Musselman's Family Skating Tribute - Pittsburgh, PA - Oct. 30, 2016
written by Tina
The Family Skating Tribute show is always a very different show than the other skating shows of the season. This year in particular, none of the skaters' kids were competitive or serious skaters, so the level and nature of the skating was pretty different. The cast was pretty small this year with just seven families taking the ice. Scott Hamilton and his son Maxx were supposed to skate, but Maxx injured his knee playing Jackpot and Scott vaguely aluded to his recent brain tumor diagnosis, so they only joined for an on stage interview instead of taking the ice together. Kristi Yamaguchi and Michael Weiss hosted, while Dan + Shay were the musical performers. Evidently Dan is a Pittsburgh native, which may partially account for why they did the show. They clearly were used to engaging with the audience more than they were able to in this show, and seemed into supporting the skaters and giving a good performance. The crowd was very very small but supportive.
The show opened with Kristi and Michael's intro, and then Michael Weiss' niece singing the National Anthem.
Opening - "Nothing Like You" - Cast and Dan+Shay
The opening number was to "Nothing Like You", with Dan + Shay
performing live. The number featured some simple group work - Jodeyn
Higgins & Sean Rice skating alongside Silvia Fontana & John Zimmerman,
Kurt Browning and Paul Wylie doing some side by side/counterpointing
footwork and steps, the whole group doing a little bit of choreography
"Already Ready" - Silvia Fontana & John Zimmerman, with Dan+Shay
Silvia Fontana and John Zimmerman took the ice next to skate to Dan +
Shay performing "Already Ready". The two of them skate together
nicely. Not the same level of tricks that Ina & Zimmerman used to do,
but they have a great connection and look beautiful together. The
program featured a fair amount of the two skating separately and then
coming together for some pair moves.
"It's a Small World" - Jodeyne Higgins & Sean Rice, with Signey
The first family number of the evening was Jodeyne Higgins & Sean Rice with their three year old daughter Signey, skating to "It's a Small World", and it was ridiculously adorable. Signey has
apparently been on the ice since she was about 10-18 months old, so
she was comfortable enough to skate down the ice by herself and take a
few simple steps while holding her parents' hands, and she seemed like she loved being lifted in the air and swung around by her parents. Sean Rice is a huge, strong man, and as a result the family was able to do some really neat tricks. They did a death spiral while Sean held Signey leaning backward over his other arm. They did another move where Jodeyne lay across Sean's skates while he lifted Signey over his head with one arm. They did side by side spirals with Signey held horizontally in Sean's arms. He held Signey by one hand and one leg and swung her around and around, lifted her high over his head, and spun with her overhead. It was a great combination of real skating, actual skating tricks, and utter cuteness.
"Barber of Seville" - Kurt and Dillon Browning
In my opinion, that number and the following one were probably the highlights of the night. Kurt Browning and his 9 year old son Dillon took to the ice for the "Barber of Seville", delivering a comic performance that proved the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. Dillon has naturally fast feet and an inclination towards footwork not usually seen in one so young. He also is a natural ham, and had no problem acting up a storm opposite his dad. He played a young barber enticing Kurt's haughty (bewigged) customer into his barber shop, terrifying his customer with his wild dancing about with scissors. Kurt tries to escape, but is convinced back with an offer of hair tonic to care for his hair. However, in the process of vigorously rubbing it into Kurt's hair, Dillon accidentally removes the wig (which I think is intended to imply that the tonic actually made Kurt's hair fall out), which Kurt doesn't realize for a while. Dillon's sheepish look as he hides the wig behind his back is priceless, and the two get into a bit of an altercation where Kurt spins Dillon around in various positions, until he collapses to the ground. Dillon steps over Kurt, and then opens Kurt's bag to happily retrieve a sack of cash. Between the facial expressions, body language, and general conceit of the number, the audience was constantly chuckling.
"Mom/Boys Are Back" - Nancy Kerrigan with Matthew, Nicole, and Brian
I give props to Nancy Kerrigan's kids. The oldest, Matthew, is clearly the only one who is truly comfortable on skates, but all three of them gamely come back year after year to perform with their mom in this show. Their number to "Mom"/"Boys Are Back" opened with Nicole alone on the ice, performing carefully to "Mom". She's not a strong skater but she gave it her all with her upper body choreography and didn't show at all how scary it must be to go out there alone on the ice. She was soon joined by Nancy, and then eventually by the two boys, Matthew and Brian. Matthew briefly partnered his mother, and performed a side by side jump with her (which he consistently landed and she needed to retake). He also lifted his sister and spun around, and led his brother through some choreography to "Boys Are Back". Every time I see this family, I'm struck by how mature Matthew is and how much he seems his mother's partner in many ways. They seem like a great family.
"I'm So Happy You Are Here (Blue's Clues)" - Todd Eldredge with Sabrina, Ryder, and Ayrton
Todd Eldredge and his wife Sabrina's number with their sons Ryder and Ayrton came next. Ryder sat on a chair on stage, playing with his computer, and apparently was supposed to be playing the "Blue's Clues" program his family performed. Unfortunately they didn't light him up, and I didn't even notice he was there until the very end, which kind of destroyed that part of the concept. They were also hampered by the fact that Ayrton is very young, clearly doesn't really skate yet, and was really freaked out and refused to let go of his dad. As a result, Todd had to perform the whole number with his blue dog costumed son in his arms without the advantage of being a huge pairs skater, and Sabrina was left to kind of skate around him. Ayrton was really cute in the blue dog costume, but the overall number didn't quite gel.
"Sway" - Sinead Kerr-Marshall & John Kerr, with Dan+Shay
Sinead Kerr-Marshall and John Kerr, the only sibling duo in the cast,
brought a drastic change of pace, performing to"Sway" while Dan + Shay performed live. The sheer speed and synchronicity of their skating was a huge contrast to the other numbers. Real ice dance! With high level skating and moves! Unfortunately the "family" nature of their inclusion by virtue of being brother-sister was a bit undercut by the romantic nature of the lyrics, but they made the best of it.
"19 You and Me" - Paul Wylie, with Dan+Shay
The last major cast performance of Act 1 featured Paul Wylie skating
to Dan + Shay performing"19 You and Me". It's always a joy to watch Paul Wylie skate. He seems genuinely joyful on the ice, and it just shines out of him as he moves down the ice. He also seems genuinely in love with his wife, who he danced a few steps with at different points in the song. He was loose and personable all through the show, talking to the audience and just generally commenting on things in a good humored way. And his skating is as neat, precise, and beautiful as ever, from his spread eagles to Russian splits to jumps to his fast blur scratch spin. It was so nice to see him do a solo in the show.
Act 1 actually closed with three local synchronized skating teams,
performing one after another, starting from the lowest level team to
the highest level team.
After intermission, act 2 opened with Kristi talking to Scott Hamilton
and his son Maxx on stage. Maxx clearly wasn't the least bit
intimidated by talking to a large crowd, telling the story of how he
injured his knee playing Jackpot. He even told a political joke -"Who would survive if Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton were stranded alone on a desert island? America". Scott explained how he had originally wanted to perform on the ice with Maxx, but between Maxx's injury and recent developments (alluding to his recent brain tumor diagnosis), they weren't able to. But they still wanted to come out to Pittsburgh since it was such a great opportunity for his skating family to reuinte and see how each other's families have grown and reconnect. He got great cheers and enthusiastic support from a crowd who clearly loved him.
"Try Everything" - Silvia Fontana & John Zimmerman, with Sofia, Eva, and John
Silvia Fontana and John Zimmerman then opened the second act's skating
with a number with their three kids, Sofia, Eva, and John Luther. I am
really impressed by Silvia Fontana, who took the ice in this show just
2.5 months after giving birth. Not surprisingly, the 2.5 month old
John Luther wasn't really featured in the program until the
end. However, Sofia and Eva was adorable, dressed identically and
doing their best to follow their parents down the ice. John took turns
skating with each girl, doing miniature versions of moves that he used
to do with Kyoko Ina, including turning Eva (?) upside down in a
candle lift, and doing other overhead lifts with Sofia. He and Silvia
did a few moves for the girls to mirror, like spirals, as well as
doing a little skating together without the girls. In the end, John
went and retrieved John Luther, bundled up warmly in a lion costume,
and carried him to join the rest of the family for a final pose. The
older girls clearly love their new little brother, continually kissing
him and trying to embrace him. I don't know how John and Silvia put
together these numbers while dealing with a new baby and two little
girls, not to mention all their other activities, but it was
"Disco Inferno" - Sinead Kerr-Marshall & John Kerr
Sinead and John's second number felt much more up their alley, to Disco Inferno. The two of them threw themselves into this program with abandon, dancing up a storm and doing some of their signature lifts, including the gender bender lift with Sinead lifting John. The program was a lot of fun, and it was really nice having a real, fast, skilled skating number like this in the middle of all the other cuteness.
"Cinderella" - Paul Wylie with Kate, Hannah, Emma, and Caleb
Paul Wylie always does a really good job putting together a family
number for his entire family for this show, and this year was no
exception. This year's number was to"Cinderella" by Steven Curtis Chapman, about a father helping his daughter to practice dancing as she grows, since she will disappear at midnight. It was a really sweet number, featuring the younger daughter (Emma). She skated alone, then danced with her father, and then skated around the rest of her family receiving flowers from Caleb, skating hand in hand with her sister Hannah and her father, and skating around her mom Kate. In the end, she stood alone, looking over her shoulder, while the rest of the family stood together reaching out towards her. It was a lovely number with a beautiful theme, and did a great job of giving Paul breakout moments to do some real skating around, while giving each family member something to do choreographically.
"Elite Syncopations" - Kurt and Dillon Browning
Fans of Kurt Browning will recognize the music to the second number he performed with Dillon, "Elite Syncopations" (ie, the Red Hat Trick song). This number did without props (unless
you count the inevitable hat Kurt wore), and instead spotlighted Kurt
and Dillon's respective footwork. The bulk of the program featured
the two of them taking turns doing footwork down the ice, while the
other watched, which was nice since you could concentrate on each of
them individually. Kurt said that he basically shaped the program
around stuff he'd observed Dillon doing, so Dillon was comfortable
doing all the moves. However, Dillon apparently asked to do even
more, including a sit spin he only learned days before, and an
upright spin he'd only mastered in the last two days. He pulled them
off, too! Unfortunately, he got too excited and fell on a jump he
landed perfectly in rehearsal (waltz into loop), but that led to them
retaking the entire program later, which was a bonus for the
audience. Dillon really does have talented feet, and Kurt is clearly
really proud of him. Kurt's own jumps were spot on all night, a
combination of beautiful double axels and triple toe loops.
"How Not To" - Todd Eldredge with Sabrina, and Dan+Shay
Dan + Shay came out to perform the last four songs of the night. First up was Todd and Sabrina skating to "How Not To". The number seemed to start with the two in conflict, with Sabrina
rejecting Todd and turning away, but the two gradually came together
romantically. It's nice to see how much Todd seems to adore his wife,
and the two did some lovely pair bits for two single skaters. I didn't
always get the sense that Sabrina felt comfortable out there, but the
two performed nicely together.
"From the Ground Up" - Jodeyne Higgins & Sean Rice with Dan+Shay
Jodeyne Higgins & Sean Rice then came out sans Signey for a romantic
number to"From the Ground Up". It lacked the cute factor of their first number, but featured some awesome adagio moves that had the crowd gasping at times. In a relatively low difficulty skating night, the actual pair lifts and spins stood out, and brought some needed thrills to the night. It also had some genuinely sweet romantic moments, and the two did a nice job connecting to each other and the music.
"Lipstick" - Nancy Kerrigan, with Dan+Shay
The last solo of the evening featured Nancy Kerrigan skating to"Lipstick", and integrating a stool into her choreography. The song is about a
woman preparing for a date, so she started out sitting on the stool
pulling her hair back, but then used the stool as she glided across
the ice, pushing it, doing a spiral while leaning on it, sitting on it
and spinning around, etc. It added a bit of choreographic interest to
the number, and added to the interpretation.
Finale - "All Nighter" - Cast with Dan+Shay
For the finale,"All Nighter", the skaters each came out in turn to do a solo bit, before coming
together at the end for a group bow. They then went and got their
kids, forming a massive chaotic group by the stage, with various kids
breaking out at different points to show off on the ice (not planned,
they just wanted to do it). Eventually they got everyone together in a
group picture, before urging everyone to in the audience to stay for
Retakes were generally low key, with Paul and Nancy each redoing a
jump (with some confusion from both because the retakes were done
without music but it wasn't made clear when they could start
skating). Paul's jump retake didn't go as smoothly as he hoped, but
his good natured response to it kept the audience firmly rooting for
him. We did get a full re-run through of Kurt and Dillon's Elite
Syncopations, though Dillon then ended up having to do a music-less
retake of just his missed jump after he missed it again. Nancy's
family also started a full retake of their number since Nancy had
fallwen during the side by side jump, but once she missed it again,
they changed it to just retaking the bit around that jump rather than
resetting everyone again. Nobody came out to talk and entertain the
crowd before or during retakes, which was unfortunate since some
people left during the long pauses between numbers, but overall the
audience was warm and supportive throughout the retakes, and the show
ended on a cheerful note.