Stars on Ice
Kurt List

Kurt Browning's Gotta Skate 2003 Review

Copps Coliseum - Hamilton, ON - Oct. 18, 2003

written by Tina

Short note before getting into the review - you can find all of the songs Michael Buble performed on his self-titled CD "Michael Buble". For musical clips, visit here.

The third edition of Kurt Browning's Gotta Skate kicked off on a chilly, rainy night at the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, ON. While it may have been wet and cold outside, inside, the ice had been transformed into a warm, old-style nightclub - Chez Shae's - with an ice-level stage set up at one end with tables, chairs, a bar, and a piano, and a double door at the other end bearing the name of the club. A few disco balls hung from the ceiling. Eventually, a number of club patrons made their way out and seated themselves at the tables. These later turned out to be members of the National Ballet of Canada, friends of Sonia and Kurt's. The "bartender" was her sister Vanessa.

Before the show started, Rosalynn Sumners came out with her co-host, David Foster to introduce the show. Ros told us that she had been watching rehearsals, and that she believed that this was the best Gotta Skate yet. She asked David about his newest protege, Michael Buble, who David told us he believed would be Canada's next singing sensation. Upon discovering that they had about 5 minutes to kill, David jokingly protested that they weren't paying him for five minutes, but then took advantage of the opportunity to challenge the crowd to find someone who thought that they were talented enough to be a singing star who'd be willing to come up and sing something, on the spot, for him (Ros: Canadian Idol!). He said that he didn't want someone who'd get up there and then go "oh but I don't know what to sing". After much shouting from various places around the arena, they somehow pinpointed one woman, who hurriedly made her way from the opposite end of the arena to his exhortations to move quickly as they only had 4 minutes left, no 3.... When she reached them, she introduced herself, told us that she had lived in Hamilton for the last 8 years ("go Hamilton!") and then told him that she was going to sing O Canada since it was the only song she was guaranteed to know the words for. Without further ado, she began singing in a nice, mezzo-sopranoish (a little high to be an alto, IMO) rich voice that only sometimes wavered a bit off despite being out of breath from hurrying her way across the arena. After a while, David Foster gestured to the crowd to stand up, and then join in. When she was finished, he thanked her, and as she made her way back to her seat, she was greeted by applause from the various parts of the audience she was walking through at the time. Kurt later expressed some surprise about this unplanned portion of the show, saying he was backstage going - I don't remember getting anyone to sing O Canada? Ros also pointed out that Steven Cousins was in the audience, and had him stand up to wave to the audience (to a great deal of cheers and applause).

Shortly after David and Rosalynn left the stage, Kurt came out through the double doors, microphone in hand, wearing a Stars on Ice fleece over a white t-shirt and black warmups. He greeted the audience, saying that we may have noticed that he looked different - "that's 'cause I'm a dad now!" (cheers and whistles). He looked quite different, indeed, as it turns out, since he had dyed his hair platinum blond sometime in the last couple days. From the 7th row, I have to confess that at first I thought he had gone completely bald, the hair was so blond, but it turns out it's just bright blond. He said something changing his look or maybe just an accident with a dye bottle (falling headfirst into a bucket of dye?). He then invited the other skaters onto the ice to warmup, telling the audience that they were doing things a little differently, letting us watch the skaters practice a bit because this would be our last chance to see them as themselves this evening. Once the show started, they would all be playing characters, no longer being Kurt, or Shae & Vic, world-champion ice dancers, but "Party Boy" and the owners of Chez Shae, the "best dancers in town." As the skaters continued to warm up, Kurt took the opportunity to casually introduce each of them to us. Jennifer Robinson, Canadian champion several times over. Shae and Vic - "Apparently it takes ten Canadian championships to make a World Champion" (or something to that effect). Todd Eldredge, Olympic champion...I mean, World champion (I think he said this). Jenni and Todd ("hey do I know these guys? who are you?"), whom he'd toured with for the last 5-6 years, two of his best friends and they kind of like each other too since they're married. David Liu, who'd helped choreograph some of the show, thank you, David. Isabelle & Lloyd, who he had to really thank for stepping in - Jamie & David were supposed to be there but David Pelletier broke his foot last weekend - not too badly, he'll be back on the ice in a couple weeks but they couldn't make it today - so he picked up the phone and asked them for their help and they stepped right up. And the man, Brian Boitano, Olympic Champion whom Canadians hadn't seen live for like 5 or 7 years, but Kurt picked up the phone and got him to come here. And who had come two days early to work with Kurt at the Granite Club on their duet together, which Kurt was very excited about. Then, as the skaters exited the ice through the double doors, Kurt went off the ice, bidding us goodbye as Kurt, in preparation to start the evening as "Party Boy."

After a bit of a delay, during which Rosalynn came out, telling us that the V05 guys had gotten a hold of Kurt the other night, and that he kind of looked like Eminem, Kurt reemerged from the doors, now fully in character and ready to start his party. The music for this section was the Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra, followed by "Got That Swing." Wearing grey slacks, suspenders, a white and grey vertically striped shirt, and a grey poor-boy's cap, he once again held a microphone, this time excitedly exclaiming about the party that was about to start. He introduced Shae and Vic (who were already out, "prepping" the club) as the owners of Chez Shae, the "best dancers in town", as they came out and quickly executed a little swing-style dance in the corner. As Todd Eldredge checked each guest against his list as the bouncer, "Big Daddy", "Party Boy" introduced them to the audience. Isabelle & Lloyd were regulars, "well-known" around town and to the patrons of the club, strolling in confidently together. Jenni and Todd were a slightly different story, with her snootily strolling in while Todd took care of the bouncer, ran up to talk to her, got rebuffed, etc. "Party Boy" told us that he knew Todd - he was a funny guy, and "uh-oh, looks like a blind date." Jennifer Robinson was a blushing Wallflower who shyly rebuffed Kurt's advances and ran to her seat in the club. David Liu came in at some point, wrapped in his black coat and mystery, leaving "Party Boy" to watch him in befuddlement, calling to "Big Daddy" - "is he on the list?" before recognizing him as "the Artist." "Party Boy" was talking with some enthusiasm at a different point when he noticed a commotion at the door - an uninvited guest (who wasn't wearing skates =)) getting summarily manhandled out of the club by "Big Daddy", who calmly straightened his jacket and picked his clipboard up again after disposing of the gate-crasher. Lastly came Brian Boitano as Hernando, "the Man", cool and well-known. With his arrival, "Party Boy" checked with "Big Daddy" to make sure everyone was there ("Big Daddy" shoved the clipboard in his face and then the two smartly saluted each other), and exultantly declared the party on, as the guests all stepped onto the ice and started dancing.

The opening number was a fast, high-energy, high-stepping number to swing music performed by some orchestra/swing band (I'll get the music listing some time soon, I hope, and post the correct information then). At one point during it, Jennifer Robinson was surrounded by the guys (Kurt, Todd, Brian, David), looking quite shy and out of her depth, as the two pairs and dance team did their thing on the other end of the ice. They actually did a number of interesting mirrored moves that had the dance moves complementing the pairs moves (can't remember if this was the opening or closing, to be honest) where Shae and Vic did one of their low hydroplaning (or not hydroplaning? kind of shoot the duckish in a tightening spiral with Vic leaning on Shae) in the center as the two pairs did death spirals on either side of them. Or Shae and Vic doing a dance lift in the center as the two pairs did identical pairs lifts on either side. Or Shae & Vic doing some really fast interesting looking footwork side by side in the center as other things went on around them. Since Kurt *is* the center of the show, he did get centerpieced from time to time (jumping out and doing some highlighted footwork, dancing in the center of a group of people), but didn't actually take center ice as often as you might anticipate. The choreography for this opening was far stronger than the choreography of last year's opening number. The skaters were more spread out, they had different groups doing different things, and the type of choreography being done was much more interesting. A great way to open the show.

As the opening number wound to a close and the skaters returned to their seats at the table, Victor gently danced Jennifer/"The Wallflower" out onto the ice for her number, to "Tangosain". Jennifer wore a relatively demure blue dress with white polka dots, an interesting contrast to her costume in the second act. This program, as I recall (memory's a little fuzzy), had an interesting little sequence of spirals, a nice layback spin, and possibly that jump combination she does - the one foot single axel into a sal? Or is it a sal into an axel, I don't quite recall. (if she didn't do that jump combination on this program, it was in the second one) A nice program all around. Amusingly, during this program, Kurt was quite animatedly watching from his rinkside seat, whistling at her, and bopping around, completely goofing off. I think he started realizing that he was attracting attention away from her, and toned it down after a while.

After the Wallflower demurely returned to her seat, there was some delay caused by potential confusion as to what was to happen next. Eventually, David Foster made his way out to play his role as a host, asking how everyone was doing, if they were having fun, and then introducing the owners of Chez Shae. Shae and Vic were *on* tonight, so very much fun to watch, and totally getting into playing the characters. One thing I enjoy about them is that it's not all about spotlighting Shae, who does a fine job in the seductress/sassy woman role, but also gives Victor a chance to shine, often doing his own highlighted bit of dancing or footwork on the side. The two of them are brimful of personality, which makes them a real treat to watch. My little sister, who had never been to a live skating show before, and isn't very familiar with the skaters, really enjoyed the two of them. Actually, come to think of it, this was the first song that Michael Buble sang, and David Foster came out primarily to introduce him as the Crooner. I think this was "Sway" (listens to music clip - yup, that was it). Unfortunately, since I'm not that familiar with dance, I can't really say specifically what they did. I do know that at one point, she dipped him.

As the owners of Chez Shae stepped off the ice, the bouncer, Big Daddy, aka Todd Eldredge, casually took off his outside coat and prepared to skate, momentarily facing off with Victor. Once again, I have no recollection whatsoever what music he skated to - as I recall it was instrumental but not classical, maybe vaguely swingy and quite dramatic - set list says this was called "Transition." Choreographically, the program was what I think of is quite Todd - dramatic gestures, reaching towards the sky, looking pensively at the ground, fast, and sweeping. Todd skates with a certain conviction and power that impresses. My little sister was particularly impressed by his power and spins - as usual, fast, centered, nice line and extension. As I recall, he did a 2-axel that went off-center in the air but he saved nicely on the landing, as well as a number of other jumps that slip my mind at the moment.

As Big Daddy left the ice, Jenni came onto the ice with her demurely eager expression, offering him her rose, which he refused quite decisively (practiced at refusal from his bouncer duties, I suppose). As she hopefully offered her rose to first a director/producer type guy sitting by the TV camera, and then various audience members, Todd S. made his way out on the ice, grinning and shrugging at the audience near where he was standing. Jenni's got the facial expressions of first puzzlement, then doubtful hope down to a T as Todd presents himself as a possible candidate, before snatching the rose out of her hand with his teeth and starting "I'm Your Man." Having seen this program several times last season, I don't have much new to say about it. The program, as ever, was cute and well-executed, though Jenni wasn't able to land her throw double axel (she got it in one try on retakes, I believe.

The transition between Jenni & Todd's program and Isabelle & Lloyd's was rather uneventful - Jenni & Todd simply stepped off the ice while Isabelle & Lloyd stepped on. This program and the second they performed continued their trend of skating one sentimental program about being friends or whatever after all these years and was vaguely country-sounding. This was "Friend to Me", their Garth Brooks number from the previous CSOI tour. As usual, Isabelle & Lloyd impressed the crowd with their various lifts, headbanger spin, and other daring moves, while blending these elements with kind of a smooth sentimental style. This program did contain one mishap, though, as Isabelle stumbled and fell out of a solo spin as Lloyd skated around her. In retakes, she later joked to Kurt "I need spinning lessons. Lloyd let me go and I just went boom!"

As Isabelle & Lloyd finished, there was a small delay as a small stage was pushed out in the middle of the ice (basically center ice, slightly to one side) by two stagehands, and then Michael Buble was carefully escorted out to the stage by either Isabelle or Shae (can't remember, but it was a lady). Brian Boitano then came out to skate to "Summer Wind" as Michael Buble sang it live. Michael Buble's got a wonderful voice and a nice, easy style to his singing that provided a lightness and joy to his interpretation of the song. It was a bit disconcerting seeing Brian Boitano skating to this song, since I remember Brian Orser performing it not too long ago, but this was a nice program for him. He landed his trademark Tano lutz, and either in this program or the other, did a 3-2-2 combination and a later 3-2 combination that almost took him right into the boards (it looked like his blade landed maybe a foot from the edge and then he took a sharp curve out from it). Come to think of it, this was likely in the other program. He did do some spread eagles around Michael's platform, with the two of them pointing at each other in a friendly way. Brian ended his program by spraying Michael Buble with ice (a nice big, almost up to his neck spray), who had an amusing semi-surprised, mock-offended look on his face in response.

As Shae carefully walked Michael back to the stage, David Foster was all ready to continue the show, only to "realize" that they couldn't continue because Michael wasn't there yet, causing him to exaggeratedly hurry his pace up, "jogging" and sliding across the ice back to the stage. Once there, he began to perform "Moondance", to the delight of everyone, including "Party Boy" himself, who seemed quite content to sit in his chair and clap along, until Michael forceably pushed him out of his seat onto the ice to skate. Once up, "Party Boy" didn't seem to want to skate himself, begging first Shae, then "Wallflower" for a dance, even managing to pull her out of her seat briefly to engage in a little dance before she shyly hurried back to her seat. Left to his own devices, "Party Boy" promptly launched into incredibly quick, complex, light footwork down the ice, seeming almost to dance over the ice rather than on it. I swear, as Kurt gets older, his feet only get faster and more nimble. The footwork also didn't seem to be just a reworking of stuff he had done before, but new, interesting steps that fit right into the music and the easy, light, swinging mood Michael set. It wasn't just footwork either, as Kurt landed a nice 2-axel, and 3-toe, at least (don't recall anymore what other jumps were in there), as well as a camel spin or two (which have slowed down a bit), and other choreographic nuances such as leaps and kicks. Overall, both of Kurt's programs for this show were in the vein of Hey Pachuco - upbeat, light, fast, and swingy, though both in different ways, fitting his character and the setting really well.

At the close of Kurt's, I mean "Party Boy"'s program, the skaters got up and began filing out of the club the way they came in, as "Party Boy" explained to us that he thought the dance floor was in need of some dusting, and that he'd see us back at "Chez Shae's" in 20 minutes.

Act II opened fairly casually, with the club patrons casually seating themselves back at the tables and some - though not all - of the skaters making their way one by one back into the club. Actually, it may have been primarily the ladies who came back in. Ever the good club owners, Shae and Vic were out ahead of the rest, making sure the patrons had their drinks and generally mingling at the table.

When the "Artist" (aka David Liu) made his enigmatic way back into the club, he quietly and semi-dramatically took his overcoat off, handing it to the Wallflower (who wore it over her dress while he was skating) and began skating to an instrumental piece (with chanting voices in parts) that sounded very vaguely flamenco-ish and very vaguely ethnic in some way. This program in some ways was reminiscent of Kurt's Nyah program and in some ways was completely different. David Liu is obviously very artistic, the program fitting his adopted persona for the night perfectly. He has excellent posture and poise, very precise in his movements and positioning of his body. This program wasn't about jumps - I think he may have tried one somewhat flubbed axel - or footwork, but instead precise, interesting interpretation of the music. The spins he did had rather differently positioning. Although he's quite a small, slight man, he has undeniable presence and authority and a very different style. At the close of his program, the Wallflower, now not looking so Wallflower-ish in a red, sexy dress, brought his coat back to him, which he put on with a cool flourish, calmly exiting the club once again.

The program that followed was evidently the Wallflower emerging from her shell, Jennifer Robinson performing her "Teach Me Tiger/One Mint Julip" program. The persona she conveys in this program is knowing sass, flirtatious and charming. Unfortunately, my enjoyment of this program was somewhat marred by the fact that I don't find her music charming in the least - the woman's voice grates and the whole thing sounds too coy. While Jennifer pulled off the program with great flair and personality, the program itself fell flat for me, mainly because of the music.

Somewhere along the way, Todd Sand turned into a piano player, and Jenni - the reluctant blind date at the beginning of the show - became a bit of a seductress. As their program "Makin' Whoopee" opened, Todd sat at the piano, pretending to play, while Jenni flirted with him, and then incurred his jealousy by starting to come on to the "Party Boy." This led to Todd asserting himself (while "Party Boy" looked eagerly innocent and vaguely bewildered) and then sweeping Jenni in his arms off onto the ice to begin their program. For all its seductive opening, the program was far more fun and light-hearted in nature, with Todd getting to show off his happy, goofy side, and Jenni playing more of a flirt than she did in "I'm Your Man", but not anything near the level of the Shae-Lynn seductress. The program had a number of cute choreographic bits like Jenni jumping piggy-back style on Todd's back, Todd mimicking a dishwasher to some lyrics in the song, and a number of other cute interactions and lifts. Unfortunately, this program also contained a botched throw double axel, as I recall. Also, the music was rather disconcertingly a live version, with built in audience reaction - not just cheers, but hoots, laughter, and whistles at whatever Ray Charles was doing on stage, which often didn't go together with the skating at all. Overall, though, this was a fun, enjoyable program, and one that I hadn't seen before.

Red seemed to be the costuming theme of the second act, with the red-shirted Todd/red-dressed Jenni replaced on the ice by the black-outfitted Vic and red-dressed Shae. This turned out to be the crowd-pleasing "Mack the Knife", a program I saw them do at CSOI a couple years back. This program once again showcased both Shae and Vic's dramatic flair, and played well into Shae's knowing sexy persona. These two clearly get a kick out of performing and are excellent at engaging the audience through both their choreographer and their facial expressions. An excellent performance all around.

As this program ended, Shae didn't leave the ice, and was instead joined by Jenni, Jennifer, and a nice surprise for the evening - Michael Buble on hockey skates with microphone in hand. The three girls in red dresses, clearly dressed that way for this number, one of the few group numbers of the evening, skated around Michael as he performed "Fever" and showed himself quite adept at getting himself around on his skates while never flubbing a note singing. While not particularly complex from a skating perspective, this number showed a nice, friendly interaction between the skaters and the singer. This program did serve to highlight just how much more believably Shae can pull off sexy flirting than the other two, but they played into that, using her to do the bulk of the flirty interaction with him and the other two acting more as back-up dancers/skaters than competitors. Maybe it was this neglect of these two ladies that led "Big Daddy" (still in his first act costume, which fit the motif due to the red stripes up one side) to step out on the ice for a turn with Jenni and Jennifer, as Michael continued singing in the corner with Shae. Todd E. did a bit of flirting, and a bit of skating, before stepping back off the ice again. The number closed with Shae and Michael in a semi-dramatic pose (her back to his side, head dropped back on his shoulder, him looking down with his legs spread apart) while the other two stood a bit off, kind of presenting them.

At this time, Isabelle & Lloyd, those well-known regulars, returned to the club, performing the second half of their tried-and-true formula. First program was the sentimental "we're still friends after all these years" program - this one was the upbeat, fast-paced, let's get the crowd on their feet program, to "The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World. From what I understand, these were the two programs they performed last spring in CSOI, and there was no sign in their performance of either that they had less than a week to get ready for the show. Their execution was as sharp and "on" as ever, with great personality and crowd-thrilling moves. From Lloyd windmilling Isabelle around his shoulders to that spin they do where she hooks her feet around his neck and then lets one go, or when Lloyd spins Isabelle around upside down, holding onto her feet and hand, to any number of lifts and leaps, they had the crowd hooked in from the first beat of the music and didn't let go. A great, energetic program, and one that I believe prompted a standing ovation from the crowd.

After the high-energy fun of Isabelle & Lloyd, we were treated to the ultra-cool character of Hernando, aka Brian Boitano. Decked out in his snazzy suit, hat, and coolly lighting and smoking his cigar, Brian has created a great character here, being cool, taking this time, while at the same time gently undercutting his own cool with semi-overdramatic movements and gestures. It's a nice change of pace from his more flowy dramatic edgy numbers, while still maintaining his technical edge. Brian is no longer unfailingly perfect in every performance but he hasn't let up in the technical department, still trying those combinations and Tano lutzes. As I said before, I can no longer recall which program it was he did the 3-2-2 and 3-2 in, but he did do them somewhere in there! A great performance, and a great precursor to the highlight of the evening, coming up fast.

As "Hernando" stepped off the ice, he briefly faced off with the ever-excitable "Party Boy", who seemed determined to show up "Hernando." Come to think of it, this "rivalry" may have started when "Hernando" skated by after landing a jump, "Party Boy" reached out his hand excitedly to give him a high-five as he skated by, and was snubbed. As the music started, "Party Boy" got up challengingly as "Hernando" insolently lounged in his chair, and tore off his outside shirt, leaving him in a grey muscle shirt/wifebeater/tank top/whatever you want to call it and suspenders. He then snatched a hat - either from "Hernando" or the table and promptly broke into his own program to "Swingin," a high-energy, fast-moving, absolute contrast in style from the relatively sedate, coolly laid-back "Hernando's Hideaway." Peppered with fast, fleet, complex footwork, quick turns, a few jumps, and a great deal of cocky attitude, this program didn't stop from the get-go. Choreographed by Roberto Campanella, this program recalled the spirit and persona that Kurt had created for "Hey Pachuco" years ago. This program, presented immediately after "Hernando's Hideaway" was a wonderful study in contrasts, completely extroverted and audience-focused where HH was more ..not so much introverted as self-possessed and inward-focused, fast and upbeat where HH was slow and deliberate, hyperactive and confident where HH was cool and self-assured. A very fun, interesting program from Kurt, and he seemed to have a blast performing it.

As "Party Boy" returned to the seating area, "Hernando" got up to challenge him, the two of them engaging in a macho pissing contest face-off. They seemed ready to get into it, "Party Boy" gesturing something like "come and get it" at "Hernando" but "Big Daddy," the bouncer, intervened, getting between them and stepping onto the ice to perform himself. This was another fairly dramatic program from Todd (I'm beginning to think he manages to make any style of music dramatic), to "When You Come Back to Me" by Garth Brooks. Once again a nice showpiece for his fast, centered spins, great jumps (I don't try to identify Todd's jumps, because I can't get my mind to work in reverse on the spot like that), and Todd-choreography. Generally a nice, if not particularly spectacular program from Todd. Would have been hard for him to top the two show-offs, particularly the one who came right before him, though.

With "Big Daddy" off the ice, "Party Boy" (who had somewhere in there changed into a grey short-sleeved undershirt) was free to once again get in "Hernando"'s face and show him just who was the king of this particular party. After pointedly getting Hernando's attention, he quickly broke into the opening minute or so of "Hey Pachuco", using the exact choreography of his original program. I've always loved Kurt's "Hey Pachuco" and this performance was no exception - he's got the energy and the persona down pat, with great steps, great interpretation of the music, and total attitude. This opening sequence also included a beautiful 3-sal (slightly flubbed the first time, leading to a retake) and that spread eagle on flats where Kurt slaps himself in the face, and then turns it into a Besti, arcing around right in front of Brian B, giving him the chance to look at him challengingly as he went by. Shortly after this, "Hernando", apparently having taken enough of "Party Boy"'s challenges, stepped out on the ice, with a sort of "wait, wait" gesture, as the music transitioned to "Topsy", also by the Royal Crown Revue. And so began the absolute highlight of the evening, as Kurt and Brian, each firmly in their personas, began to face off. First, "Hernando" calmly turned his back and lit his cigar, and when "Party Boy" went to investigate, turned around and blew smoke into his face with an insolent tilt to his head. "Party Boy" then went to snatch "Hernando"'s hat off his head, but "Hernando" didn't let go, pulling "Party Boy" back and then taking advantage of the opportunity to snub out his cigar on the hat brim. "Party Boy" didn't want the hat anymore after this, of course, dropping it on the ground, and then throwing his own hat on the ground in response. The two then carefully faced off over the hats, skating around each other and the hats before taking off in a very neat bit of mirrored footwork down the ice, facing each other the entire time. The two were obviously very careful to keep this in sync, and we were treated to watching this whole sequence repeated a few times over in retakes. Neither having been able to shake the other off, they then turned their backs on each other, commanding the side of the audience they faced, stepping back and forth, arms crossed. As they turned and faced each other, they looked like they were going to come to blows, but instead, "Hernando" dipped "Party Boy", who seemed a bit offended by his audacity, leading to another face-off. The two then made their way back to the hats, bending to pick them up at the same time while all the while keeping a cautious, wary eye on the other. The one-upmanship then became more pronounced with the two starting from opposite ends of the ice, skating fast into opposing spread eagles in arcs that came *this* close, jumping to face each other as they passed and continuing by. They both did high kicks, side by side double axels, and then came down the ice together to do side by side death drops. By the end of the number, they were skating together more than against each other, and cemented their newly found friendship with a toast by the bar, and then a hug, finishing the number.

With all the rivalry out of the way, the skaters were free to party, coming out on the dance floor for the big finale to "Bills Bounce" by the Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra. This was a fun, fast, energetic closing, with the skaters first dancing together across the ice, and then breaking into the corners/sides, with each pair or singles skater coming to the middle for a highlight bit while the rest danced away on the sides. Kurt ended up standing right next to the photographer's pit, and after he finished watching Jenni & Todd and stealing a brief dance with Jenni, he spent some time mugging for the cameras as he waited his turn. Later in the finale, the other skaters followed after Kurt, who was gleefully doing some footwork and leading the way, before reaching into the group and somehow managing to extract all the ladies, leading the men behind. As Kurt happily pulled the ladies around and then skated through them hand by hand, the remaining group of men continued to dance away in the middle of the ice. Overall a fun, rousing finale to the show. As the skaters left the ice one by one, Kurt once again picked up the microphone, saying what a great party it was and declaring it over, bidding us all good night before exiting out the doors last.

No sooner had the doors swung shut behind him then David Foster came out on stage, calling "Kurt? Kurt?" Kurt poked his head back out through the door, and was like "what? I thought I was done!" David continued to insist he come back out, though, saying he thought they could do a little something. Kurt said "who do you think are, David Foster?". David replied "Who do you think you are, Brian Boitano?", evoking a number of "ooohs" and laughter from the audience. Kurt seemed slightly taken aback and amused, shaking his head and chuckling, and said "I...don't even have a comeback for that." David made some comment I don't quite recall about being there and realizing that he really felt most comfortable there (I *think* he was referring to sitting at the piano) and that he wanted to play something, and maybe Kurt could skate to it. Definite enthusiastic response from the audience. David assured the audience that this was entirely unplanned and unrehearsed, a statement which was proven by the discovery that the piano mike wasn't on and nobody could figure out how to turn it on. After much fiddling, which included Kurt insisting he'd seen a switch that might turn the piano on (which didn't work), they finally got the piano mike to work (after an amusing interlude where it appeared that the mike went out whenever Kurt sat down and turned on when he sat up). Kurt muttered "now if we could only find the switch to turn my legs back on!", acting very tired, but as soon as David started playing, Kurt was suddenly back "on", improvising a bunch of fast footwork and choreography, including a deep back bend where he was balanced on his toes with most of his body parallel to the ice. He finished up with a moving back somersault on the ice before leaping to his feet and finishing the program with a flourish. David started saying something, and then saw Kurt's wet back and said "Did you fall to my playing??" Kurt: "No! That was...intentional! I planned it, really...just ask...anybody" (looking around with a slightly furtive look on his face). Then, David decided that what we really needed now was to hear Kurt sing. This suggestion seemed less than thrilling to Kurt, but he gamely went along with it after David showed him that he had the words for the song already ready for him, and saying "you know this song!" We were thus treated to a few lines of "Piano Man" that Kurt put his own little twist on ("there's an old man..sitting next to me...wishing he could go out and skate!"), before David called Michael Buble out to continue the song (which Kurt sporadically continued to sing along with), and then encouraged the audience to sing along. Somewhere in here, Kurt stepped up to the announcer's mike to sing, stopping to say "Hi Steven Cousins, how are you doing?" I have to say, Kurt's got a decent singing voice. He's no singer, but he's on key, has a reasonably strong voice, and is pleasant to listen to. Later on, Lea Ann was teasing him about doing "something special" for the audience after retakes, saying maybe he should sing again. His response was that he had gotten a lot of practice at "Twinkle Twinkle" but that there was only one person in the whole wide world who would really appreciate that and he's about *this* long (holding his hands about a foot apart).

Though they weren't out at the time, Sonia & Gabriel were there, watching Kurt's programs. At the close of one of them, Sonia was bouncing Gabriel up and down, holding him up to show to his daddy and waving his hand at Kurt, which was very cute. I don't remember the exact sequence of events during retakes, but Kurt at some point took advantage of the opportunity to introduce the club patrons as members of the National Ballet of Canada, and the bartender as his beautiful sister-in-law Vanessa.

Retakes actually ended up running almost an hour long, between the impromptu David & Kurt number, the Kurt, Michael & David singing, and all the skater retakes. Through it all, Kurt kept a great running patter of humor, except when he had to disappear to dry his shirt, when Jennifer Robinson stepped in and did a quite good job of keeping the audience entertained while he was occupied. I'm getting ahead of myself though. Jennifer had to retake a jump in her "Make Me Tiger" program, nailing it on the first take. Jenni and Todd retook both their throw double axels in each program, also nailing those on their first takes. When Isabelle and Lloyd came out to retake the spin on which Isabelle failed, Kurt said "what do you guys need to retake? didn't smile prettily enough?" in a genuinely surprised tone, as if he didn't remember them making any mistakes at all. Isabelle's response was "I need spinning lessons, Kurt! Lloyd let go of me and I went boom!" (or something to that effect). It was either during their number or Jenni & Todd's where Kurt was talking on the mike and then went "and since I wasn't on the ice during your number, I should probably get off of it!" and skated briskly off. These two were cute in their setup, skating around and warming up, occasionally miming some of the more humorous bits of choreography (Isabelle pretending to box Lloyd), and then briefly walking through the bit they had to retake (Isabelle stood in the center and Lloyd rapidly turned her by the shoulders to simulate the spin). They managed to nail their retake on the first try as well. Brian B had to come out to redo some of "Summer Wind", and apparently they were going to shoot it in a way that didn't need Michael Buble to come back out and stand in the middle of the ice, which was somewhat perplexing since a great deal of the choreography went right past center ice, where Michael would have stood. Guess we'll have to watch and see how that works. I don't recall if Todd or B&K had to do retakes or not.

Throughout retakes, Kurt kept begging to be able to redo one section of "Swingin", but Lea Ann always seemed preoccupied when he asked. Kurt would stand there saying plaintively into the microphone (paraphrased) "Lea Ann? Lea Ann? Can we please do a retake? I really want to retake this bit with the knee slide, I was trying to look all smooth and the choreographer, Roberto Campanella was sitting over there, and I messed up and can I please retake it please please please?" To some shouting from the audience, Kurt responded "have Roberto stand up? Nah, we don't want to do that 'cause he's really ugly. No, really, I don't want to have him stand up, he's only this tall, good-looking Italian guy, naw let's not have him stand up" (in a mock jealous voice). However, Lea Ann didn't seem to hear him - big silence from the director's booth, leaving Kurt to say "she's not listening to me...no one listens to me. it's only my show..." and then finally "hmm..well...I think I'll go away now," turning and going out the doors with a final whimper. Later, when he came back out after a few more people had done their retakes, he tried to ask her for a retake again and she was again distracted, quickly apologizing, saying someone was talking to her and asking him to please repeat what he'd said. Kurt's response - "yeah, that's right, you've got a thousand voices in your ear right now, don't you? That's 'cause she's GOD" (said with a mock-awed expression on his face, pointing at the ceiling). Lea Ann apologized again, and they finally agreed to do the retake. She sent Kurt over to tell Dave the music guy where to cue his music to, leading Kurt to scurry happily in that direction, joyfully bouncing across the ice going "I won, I won, I won!" After getting the music straightened out, he stood looking doubtfully at his microphone, then around, holding it out towards the audience at one point looking for someone to take it, before setting it carefully on the ground near the doors, saying "I guess I'll put this here."

A highlight of retakes, just as it was the highlight of the show, was Brian and Kurt retaking part of their duet to get their side-by-side double axels perfect. Amusingly enough, when they first went to do it, Lea Ann stopped them, telling Kurt they were checking to see if they could match the images, since Kurt now had this huge wet patch on his back from the back somersault he did during his improvised David Foster number. They finally concluded that they couldn't because it'd be a glaring discrepancy (leading to Brian teasing Kurt and Kurt's continued protestations that he "meant to do it!"). After Kurt spun in place a bit, trying to point out and look at his back to various audience members in a goofy way (managing to look like a dog chasing his tail), he was sent to find a hair dryer or something to blow dry the shirt (some audience members yelled for him to "take it off!"). Later on, I seem to recall Kurt running out, possibly sans shirt to yell "almost ready!" and then run off again (I wasn't looking in the right direction, and am guessing at the shirtlessness from the whistles that accompanied his brief appearance). In the meantime, as I said, Jennifer Robinson came out with the microphone to talk to the audience, telling us that she didn't normally get to talk to us, that's normally the guy thing, but now she gets to. She said that since she's an eligible skater, she sees any time on the ice as opportunity for more practice time so she was going to retake a bit of her first number. Shortly after she finished, Kurt came out in his newly dry shirt, ready to give it a go again with Brian.

At some point in here, Lea Ann thanked the audience for sticking around and helping make this look good for TV (she actually thanked us several times), and then told us we had one more retake and then Kurt would do something special for us. This was where Kurt came out saying "Lea Ann? What special thing am I going to do?" before begging for a retake. She later on said, oh no wait...we actually have a few more retakes, thanks for sticking around!

To the delight of the audience, the two of them started their retake almost from the beginning to get that side by side double axel. Before they started, though, as Lea Ann talked to them, Brian was trying out some of the footwork in the mirrored section again, trying to get it right and asking Kurt to doublecheck it. Lea Ann's comment? "Ok...so you guys are rehearsing in front of 4000 people?" The first retake, I think both landed, but Kurt's landing wasn't perfect, so they decided to retake it. Second time around, Kurt's landing was decidedly wonky, and the footage was definitely unusable since he immediately pulled up into this "ah crap!" expression instead of pretending it didn't happen. He then exaggeratedly hushed the audience, doing a "shhh don't tell Brian" bit only Brian saw him and laughingly accused him - "did you mess up?!" to which Kurt responded sheepishly. The last time around, I don't think they started from the beginning, but from the part where they both pick up their hats, and this time nailed the side-by-side jumps. In between these retakes, Kurt was totally goofing off, acting exaggeratedly tired, huffing and puffing (causing Brian to imitate him, huffing and puffing right back at him). The two of them were fun to watch together since they're so different in personality and style but obviously respect and like each other a great deal. I think Kurt brought out more of Brian's playful side, while Kurt seemed to get even goofier in Brian's presence than he normally is.

Kurt finally closed everything by taking the time to thank the sponsors profusely for their commitment to skating and to bringing his show alive, Lea Ann, and everyone else involved. He then thanked us, wished us a good evening, and brought the whole show to a close.

Overall impressions? Great show, fun, and quite different from the first two. Every year, Kurt pulls a different theme and a different show out of his hat. It's hard to say one is necessarily better than another, since they're so different. This one was smoother and put together better than the previous one, though, IMO. The choreography in the group numbers was much improved (apparently David Liu was also helping to choreograph this year, with Lea Ann Miller as the principle show choreographer). There weren't enough group numbers this year, IMO - last year, there wasn't enough Kurt, this year there's not enough group numbers - but the Kurt/Brian duet was the definite highlight of the evening. The theme was potentially interesting, but not very well utilized, IMO. The skaters were all playing characters, but they didn't do much with the characters and not much was done with the concept other than the overall motif and staging. For the most part, one act would step off the ice into the "club" and the other would just step on after them. I kind of wish they had more creatively expanded the theme and better integrated it throughout the show, but what they did do made the intros and some of the in-betweens more interesting, kind of telling a story. Overall, I enjoyed the show a lot, and my 16-year-old sister, for whom this was her first live skating show, had a blast. The show definitely came in under 2 hours, so hopefully no one will get cut, and will be aired on NBC on Dec. 21 from 4-6PM EST, as well as on CBC sometime in December.