Stars on Ice
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Geoffrey Tyler on Love 'n Life

Insights on the development of this year's "Love 'n Life" Stars on Ice tour

With all the reports and reviews coming in about the Lake Placid Stars on Ice show, I got very curious about the opening number, since I saw that it was attributed to Geoffrey Tyler, and was wondering if it was an original piece. To satisfy my curiosity, I asked Geoffrey to tell me more about it and what role he played in the show choreography. I got back some interesting insights into the creative process behind the development of the opening number and this year's Stars on Ice show as a whole, thematically. Here's what he had to say:

"The opening number... I wrote the music, and Kurt and I wrote the script for it. No singing, just the skaters' voices.

Because we had so little rehearsal time this year, we wanted to maximize impact and minimize the time it would take to teach people steps. It was already going to be difficult. We couldn't skimp on act 1 closing, or the finale. We already had a great idea for act 2 opener, so we decided to see if we could do the opening differently, yet still be satisfying. We came up with the idea of an "Intro" as an opening as opposed to a big production number. There would be plenty of production value in the form of skating throughout the rest of the show. So we set about to come up with something that would start the show off succinctly, yet set the mood, introduce the theme; give the audience something unexpected, yet interesting.

Kurt's original idea was to have an opening number something like a musical; all the characters get introduced, there's a bit of choreography, maybe some singing (by me) something that sets up the show theatrically like a real musical would, but there's no musical opening number out there that would fit easily with a skating show. We toyed momentarily with writing something, but that would have been very time consuming and we wanted the opposite of that. So it morphed into this idea of the skaters talking about their ideas on what Love and Life means to them, and what they think is important; all of this over some instrumental music to carry the idea. We could achieve all the things we wanted this way, and it could be simple, yet effective.

So we wrote some stuff down, and we liked it. Now the script idea worked to our liking, but the music was hard to pin down. We needed it to follow the dialogue in a certain way, dictated by us and the dialogue, and it was very difficult to find existing music that would do that. Now, going back to a much earlier idea that we'd put aside sometime ago, I had written a little incidental music for something we were thinking of that we eventually shelved, so Kurt asked if I could develop that idea more for this new opening idea, which I did (with trepidation at first, only because I'd never composed for something as mainstream as Stars and I didn't want to disappoint anyone). So, with a script that we were mostly happy with (we would tweak dialogue to suit the skaters as necessary later), I set about putting music to it, we made a few changes here and there, played with the arrangement a couple of times but, in the end, it all seemed to come together.

Now we had this opening number that set the mood for the show, incorporated the theme, introduced all the skaters while telling the audience a little about themselves, and hopefully the audience could relate to it. Unexpected, different, and interesting. We'd spent a great deal of time making the rest of the show (skaters individual choices, other group numbers) fit into our theme so that no one would feel cheated when they saw the whole show and how the opening fit into it all. I think we achieved that. I hope so anyway lol.

I helped with choreography a bit throughout, some steps here and there, ideas. I choreographed the boys' comedy transition numbers, but it's Kurt's footwork for the majority. Jeffrey Buttle along with Kurt contributed lots to the finale, and Linda Garneau choreographed the boys' number in act 2. Because I'm not a skater, I can do a few things, but it's limiting. I'm good at structure, I'm good at figuring out how a good idea will work better, and I'm good at fleshing ideas out so they become complete. That's the director in me I suppose, one has to be able to step back from the canvas and see how it's all going together, and if anything, me NOT being so deeply involved with steps helps me do that.

We have a question: Love, and Life, what is it? And we spend the next couple of hours exploring it. Mildly perhaps, but it is a figure skating show after all, no one's coming to see Shakespeare, but at least people leave with a sense they just saw something that was "about something" and not just a random assortment of unconnected things."