 at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, with multiple performances at each location.
Zeidler said the song about his "Encanto" character, "We Don't Talk About Bruno," outperformed "Let it Go" from Disney's "Frozen" on the Billboard Hot 100. "Bruno" reached No. 1 last January while "Let it Go" topped out at No. 5 in 2014.
It's far from Zeidler's first turn with Disney On Ice. He first began the combination of figure skating and acting in a Disney production in 1997 playing Thomas -- "John Smith's sidekick," Zeidler said -- in "The Spirit of Pocahontas."
He's portrayed Aladdin and the Mad Hatter in "Treasure Trove," Buzz Lightyear in "Toy Story 2," John Darling in "Peter Pan," and young Simba from "The Lion King" in "Jungle Adventures" -- all Disney On Ice productions.
Zeidler will perform in an entire run of a particular show, which he said can last at least four years. He said "Treasure Trove" toured nearly 10 years. Disney On Ice also has multiple shows operating concurrently; its website lists five current productions.
Zeidler was an old hand at playing characters on ice skates before joining Disney On Ice. He even has a credit on Internet Movie Database for an appearance in the 1994 television movie "Nutcracker on Ice" with Oksana Baiul.
Though there have been revivals and reunion performances, Zeidler said he was in the final show of Ice Capades' run in August 1997 when Typhoon Victor hit Hong Kong and made it too difficult to carry on.
"We woke up the next day to grab our stuff, but everything was up in trees," Zeidler said.
He immediately joined Disney On Ice and has performed in all 50 states and most countries.
With the company he's performed for the royal family of Brunei and for "tons of celebrities" including Lin-Manuel Miranda in November in New York City. Miranda, the "Encanto" songwriter and also the brains behind "Hamilton," "was so excited, he was jumping up and down," Zeidler said.
"We've had all the people come that were really involved with 'Encanto,' they've all come to see the show," Zeidler said. "Down to the girl who even hand-sewed Mirabel's skirt. She embroidered that skirt for six months and when Mirabel came on the ice, she was in tears. It was kind of special."
The sets in these productions, with lights, huge projection screens and state-of-the-art technology, are a far cry from when Frick and Frack performed slapstick comedy in the Ice Capades.
A set can "look like hardwood floors, or it could look like a lake.
"It's just amazing. We didn't have that technology when I started," Zeidler said.
Zeidler came to entertainment from a competitive background. He skated at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships for five straight years from 1990 to 1994, winning silver and bronze medals in Novice Pairs with partner Sabrina Corbaci, who now is married to Olympian Todd Eldredge. They still keep in touch.
Zeidler trained at Centennial Ice Rink under the late figure skating coach and dancer Stina Rogal. After attending Indian Trail Elementary School, since-closed Elm Place Middle School and then starting at Highland Park High School, his family moved to the San Diego area when he was 14.
"I loved growing up in Highland Park," he said. "We literally didn't lock our doors at that time. We would only come home at night when the streetlights came on."
Zeidler and a brother, Leon, admittedly were "unruly kids" who exhausted babysitters and spent much time at the Jean Butz James house at 326 Central Ave. On the National Register of Historical Places, the 1871 Victorian Italianate was the former home of the Highland Park Historical Society.
Now, Zeidler spends about 10 months on the road and maintains a space in the Elk Grove Village home of his sister and her husband, Helen and Phil Kornick. He fills the apartment with souvenirs from his travels and the artwork he creates in his limited spare time.
"It's like Aladdin's cave of wonders," Zeidler said.
Aside from tearing a biceps tendon in 2008 during a performance in Japan that required surgery, Zeidler said he feels in great shape.
He sees no end to his journey on ice.
"It's a great escape, it's freedom. I love to perform," Zeidler said.
"It's like home, it just feels like being at home."