Stars on Ice
Kurt in SOI
Creative Team

Stars on Ice Review - Baltimore, MD & Washington, DC - Dec. 28-29, 2002

written by Hoo

Since the two shows are back to back I figured I'd just do one combined review for both of them. Overall both shows were very good, much less jittery than the one in Lake Placid. Just about every skater has gotten more comfortable with their programs and group numbers so it had a more polished feel to it. DC had a bit better crowd, but Baltimore is usually a quieter arena so that wasn't too suprising. Personally I still wish they were later in the tour as I'd rather not see the earliest stops. Also they've got a new run sheet printed out since Lake Placid, and all the group numbers have been 'named' now :)

Also for anyone who had opted not to pre-order tickets after last year's most-awful show, I highly recommend running out to get some. While last year it was a fight to figure out which program was really the worst of a terrible lot, this year it's tough picking the best program because they're all so damn good!

The one down side to the DC show was that just around the corner from me were some Yagudin fans with posterboard signs that had red lights around the edge which while they did lay down after holding up in the beginning, they kept lit for the entire show. It was incredibly distracting whenever I tried to watch a skater at that end.

Other skater spottings: As usual Lisa & Michael Weiss were there for the DC show and in Baltimore I almost collided with Denis Petrov and Gregorz (?) Sretenski - seems to be a running trend for me in Baltimore .

Opening - "The Great and Powerful Oz"
The opening this year does a great job of setting up the SOI theme of individuals working together as a group. It opens with Todd coming out and doing a double axel (in LP it was a triple but I think they may have axed that since he's trying it with almost zero prep time). Then out come Ina and Zimmerman for their spread eagle lift with her up on his thighs. They and Todd interact a bit before they're joined by Meno and Sand. Then it works as each skater gets added one leaves the ice and there's interaction between those on the ice as each new skater is intro'd til eventually you have all the cast on the ice for their introductions. S&P and I&Z skate off and then the cast does group footwork and such. It's a nice idea of solo skaters/teams coming together to interact and finally be a big ensemble.

Yagudin - "Born To Be Wild"
Yagudin's opening number looked really weak in LP, and while it's still not a complete program (more a series of isolated tricks) it was much improved. It starts with Kurt handing him a leather jacket to go over the t-shirt and jeans. The number has several nice knee slides and full body slides plus some great footwork. I'd say it's a cute bit, nothing earth shattering but sometimes all you're after is a bit of fun and this definitely works. Probably helps that Alexei definitely has the personality to pull this off :).

Ina & Zimmerman - "Bed Of Roses"
This program was a real winner for this team who seem to be able to do wonders with Zhulin's choreography. Along with their usual unique lifts, they've also added a few more lifts and carries that are just really effective. There's one where John has just scooped her up and then turns before spinning with her that's effective. And the closing pose where he lays on the ice and lifts her up before slowly laying her down is a beautiful way to close the number.

Sale & Pelletier - "Come Fly With Me"
From LP I pretty much had no recollection of this program as it was terribly off that night, but here I am happy to report it was really cute. I especially like the sheer number and variation of lifts in the program that accompany every lyric of "once I get you up there" including a platter lift that gets held for quite a long time. It's a program that shows off their playful personality really well. The opening bit with just David in t he spotlight by himself is cute and effective.

Eldredge - "Channel 1 Suite"
Todd is growing into this program nicely, especially since it's a bit of a departure for him. The footwork has definitely gotten faster and I think he's learning to be a bit more extroverted and trying to interact with the crowd in a playful manner for this program. He was having a good night jump-wise for both shows and in DC the triple axel was especially gigantic! I think that a season of performing this program for 60-odd tour stops is really going to do wonders for Todd's footwork ability and I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out on the Canadian tour. Touring with Kurt and his fabulous feet probably helps as well!

Witt, Zimmerman, Sur - "Hotter Than Blue"
This program just sizzles as a group number, but that shouldn't really be a suprise considering the pure sex appeal of the three people on the ice. Kat can vamp is better than anyone and John and Gorsha as the two heavies is played perfectly. The lifts in this number are interesting, I especially like the one where Kat is between the two men with an arm around each shoulder and they lift her off the ice and spins, it's really dramatic.

Yagudin - "Overcome" (Baltimore only)
For some reason Alexei only performed this number in Baltimore and he looked a little stiff in DC's opening so he might have been feeling his hip injury a bit. Now while I love Alexei I wasn't that disappointed as I determined I've seen this particular program something like 14 times live already! And I think that the latest versions just haven't had the powerful impact of those I saw last year, I think the tentativeness shows. Now, while Alexei may be injured he did land a monster 3toe-3toe-2loop in Baltimore which was a beauty! (of course I had to wonder about the intelligence of doing such a combo when you're obviously injured but oh well, it's his hip).

Meno & Sand - "I'm Your Man"
It's so nice that Todd can finally show off the hammy personality he's got off-ice in a program. The routine is just fun from the word go, and while it's got an underlying love story, it's not the overly sentimental stuff they've had the past few years. It's obviously a Christopher Dean program as you can tell by some of the inventive lifts and step overs in the programs. There's a really cute moment that has them both doing sort of a summersault over each other. The two of them just really shine in this program and you can tell they're both having a ball skating it.

Browning - "How Do You Keep The Music Playing"
This is a Kurt program that needs to be skated well to be effective and it was a little off in Baltimore, but it was spot on in DC! And when it's skated well, the program just takes your breath away! It's one of his edge programs and so it doesn't have the fast furious footwork, but instead relies on this long sweeping turns and long running threes. Plus there's this gorgeous long Ina Bauer and closing spread eagle. And his signature camel that goes down with a bended knee and then back up! I hope he manages to hit it more night than not so that everyone can see the impact that this program can really have.

Eldredge, Sale & Pelletier, Berez & Sik - "Power Play"
Now this is the weakest of the group numbers I think, but mainly because the narrative is incredibly lame, rather than the lame skating. If they either shortened the narrative a lot or just let Todd skate with the pairs it'd be improved I think. Todd does some nice jumps plus various bits of footwork and spins throughout the program and I'd like to see him in a brighter color than the all black so he stands out a bit more, especially with both pairs in such vibrant colors. Both pairs get their share of gorgeous lifts and spins, but the highlight is really when you have all 4 on the ice doing the similar moves. My one gripe is why isn't there more interaction - you know Jamie with Elena for a lift or Anton with Jamie. Or even a double death spiral - both teams have done them before with others. With the lack of interaction is just feels a bit cold I think.

Ensemble - "Studz"
This program is nothing but good ol' fun. It stars with the ladies in jeans and silver sequined shirts and cowboy hats sitting on the edges of the crowd and dancing along the music. They they all group at one end and dance together down there. In DC it was really funny because Jamie spotted Michael Weiss sitting right across from us and she shimmied just for him over there and was laughing away the whole time - very funny! The men then skate out to that end and carry the women off and back through to the tunnel. Then it's just the men all in the ice in jeans and various kinds of work shirts/vests and gloves with the cowboy hats. They proceed to do footwork, pushups, line dancing, you name it. They also do several quasi-pair moves with back to back spread eagles or interlocking canteleevers and the like. In Baltimore, Pelletier was supposed to flip Alexei and one point and they lost their balance and collapsed in a heap which cracked them all up. It's a definite high energy program that shows that SOI finally got the hint that with most of the audience being female, we want to see the men vamp, not the women ;)

Witt - "The Rest Of Your Life"
SOI then rewards the men by bringing out Katarina Witt and judging by the reactions around me it's perfect timing for her to follow the men. However I think the music change is a bit jarring but that's a minor point. Kat did a great job at both stops, and even though she's only doing doubles they're still really solid ones and don't detract from the program at all. Again I'm glad to see her still touring after all these years!

Eldredge - "Miserere"
While this program is definitely classic Todd, he pulls off this style so well that I'm glad he opted for one classic number in the show. The dramatic sweep of the music just suits his long flowing style perfectly. He's added a thin black cumberbund to the costume that finishes it off a bit more than just the plain belt. And again the triple axel in DC was a high one! The program also features a number of his spins including a rather long camel spins which is just stunning!

Roca & Sur - "The Prayer"
Seeing this team again on tour makes me so glad that they got asked to step in for the injured. This number has to be one of the best they've ever had and it's one of the many high points of the show. The inventiveness of their lifts and the ease of all their movements really is breathtaking. And I just love how they can generate such power and speed from the footwork itself and not from endless stroking. Gorsha also wins the iron-man award for the ability to lift Roca and turn her around in several off the longer rotational lifts - including the one-armed spin. Granted she's as thin as they come, but it's still impressive!

Gordeeva - "Russian Folk Dance"
Katia was the special guest star for the DC stop and while she's never been a favorite, she did a good job with this program. She crashed hard on a 3toe attempt but did come back for a nice 2lutz. I like the personality of this number for her so it was a nice little suprise.

Browning - "Slippery Side Up"
Now this is Browning at his footwork best. As the little southern country boy chasing the the spotlight across the ice, Kurt gets multiple chances to show off those fabulous feet. He starts off on the side in skate guards and eventually ends up 'skating' across the ice with the guards on! No idea how he does that without killing himself but he pulls it off. And in the final pass he does a series of those toe-pick 180 degree running turns (there's probably a name for them but I have no idea what it is). Well on a lark a friend and I tried to count the number of turns in the one pass - she came up with 75 and I had 77 - and that was with a small hesitation halfway through! I cannot imagine how he gets to the other side and isn't really to fall over dizzy - wow!

Ina & Zimmerman, ROca & Sur, Meno & Sand - "Love On The Rocks"
This is definitely the best of the smaller ensemble numbers. Each pair plays a couple at a different point in a relationship. For example, the song lyric for the men goes "and then I say something stupid like I love you" and each pair reacts differently. Meno & Sand kiss, Roca and Sur hit this dramatic sultry pose and Ina slaps Zimmerman across the face. They carry this variation throughout the program for the lifts and spins with each team doing a variation of a similar move. It's incredibly effective and it's hard to know which team is the one to watch.

Berezhnaya & Sikharulidze - "Mme T. After Hours"
Ok, it wasn't til I saw the new name for this program that I got the point that it was wax figures coming to life - call me dense I guess. This program is both great and horrible all at the same time. The Elvis sections are really great and Anton gets 100% into his role and his audience interaction is very fun! Elena on the other hand, while she skates the number well just doesn't have the va-voom to pull off Marilyn and that section falters badly. And don't even get me started on the Marilyn be-boops in the middle of the Elvis tunes - it's horrible. But music aside, the program is full of great lifts that really showcase their skills.

Sale & Pelletier - "Lovin' TOuchin' Squeezin'"
While the first number showed off their playful side, this one definitely plays toward the sexy steamy side and is a great vehicle for David's charisma. It's another program that showcases their fabulous lift, including my favorite one that has her in the orchid position while he does a spread eagle - it's very stunning. And an iron man award to David for the star lift that ends with her doing a handstand on his left arm - boy that's a tricky one!

Yagudin - "Racing"
If I were a male eligible skater these days I would be on my hands and knees begging Tarasove to create a short program for me. Granted she's got an incredible amount of talent to work with in Yagudin, but every year when she comes up with something I don't think she can top, the next year it's another winner. And Racing makes a great show program as it's definitely high energy and has lots of crowd interaction. The circular footwork in this one is especially good and Alexei sells it to the hilt.

Finale - "Can't Stop"
The finale this year is one of those things where the music gets lodged into your memory and just won't leave - I've been humming the silly refrain all morning while I thought about this review! The nice thing about the finale this year is that they went with something quite a bit shorter, which was a plus since last year's dragged on way too long. It's also got a much more dance oriented feel to it than some of the other programs with more use of the upper body than figure skaters tend to do. Each skater of course gets a highlight trick and they all blend well - the best I think being how Alexei starts off leading the line up of the cast in his footwork and then slows down a bit and merges into the line itself. Not everyone can handle the toe-work like he can but they all make a good credible effort at it :)