Stars on Ice
Kurt List

Kaleidoscope on Ice - Charlotte, NC - Nov. 18, 2011

written by Tina

The third annual Kaleidoscope on Ice* show was held in Charlotte, NC, the home of the new Levine Cancer Institute, and adopted hometown of Paul Wylie. The show has always celebrated cancer survivorship, and various cancer and health initiatives that exist to support cancer survivors, but a new running theme through this year's show was the community they were trying to build at kaleidoscope.org. The idea was that instead of just a once-a-year show to raise awareness, they wanted to create a year-round community online for survivors to find resources and support.

The show opened almost half an hour late, thanks to an apparently ridiculous amount of traffic and difficulty parking. I had been told earlier in the day that the Christmas Show across the street had created mile-long lines of cars, and the situation didn't get better with the crowds coming to the Bojangles Coliseum for Kaleidoscope. One person I talked to after the show said she didn't get into the show until after 9, because it took almost an hour to move maybe a mile. The show was sold up to the rafters on both sides and the end, but the audience was sparse in parts of the arena due to the latecomers.

On the plus side for those late arrivals, the show was being taped for television, which meant a lot of "holds" while they prepped things for TV, whether it was moving props onto and off of the ice, setting up intros, getting the recording ready, re-recording flubs. As a result, the first act didn't end until 9ish, and the whole show ended closer to 11. Luckily, we had two entertaining and charming hosts in Scott Hamilton and Dorothy Hamill, who cracked jokes and interacted with the audience while we waited. We also had a super-enthusiastic crowd, who cheered wildly at everything, with frequent calls of "We love you Paul!" "We love you Jordin!" "We love you Johnny!", etc etc throughout the night.

After opening remarks from Mike Burg of Edge Health, Morgan Fogarty, Derek Raghavan of Levine, Linda Greeson of Pfizer, and Charles Hugh-Jones of Sanofi, emphasizing the importance of cancer research initiatives and survivorship, the show kicked off with the cast skating to "Party Rock Anthem." It led off with local skaters dressed head to toe in white body suits with colored lights tubes running over their costumes skating out in the dark, and then lighting up to cool neon effect. The main cast then joined them on the ice to a simple group skate, with each skater getting their highlight moment. There were definite bits of distinctive personality in these bits - Johnny Weir doing the fierce thing, Joannie Rochette skating sweetly and elegantly, Paul Wylie's fleet-footed beaming presence on the ice, Sasha Cohen's incredible flexibility, Kurt Browning's goofy self-deprecation (dropping to do push-ups after watching Sasha skate by) and audience engagement, Sinead & John Kerr's energy and impressive gender-reversal lifts, Elvis Stojko's macho persona and spinning on his hands and back down the ice, and Nancy Kerrigan's joy and comfort in front of the crowd. The musical guests - Patti LaBelle, Jordin Sparks, Hunter Hayes, and Andy Grammer - lined up on stage for their introductions, and the number ended with everyone striking a pose in front of the stage.

Scott Hamilton and/or Dorothy Hamill came out between most numbers to do intros and set things up, but I confess I wasn't paying as close attention this year since I was trying to manage the memory space on my camera, and kept taking advantage of breaks to delete photos. I did hear Scott and Dorothy chatting with some of the local skaters, asking them how long they'd been skating and who coached them (and there was clearly a lot of local club support in the audience, given the whoops and cheers for each coach). At another point, they pointed out some Girl Scouts in the audience who had a lot of energy, and asked them for cookies. Dorothy said she had helped create the ice skating badge for Girl Scouts, because back in the day there wasn't one, but ice skating was the only thing she knew how to do. Scott had a way of gently mocking the process in a slow, exaggeratedly patient voice, cracking that he was now doing broadcast commentary for a set change, saying "I'll do whatever you want me to do, but you have to tell me what you want, or nothing will happen", "Oh it's Dorothy's turn? Then, I will leave the stage...because it is Dorothy's turn, not mine..." (you had to hear it for the comic effect). Since I can't remember when any given comment took place in the evening, I'm kind of just throwing them all here.

The initial intro had to be kind of long because they needed to set up a bunch of street sign light posts on the ice to give the ice a New Orleans sort of feel. This, of course, was so Johnny Weir could put on a slinky, vamping performance to "Lady Marmalade" with Patti LaBelle singing live. Patti seemed to genuinely enjoy being there, calling out "you go Johnny!" at one point, and watching him skate as she sang. Johnny started things off in a black cloak, gyrating his way around the lamp posts, before throwing off the cloak to reveal a rather sheer clingy black costume with a sparkly top. What Johnny lacks in smiling engagement with the audience, he makes up for with intense commitment to putting on a fabulous performance.

Scott and Dorothy introduced Joannie by saying people might want to move up closer because the next skater could melt the ice, making a hot song even hotter. Joannie's first program was to "Show Me How to Burlesque" by Christina Aguilera, dressed in hot pink and wielding a silver cane. This was Joannie's Stars on Ice program last year, and the polish on the number shows - she is very at ease with the choreography, and thus can give that extra sparkle and flirtiness with the audience that brings the performance up a level. Partway through the program, she tosses the cane off the ice where it's usually caught by a fellow cast member - at Kaleidoscope, she tossed the cane to Scott Hamilton, who danced a few steps happily before trotting off with the cane.

Scott's intro to Nancy Kerrigan was about how in 1994, she overcame an unimaginably difficult scenario to win the Olympic silver medal. Nancy skated a holiday number to "Put a Little Holiday in Your Heart", and what struck me about her performance was the joy she exuded on the ice. She seemed fully happy to be out there on the ice, and it just shone in her eyes and her smile and her ease on the ice. The program was heartfelt and joyful, and really nice to watch.

There was a pause in the show at this point as stagehands pushed a small stage with a keyboard and mike out onto the ice. This was so Andy Grammer could get more involved in the performance, being out there on the ice singing "Keep Your Head Up" while Paul Wylie skated. Scott spoke about how Andy had lost his mother to cancer, and how both of Paul's parents were cancer survivors, and how this program was a tribute to their commitment to fight cancer. Andy Grammer is quite a charming, talented performer, who engaged with the audience and with Paul as he performed. Because he played the keyboard the full time, he couldn't watch any of the skating behind him, so the staging was a little odd, but it was nice having him out there. Paul seemed to enjoy it as well, skating to Andy, and doing steps and spread eagles around the stage from time to time. I love Paul's bounce on the ice - it's like he has springs in his legs, and at times it almost feels like he's bounding over the top of the ice, rather than skating in it, which is really neat. He's also in remarkably great shape, landing solid jumps and a beautiful fast scratch spin, a fact Scott Hamilton kept remarking on with envy (at one point calling out "Hey, Skinny!" to Paul as they were waiting for the set change). That great shape was put to the test though, since he and Andy had to immediately reskate the entire number due to audio issues at the beginning of the first run-through. Poor Paul looked like he was getting quite winded towards the end of the second run, but he gamely kept the smile on his face and kept the performance up.

I was amused that Sinead and John Kerr performed a medley of Elvis songs, with Elvis Stojko in the house, just because Dorothy's intro for them talked about "The King" and then later she intro-ed Elvis saying something like "Elvis isn't just in the house, he's in the building" (??). There were some interesting choreographic choices in this medley, like the fact that they kept resetting to the same position at the top of the ice on each song change, but overall it was a fun, dynamic performance. Both Sinead and John know how to engage the audience, and really play up the energy on the ice. At times, things felt a little messy, possibly due to the energy level, but it was never not fun. And the audience always loves it when Sinead lifts or swings John around.

Dorothy intro-ed Kurt Browning saying that you expect a four-time World Champion to be really good and make everything look easy, but this four-time World Champion makes everything look a little *too* easy and a little *too* much fun (Kurt waved this off out on the ice). Kurt's first program was to "Honey" by Jin-Young Park, and I kind of wonder what the audience first thought when they heard the song, given it's entirely in Korean and probably entirely unfamiliar to most of them. They got over any unfamiliarity quickly though, getting caught up in the fun fast beat and Kurt's very "on", very entertaining performance. When Kurt performed this program in Korea, his legs were burnt out from being on the ice six hours a day for rehearsals, so it was fun but not that clean. In Charlotte, it was clean, with some very solidly landed jumps and crisp, clean footwork and dance moves. It's a shame it probably won't make the TV broadcast, because the program was fun, engaging, and the audience really got into it.

Elvis Stojko's first number was to "Lift You Up", and was really energetic and audience-engaging. Possibly a little *too* audience engaging for my taste - my complaint about Elvis in the past has been that sometimes he likes to do a little too much skating around the outside of the rink pointing into the audience and getting cheers, and he did a bit of that in this number. However, it wasn't too egregious, and the program overall was athletic and fun and had some cool moves.

The first act ended with Jordin Sparks and Sasha Cohen performing "I'll Be Home For Christmas". The stage was set up with a lit Christmas tree and an easy chair by the tree. When Scott intro-ed this number, he jokingly indicated the tree saying that we had skipped right through Black Friday and were into Christmas already, and he hoped everyone had done their shopping. The audience went wild when they saw Jordin sitting in the chair, screaming out "we love you Jordin!" with great enthusiasm. The program itself was really pretty - Sasha in a blue and purple dress skating gracefully as Jordin poured all the emotion she could into the song.

During intermission, the big screens up top in the arena played interviews and clips from past shows talking to skaters like Oksana Baiul and Sarah Hughes about how cancer had affected them.

The second act opened with a musical performance by Hunter Hayes, singing "Somebody's Heartbreak" with his band. I'd never heard of Hunter Hayes before, and I'm not really a country music fan, but he was a dynamite performer - even during dress rehearsal, he was out there giving it his all, looking like he has having the time of his life, which is fun to watch. And he's a great singer.

Hunter stayed out on stage for the next number, which as Dorothy said, paired a skater with over 25 years of experience with a singer who was only 20 years old (and evidently played every instrument on his album? Did I hear that right?). Way to make Kurt feel old, Dorothy! The song was "Storm Warning" and gave Kurt the chance to do some country steps and a bunch of dancing before showing off his footwork and some nice jumps out on the ice. It was just a high energy sort of love song, and it was fun to watch.

Hunter had one more number to perform, this time with Jana Kramer, star of One Tree Hill. They sang "Almost Paradise" from Footloose, while five younger local skaters performed. The number was cute, with parts that were definitely choreographed as an ensemble, with the skaters weaving back and forth, or spinning simultaneously, or doing spirals in sequence to beats of the music down the ice. Other parts allowed each skater to have a little breakout moment. Some of them were noticeably nervous, but it was quite impressive to watch their general composure on the ice in front of such a large audience.

There was a rather long break between performances here, and evidently Kurt and Elvis took it upon themselves to entertain the crowd. I missed the beginning because I was bending down, but when I straightened up, they were out on the ice, coordinating side-by-side jumps and other moves with each other. It felt very very much like their bit at the 1993 Worlds Gala where they skated together. After landing not quite coordinated wonky side-by-side triple toes, they set it up again and landed a picture perfect, totally in sync, side by side triple toe. It was quite awesome. Kurt also did that "I'm not worthy" bow to Elvis afterwards, but honestly, his height in that jump matched Elvis' perfectly and he had nothing to bow down about. They looked like they were having tons of fun together, too.

Johnny Weir likes his Gaga. Last year at Kaleidoscope he did "Bad Romance", and this year he pulled out "Poker Face". He does Gaga well, and I like both songs, but it does make him feel a tiny bit like a one trick pony. Leaving aside past performances though, I certainly can't fault Johnny's intensity or commitment to the spirit of Lady Gaga, or his presence on the ice. The audience adored him as well, cheering wildly for both his performances.

I really liked Sinead & John Kerr's second performance. In my runlist, it's simply entitled "Exhibition", and I'm not sure what the music was, but it was slower, kind of ethereal, and built really slowly, and I quite enjoyed the effect. It was also a lovely contrast from their first number, which was all about energy. This number was much more subtle and lovely, much more about the glide and flow. The music could have been boring for this number, but there was something about it that just worked.

It was time again for another music-only performance, this time by Jordin Sparks, singing "The Cure". Jordin is an extremely passionate performer. I never watched American Idol, so I wasn't familiar with her, but she *really* got into the emotion of her songs, in facial expression, body language, and vocal emoting. After her number, she and Dorothy had a bit of a cute exchange across the ice where Dorothy told her what a fan she was and wished her luck, and Jordin was all flustered and flattered and kept thanking her.

In dress rehearsal, Paul Wylie was extremely amused by Dorothy's intro to his second program, saying the song contained one of his favorite colors...the Olympic silver medalist with the heart of gold, skating to "Silver Bells." I just get very happy watching Paul Wylie skate these days - it brings back great memories of Stars on Ice and the pro shows and competitions of the 90s, and he's still got all the qualities that made him so enjoyable back then. Those light feet, the bounce on the ice, the engaging personality and smile, the technical skills... I think one of my favorite things about going to Kaleidoscope the last two years has been the opportunity to watch him skate again.

Sasha Cohen's second number was her "Mein Herr" from last year's Stars on Ice. She clearly loves this program - there's an extra bit of sass and engagement in her eyes and her body language as she performs. She plays every little wrist flick and choreography with her hat to deliberate effect, and she really gets into the character. It's fun to watch, and the audience loved it.

Andy Grammer got his turn at a solo live performance, doing an acoustic performance of "Fine by Me". I wasn't familiar with him either, coming into the show, but I really enjoyed his performances in this show. I liked his voice, and he's very charismatic.

Then, three slightly older local skaters came out to skate to Andy performing "The Pocket". I was really struck by one of the skaters, who seemed super at ease on the ice, and was very much a performer. She had a natural smile, a definite style and poise, and was a very smooth skater. The other two skaters were good as well, but definitely seemed less at ease - one of them was noticeably very nervous, which is completely understandable. It was a fun performance, and Andy was quite appreciative of the skaters at the end.

Elvis Stojko's second performance, to "When a Hero Cries", was a much more serious, emotional performance than his first, and I really enjoyed it. He wore all black, with a subtle Superman "S" on his chest, which kind of would imply a less serious program, but the choreography and music was more heartfelt and meaningful. I'm hoping this is the one of the two performances that will make it to the TV broadcast, personally.

The last solo performance of the evening was "True Colors" by Joannie Rochette. As Scott said in his intro, the program really fit the "Kaleidoscope" theme of the night, and was really lovely to watch. Joannie does the sassy "Show Me How to Burlesque" well, but I think she really shines in quieter programs like "True Colors". She's so graceful and her gentle reserve fits the feel of the number really well. She had to do a quick retake right after her program for a missed jump, which she did smoothly and without music. That seems evidence to me that this will be the number they air for her in the FOX broadcast next Thursday.

The show closed with a group skate to "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" with Patti LaBelle singing live. I will admit, I find the Christmas theme of a show airing on Thanksgiving rather odd, but it does create a festive atmosphere. The skaters wore holiday-themed/reminiscent clothing (lots of red, white and green), and seemed to have fun just skating around with each other. They once again got their little highlight moments in the finale, and then took a turn around the ice waving at everyone. This was a fun opportunity to see Scott and Dorothy take to the ice briefly as well.

Overall, despite the delays necessitated by the TV taping, Kaleidoscope was once again a really fun, entertaining show with some great music and skating performances. I really enjoyed it, and look forward to watching it, albeit in cut-down form, on FOX on Thanksgiving Day from 4-5PM. As they kept mentioning, it's on after the football game, so set your DVRs accordingly.

* Third annual Kaleidoscope - fifth annual show by Edge Health. The first two were Frosted Pink and Frosted Pink with a Twist.