Stars on Ice
Kurt in SOI
Creative Team

Canadian Stars on Ice Review - Toronto & Hamilton, ON - Apr. 29 & 30, 2011

written by Tina

Every year, it's been interesting to see how the Stars on Ice tour changes between the US leg and the Canadian leg. Some years, it's drastically different - skaters, programs, even group numbers. Other years, it's almost identical. Given that this year was the 25th anniversary tour in the US, but the 21st Canadian tour, I was curious to see how they handled the transition. As it turned out, with the postponement of Worlds necessitating more of the US cast to skate in Canada, the transition mostly consisted of minimizing Scott Hamilton's video participation, slightly altering the videos, and changing references from the 25th anniversary to "celebrating over two decades of Stars on Ice". With Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir not joining the tour until the second half, and Cynthia Phaneuf not joining the tour at all, the only cast changes in the Ontario shows were Jeff Buttle and Shawn Sawyer taking the place of Michael Weiss and Todd Eldredge, and Kyoko Ina more or less taking Katia Gordeeva's slot.

On a side note, it always amuses me how they talk about "over two decades of Sears Stars on Ice presented by Samsung" or the "25th anniversary of Smuckers Stars on Ice" as if those sponsors have been with the tour the whole time. I still remember when it was Chrysler Stars on Ice (thus making the CSOI acronym doubly appropriate) and Discover or Target Stars on Ice. Still, Sears, Samsung and Smuckers do deserve a lot of credit for sticking with the tour and making it possible for it to keep going even as audiences dwindle. And Lindt deserves a lot of credit for sponsoring the Canadian tour and giving out delicious chocolate at the reception ;).

Speaking of audiences, Canadian arenas are almost invariably more full, and the audiences more enthusiastic than American arenas, but even the Canadian crowds seemed diminished in size this year. The end section in Toronto and the entire audience in Hamilton more than made up for their diminished numbers in volume, though. The Hamilton audience in particular were enthusiastically supportive all night, cheering, whistling, laughing, giving standing ovations, and yelling "we love you so-and-so!" throughout the night. It was a fun atmosphere to be in. Oddly, though, the lighting was way lower in Hamilton than in Toronto, and hopefully won't cause issues for the TV broadcast, as Hamilton was taped for broadcast.

Speaking of the taped show in Hamilton, before the show started, one of the stage directors or someone stood by the tunnel to speak to the crowd and get a series of audience reactions for the TV cameras. Polite clapping, enthusiastic clapping, clapping like you just saw the best thing you have ever seen, standing ovations.... The whole time, though, Kurt was goofing around in the tunnel. You'd see his hand peek out and look around, like a snake, before quickly withdrawing back into the curtains. Then you'd see the curtains part a bit while he peered out, and then quickly snatched them shut again. He made impatient faces and gestures to hurry the guy along, and then when the guy was trying to get audience reactions would make the appropriate "raise the volume" and "decrease the volume" gestures with the hand sticking out of the curtains. When the guy wanted the super enthusiastic cheering, Kurt stuck one leg out like he was showing off some leg. Then he came out and acted like the cheering was all for him, with a pleased look on his face. He was just hilarious to watch, and made it much easier to give the guy the false reactions he was looking for.

Onto the show itself. I can never remember which video intro goes where, so just assume that somewhere in there was a tribute to the ladies, a "boys are back in town" tribute to the men, a "I'm sticking with you..'cause I'm made out of glue" tribute to the pairs, a "Magical Mystery Tour" tribute to the group numbers, and probably a general past tour tribute video. In fact, the show opened with a general history of the tour video (rather than the "boy and his dream" video about Scott Hamilton's founding of the tour) that closed with an image of Kurt standing and bowing after "That's Entertainment".


Opening - I Like It (Enrique Iglesias) - Cast

The first act opened with "I Like It" by Enrique Iglesias. While I have a particular bias towards watching Kurt Browning during group numbers, I found that my eye was repeatedly drawn to Ben Agosto, and to a lesser extent, Tanith Belbin. They both just exude so much enthusiasm and personality, and seem to have so much fun being there, it's just a joy to watch. I also enjoy Kurt's solo bit - it's very very reminiscent of Katia's solo bit in the "Stairway to Heaven" finale in 1998 - he does footwork down the ice while the skaters skate in a line following him, and the footwork is incredibly fast and fleeting. While the choreography didn't seem particularly complex, and if you listen carefully, the lyrics are a bit sketchy for a "family show" ("my girlfriend's out of town and I'm all alone...your boyfriend's on vacation and he doesn't have to know"), it's still an irritatingly catchy song and a fun way to open the show.

While in the US show, Kurt took the microphone to engage in banter with Scott Hamilton about the show about the show's history (and kill time while Michael Weiss got changed), in Canada he took the mike instead to introduce Shawn Sawyer. In Toronto, I was a bit amused - he opened by referencing Patrick Chan's victory in Worlds (which had just happened that morning, I believe) and the women next to me somehow got it in their head that Patrick was there in Toronto, about to perform. How he managed to get from Moscow to Toronto the very same day he won didn't seem to cross their minds. In Hamilton, he skipped the Patrick part (talked about it before retakes instead) and went straight to the Shawn intro. In essence, he said that Shawn had the skate of his life at Canadians, and then faced a difficult decision when Worlds was postponed, and that he was grateful that Shawn had made the decision to pursue his true calling as a showman, and welcomed him to the pro ranks.

Hold it against Me (Sam Tsui) - Shawn Sawyer

I wish I had looked at the runlist before I watched this program so I knew that Shawn was skating to Sam Tsui. I've seen Sam sing on YouTube and he's quite a talent. Which is quite suitable since Shawn is no slouch of a talent himself. He threw himself fully into the drama and angst of his first program, interpreting the emotion through the stretch of his body and his quite incredible flexibility.

Nobody Knows (Pink) - Sasha Cohen

When Sasha came out to do the little mini skating-around-each-other-transition with Shawn into her own program, I was very amused because I sometimes think of Shawn as the male Sasha. Not in their choice of music or choreographic styles, but in their extreme bendiness. Sasha is just a beautiful skater - her posture, her positions, her line. "Nobody Knows" allows her to use her often inward reserved skating to good effect. It's like she's inwardly focused because she's so emotional and angsty, and the audience is allowed to glimpse that inner angst, rather than her throwing the drama out towards the audience, which is a bit more of Shawn Sawyer's style. Two very bendy skaters, but with very different interpretative styles.

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger (Daft Punk) - Jeffrey Buttle

Jeff Buttle's first program was quite a shot in the arm after the dramatic first two programs. He used the video screens to full effect for the opening, projecting a photo-negative robotic-looking image of his face to accompany the robotic voice of the opening, with the lights flickering in accorance with the music. When the lights finally came up, he stood grinning into the audience in a semi-futuristic getup and sunglasses. If Sasha was all about inward emotion, Jeff was fully projecting and engaging with the audience. Hopefully he wasn't trying to be an emotionless robot, because his engaging grin just kept shining out. He contorted his body rhythmically with the music, and just brought a whole energetic vibe to the building.

Use Somebody (Kings of Leon) - Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto

I wasn't all that familiar with Tanith & Ben before this season. I'd seen them skate a few times on TV and live, and liked them, but just hadn't paid that much attention. After this year's tour, I'm definitely a fan. Their two programs were my favorites after Kurt's, and as I already mentioned, their personalities in the group numbers were just so much fun. I hope they continue to tour with Stars on Ice for years. As for "Use Somebody", I just love this program. The music, the costumes, the choreography, the cute interplay and expressive interpretation... it all just comes together so well. "Bambi" (the purple scarf) may cause them a lot of frustration on some nights, but it ties the program together nicely, just adding to the feeling that the program never stops flowing from one move to the next. I liked that this program wasn't all angst and drama, but instead had a much lighter, more wistful but playful feeling to it.

On Golden Pond (Dave Grusin) - Jeffrey Buttle, Kyoko Ina, Evan Lysacek, Jamie Sale, David Pelletier

I have seen the show five times now, as of the Hamilton show, and should know what to expect, and yet every time they announced Evan Lysacek and he appeared standing in the middle of the ice, I've reacted in surprise that his solo is so early in the show. Of course, it's not his solo - he is simply opening the group number - and his grey costume should have clued me in that it wasn't his solo. But for some reason, the intro just makes it feel like it is, and I know I'm not the only one who has been misled. In fact, one of my friends asked why Evan got three solos the next day, because this intro so sticks in your head that way, and I had to remind her that the third number was in fact a group number.

Odd intro and wrong assumptions aside, "On Golden Pond" is just a beautiful number of pure skating. It's the type of number where you really get the sense of the skaters gliding whisper-soft over the ice, and you can hear that pure sound of blades carving the ice. It also builds nicely, with Evan starting alone, and then Jamie and Kyoko appearing out of the darkness to glide past him, and then David and Jeff eventually also emerging out of the shadows to join. It also gives Kyoko a nice little spotlight moment where she first skates alone, and then is lifted by David.

Steppin' Out of My Mind (Geoffrey Tyler) - Kurt Browning

Kurt developed this program with his friend Geoffrey Tyler, who helped him in every step of the creation - from the music to the choreography to singing the song - so it was particularly special in Toronto when Geoffrey performed the song live while Kurt skated. He sounded fantastic - matching the recording incredibly well while adding that extra little sparkle of live performance, especially when it came to belting the closing lines of the song. Unfortunately, Kurt's legs weren't quite under him in Toronto, so he had some little missteps which obviously frustrated him. However, bolstered by his friend's energy and performance, he still brought the audience a charismatic, fun performance, and his footwork, even when his legs weren't fully with him, was still miles better than most. Fortunately for him (though not for those who love retakes), he got his mojo back in Hamilton, nailing his jumps and nimbly dancing his way through the footwork. The crowd probably helped, enthusiastically laughing and reacting to the voiceover, and giving him a huge standing ovation at the end. It made his "I love...bowing? I love bowing!" voiceover at the end that much more appropriate and special, and he was clearly touched and a bit taken aback by the huge reaction he got.

True Colors (Cyndi Lauper) - Joannie Rochette

I quite enjoy Joannie's "True Colors" number. Cyndi Lauper's fairly unique voice and the 80s history makes it not feel like a generic female ballad, and Joannie's choreography explores the nuances of the music. Instead of just holding a move and gliding through a run of notes, or maybe just spinning, she utilizes a series of movements - hand movements, head bending, small turns, and body movements - to interpret bits like "when this world makes you crazy and you've taken all you can bear". And aside from one mistake in Hamilton, which she quickly rectified on her second try in retakes, she lands some lovely jumps in the middle of all that choreography.

Wild Horses (The Rolling Stones) - Jamie Sale & David Pelletier

Jamie and David have gotten new costumes since performing this program in the US. Instead of the pinkish costumes, they have dark blue and black costumes that have a Western influence in the styling, which are quite striking. Jamie is probably one of the most engaging female performers I've seen on the ice, directly engaging the audience and drawing them onto the ice with her. What strikes me, though, is that she doesn't just do it the same way each time - it's always in keeping with the feeling of the program. "Wild Horses" is a much more subtle and quiet program than their Prince number, and Jamie is accordingly more subdued yet still engaging. And David doesn't exactly fade into the background when he performs either. There's a quality to this program I can't quite put my finger on that I quite like, in its musicality and nuances. Because it's a quieter program, it doesn't quite reach out and grab you the same way their more energetic numbers do, but I feel like it has a deeper impact.

El Tango de Roxanne (Jose Feliciano) - Evan Lysacek

I can't quite remember - I think it must be before this number that Jeff Buttle came out to introduce Evan, saying he was very proud to introduce the new Olympic champion, who had his victory in Canada. Given that Jeff and Evan were very recently competitors, I couldn't help but feel a bit odd about this, but Jeff was certainly enthusiastic enough. It would be interesting sometime to see Evan do a non-intense dramatic program. There's just so much intensity and seriousness about him in general when he's on the ice, that it's a little hard picturing him just being loose and goofy. But I have to say that the drama really works for him, especially in this number. There's a crispness to his movements and over-dramatic stretch to his body that really emphasizes both the tango aspect of the song AND the super over-dramatic scene from Moulin Rouge the song comes from. Both Evan and Ewan (McGregor) are obviously tormented, and it works if you just go with the drama. I think it was in this program in Hamilton that Evan took an unexpected fall on a jump (which he made up with a beautiful 3-3 in retakes). Kurt said later in retakes that it was the first misstep Evan made in 30 cities on tour.

Knock, Knock (Various Artists) - Cast

Given that this tour was recast as a "celebration of over two decades of Stars on Ice", I guess the creative team felt that Kurt taking the mike to talk about how special group numbers are worked with the new theme as well as it did for the 25th anniversary show. It also works as a transition into "Knock, Knock" since it starts out simply, with Kurt talking about how the group numbers let you really see the skaters' real personalities and friendships, and how a good group number needs a big prop - a piano in this case - and if he's in it, a hat. With that intro, Kurt plopped himself down in front of the piano and started to "play" it. In the early US shows, it wasn't completely obvious if Kurt was really playing or not, since he was making some effort to match the sounds. By the time Canada rolled around, it was pretty clear Kurt decided to completely play up the fact that he wasn't really playing, deliberately lifting up his hands while the music was still going on, or exaggerating the playing motion while nowhere near the keyboard, to great comedic effect. This especially was funny in Hamilton, where the music started earlier than expected in a few places, prompting him to rush to get his hands in place and giving a shrugging self-deprecating reaction that cracked the audience up. His facial expressions were also priceless. At points in this intro in Hamilton, I thought I heard the TV cameraman near me laughing loudly at Kurt's antics, though it's possible it was a loud audience member in the stands behind him. Either way, the audience were clearly eating it all up.

When the first knock came at the door, it was Ben Agosto who first appeared, and his and Kurt's byplay was far funnier and more animated than it had been with Todd Eldredge. For one thing, Ben very goofily talked in accents - a different accent each night - which made Kurt play off of him more. Ben is definitely a guy where it's very easy to imagine him both dramatic and goofy, since he does both in the course of the night. It's odd - both nights they made the "caught in traffic - there's a lot of traffic backstage??" joke, both nights it fell a bit flat, and both nights Kurt commented on it. You'd think they'd either drop the joke, realize that people weren't reacting b/c they're actually not sufficiently miked when they're by the door, or figure out a way to fix it. But people do often laugh at Kurt's rueful reaction to the lack of reaction, which might be why they kept it in. They definitely do laugh at his "everyone's coincidentally wearing the same color scheme" joke every time though.

"Knock, Knock" is just a really fun group number overall. The skaters seem to have a lot of fun skating with different partners - I saw pairings like Shawn and Jamie, David and Kyoko, Jeff and Joannie, etc, though Kurt was almost always alone and doing something goofy as a result. It incorporates aspects of the now-traditional all guys' group number in the beginning, including David throwing Shawn into a jump, Ben and Jeff doing a kind of hydroblading move, David and Ben (?) throwing Shawn backwards into a flip, guys' leapfrogging over each other, etc. It also gives Tanith a very Shae-Lynn Bourne role as the sexpot whose slinky movements draw the guys like panting flies to honey, and whose every hip bump sends them simultaneously tumbling to the ground (to the crowd's great amusement). For some reason, it kind of bugs me that the only real idea for ladies' group segments in Stars on Ice seems to be the girls being all "we are women!!" while striking cutesy or sexy poses, while the guys seem to be allowed to show more diverse personalities. Still, it's hard to repress Jamie or Tanith, and both brought more pronounced personas. Tanith and Ben had a cute bit where they danced together at center ice looking all smitten, and Jamie and Shawn did some cutely flirtatious stuff right in front of me in Hamilton. At times, the whole thing seemed to just devolve into a big party, with everyone doing something different all over the ice, which just made it that much more fun. It wasn't the finely honed script of a "Fun & Games", or even the somewhat less finely honed script of a "Tunnel Vision", but there was a lot of personality and joy in the number.

Before intermission began, a video was shown about making a difference with WorldVision, and then Jeff Buttle came out to make a plea to help out by donating to WorldVision and sponsoring a child. In Toronto, he got a bit tripped up and flustered about it, so his plea came out a bit jumbled. In Hamilton, it was a lot smoother, but my friends and I were immensely amused because both nights, he said "for every child you take home tonight..." I'm guessing most Stars on Ice audience members had no idea that they'd go to the show and come home with a kid.

I wasn't really looking - was finding friends the first night and furiously deleting photos the second to make room on my card - but I don't think they had trivia questions on the screens during intermission in Canada.


Who's There - Cast

"Who's There", as the name implies, is the second half of the "Knock, Knock" number from the first half. The first act closed with a strong knock at the door and the skaters all yelling "Who's there??". The second act opens with the skaters resuming their poses, and Evan Lysacek coming in the door all cool in his leather jacket (very reminiscent of similar entrances with Ilia Kulik in past group numbers). I know I said before that it's hard to picture Evan being loose and goofy, and you'd think this number would be the chance to see it, but not quite... Evan looks like he's having fun and tries to dance all funky, but he doesn't quite shake that extra layer of intensity he always seems to have, and his movements still sometimes seem a bit too precise. Still, this is a fun way to bring him into the group number, and let the skaters cut loose with each other for a bit longer before getting into the second act.

Love the Way You Like (Rihanna) - Kyoko Ina

When I first heard that Kyoko Ina was going to be the solo female replacement for Katia Gordeeva in the cast, I was concerned that as a pairs skater, she was only going to be in group numbers, thus shortening the show and not giving her the opportunity to shine on her own. I was therefore gratified to find that she had a solo in the show. It was interesting to see Kyoko skate alone when I'm so used to seeing her skate with a partner. You'd think she'd look smaller when contrasted with the tall John Zimmerman, but I couldn't shake the feeling that she just looked so tiny out there on the ice by herself. She did a nice job, with a quiet interpretation of Rihanna's song, and some choreography that kind of reminded me of the choreography she did with John in past numbers. She's got a beautiful tidy spiral and some lovely positions, and even went for a few clean jumps. I feel like she needs a bit more practice at skating alone to learn how to project her presence a bit more, but it was cool having the chance to see her do something different.

Party in the Park (Rachel Portman) - Kurt Browning, Sasha Cohen, David Pelletier

When I heard that David Pelletier was Todd Eldredge's replacement in this hobos-with-balloons-and-a-kite number, I immediately thought it was a natural fit. In 2006 at Gotta Skate, David and Kurt did a really cute number to "Lonesome Road" together with very similar goofy battling personas that was really funny to watch. As expected, David did a nice job with the number. Unexpectedly, Todd Eldredge was actually a lot more facially expressive than David, but David's almost matter-of-fact mockery of Kurt's character and innocently fascinated attempts to capture Sasha's balloons gave a differently effective feel to his part of the program. He also either had a different kite, or different kite technique than Todd - his kite was almost always straight up, and he seemed to actually have to work to get it to swoop down when he needed it to, while Todd had a lot more horizontal movement and swoops going on. As for Kurt and Sasha, they've perfected their takes on their characters, getting the timing and expressions down well in their interplay. The number ends very differently - and hysterically. Kurt and David both vie for Sasha's attention, turning her this way and that until she gets completely flustered and irritated, and steps away just as both bend over to kiss her with their eyes closed, resulting in them "inadvertently" making lip contact, promptly wiping frantically at their mouths like kids who ate something nasty with hilariously disgusted facial expressions.

Working For the Weekend (Loverboy) - Shawn Sawyer

Shawn Sawyer seems to have an affinity for characters, taking his clothes off, and exaggerated facial expressions, all of which he uses fully in his second number. The number opens with Shawn coming out all buttoned up in suit and tie and carrying a briefcase. He sets the briefcase down upright and sits on it, beginning to mime typing. He types increasingly frantically, his facial expressions get increasingly frustrated, he starts hitting what appears to be a typewriter (I guess typewriters make for better miming than computers), checking his watch, "crumpling paper" and throwing it away in frustration, before he finally breaks away from his "desk". As the number progresses, he shakes off his job shackles, tossing aside the briefcase (after flailing it around wildly and spinning with it propped on his leg) and tearing off his suit jacket to reveal a bright green ruffled shirt underneath and heavily tattooed arms. Given the title of the song, it's probably pretty clear what the theme of the program is. In the end, he goes to sit on his briefcase again and resume working, before giving up entirely and giving the briefcase a good boot, knocking it over. In Hamilton, he had to do a retake of the whole beginning part of the program for the sole reason that the bright green shirt apparently was visible, and is supposed to be hidden until he tears his jacket off.

Show Me How You Burlesque (Christina Aguilera) - Joannie Rochette

When I first saw this program, I don't think I was particularly impressed by it - I think it's neat that Joannie has become comfortable enough as a performer to do the sassy flirtatious thing, but it didn't really speak to me. But I feel like she's grown quite comfortable with this program and isn't just going through the sassy motions - she's got a definite bit of spark and attitude in her eyes these days when she does the number, and she wields that cane with confidence and conviction. And for some reason, the part where the music goes "a little bit of what what" and Joannie does the corresponding hand movements cracks me up. It's so cute.

Enigma (Edward Elgar) - Jeffrey Buttle

Jeff Buttle's second number was particularly notable in that I think it was basically the only solo program to slow classical music in the whole show. It provided quite a contrast to the numbers that preceded and followed it, both of which were theatrical programs. A lovely contrast, full of flowing edges and passionate skating, beautiful spread eagles, and heartfelt choreography. Most skaters skate two contrasting styles in the show, but I think Jeff may have achieved the biggest contrast of the night, with his techno-futuristic first number and flowing classical second number.

Mein Herr (Liza Minelli) - Sasha Cohen

I wonder what the tour will do to transition into Sasha's number without Ben to do his exaggerated German-accented introduction. For Toronto and Hamilton, though, he and Tanith were there and in fine form, dancing about to introduce Sasha. I believe Sasha choreographed this program, and you can sort of feel her connection to it. She's got that extra little bit of attitude, that extra level of archness, that comfort level with the persona and program. It's a fun match of skater and music, and she does a great job with it.

The Climb (David Hernandez) - Evan Lysacek

When I first saw this program, I was kind of rolling my eyes because it felt kind of like a generic "I had my triumph this year, this is my triumphant program". I've warmed to it as I've watched it, though. Evan seems to really feel a connection to the music, and he brings it out in his impassioned performance. Not as impassioned as "Roxanne", of course, or at least not as dramatic. But I like some of his choreographic touches. In particular, he makes great use of the quick deep spread eagle, and using his long limbs to good effect. And of course, his jumps are huge and stunning, and a great addition to the show.

Flamenco (Vicente Amigo/Rodrigo y Gabriela) - Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto

I kind of adore Belbin & Agosto's vampire flamenco number, to a kind of unreasonable degree. I tend to be a little cynical about over-dramatic numbers, but there is someting about Tanith and Ben's utter commitment to their characters in this program, and the way they evoke the storyline running through it that I find mesmerizing and kind of awesome. I love the way the program develops, with Ben's vampire kind of mesmerizing and drawing Tanith's character against her will, the way the choreography shows how he's controlling her and her torment, and then the way the tables turn from the moment he bites her. Her whole demeanor changes, the body language and choreography changes, it becomes much more equal in terms of who is the stalker and who is the stalkee - they circle each other challengingly, and finally, she is the one who dominates over him at the end. And through this, they maintain the flamenco theme while remaining fully in character. Plus, I kind of love the music.

Downstream (Supertramp) - Kurt Browning

Downstream is perhaps not the opposite of B&A's flamenco number, but it's pretty far down the spectrum away from the drama and theatricality of that program. It is instead a quiet, reflective program, one of Kurt's most introspective numbers to date. This is the one place where Scott Hamilton's pre-recorded video from the US tour was kept, in his heartfelt intro to Kurt, where he says no skater was more special than Kurt, who came to them full of enthusiasm and a million ideas, and had to channel them to shape him into the exceptional skater he is today, a true genius, and Scott's son's favorite skater. I would have to concur with Scott and his son. I think Downstream is an absolutely gorgeous number, with all sorts of little subtle choreographic touches that unexpectedly grab me and just add to the overall beauty of the program. Little things, like Kurt's foot turning quickly from inwards to outwards as he goes into an Ina Bauer, while the rest of his body stays completely still and gliding. The edge pushes and changing flow to the Ina Bauer in one sequence of the music. The way the choreography goes into bursts of energetic movement that suddenly fall away into stillness. I love it when Kurt lends his body and blades to different artists - dancers, skating choreographers - to use as a canvas. It results in a style that is not "typical" Kurt while being at the same time wholly Kurt in the versatility and connection to the music and ice. Just a beautiful, beautiful program.

Let's Go Crazy (Prince) - Jamie Sale & David Pelletier

In the US, Jamie and David skated to "Scream", the super cool, very angry Michael/Janet Jackson number they did in CSOI last year. In Canada, they had a new program - far less intense, and definitely far less angry than "Scream", but much higher energy and more dynamic than "Wild Horses". In many ways, it was a "typical" Jamie and David program - lots of dance moves, high energy, crazy tricks, Jamie's high intensity connection to the audience. But in no way is "typical" a bad thing here. I feel sometime like Jamie and David really exemplify how good pairs skating can be - they are so completely synchronized while at the same time not feeling like they're paying any attention to trying to stay perfectly on beat or match perfectly. Instead, they both seem to be totally committed to the dance moves and performance, and the result is perfect synchronicity. Last year, there seemed to be a bit of a disconnect (understandable), but this year, they seem to be having fun with each other and the audience.

Finale - The Best (Tina Turner & Jimmy Barnes) - Cast

Instead of Scott Hamilton thanking the audiences from a video, the Canadian show had Kurt on ice with a mike, offering a sincere thank you to the audiences for supporting the skaters and tour for so many years, and then standing calmly while the opening started, until Kyoko came out to replace him. Kyoko's definitely taken Katia's place in the show - in the finale, she's the one who steps out to start the program, and then is spun around by Ben. In Toronto, there was a rather funny moment when Jeff suddenly tripped and fell and rolled back onto his feet while skating down the ice with Kurt and other skaters - he and Kurt were laughing quite hard as they moved away down the ice. This finale is quite a traditional Stars on Ice finale - the different skaters stepping out to each take their turns on the ice, the pairs and dance teams executing the same moves side by side, or each doing their own types of moves together. Sets of skaters moving down the ice to execute simultaneous jumps or butterflies or spins. The skaters moving down the ice simultaneously or in alternating groups as they turn and point and glide together. The ending is a bit fun, though, since there are a series of bows and moments of audience interaction. Bow, then dance around, then everyone gathers into a final pose to point, and then more bowing in different directions. Coming around to shake hands and then later coming around to circle around slapping hands... it provides for a fun experience for the on-ice people, since they get to briefly interact with several skaters, and the skaters themselves seem to have a lot of fun.

In Hamilton, of course, after the finale ended, Kurt took the mike to make sure the audience stayed for retakes. Rather amusingly, Jamie was still on the ice doing a final round of hand slaps for the audience, and came right over to him, giving him a big hug. She then initiated a bunch of cute flirtatious stuff, rubbing noses with him and hanging off his neck while laughing. He was laughing and playing along, while at the same time looking slightly confused, and then she suddenly planted a big kiss on him. Afterwards he was laughing and pretending to be all dazed, staggering around going "Kate and William who?", and then kind of wiped his lips and was like (disbelievingly) "that was the real thing!" I don't think Kurt's quite used to being upstaged like that ;). Otherwise, he was his usual fun, entertaining self, taking the moment to revel over Patrick Chan's Worlds win, and to explain to the audience what was going on with retakes. His explanation of why Evan needed a retake was hilariously delivered (and will be hard to convey in typing). He marveled that it was Evan's first misstep in 30 shows, and explained that in practice in Toronto the previous day, he didn't know what happened, but it seemed the ice gremlins reached up, grabbed Evan, and threw him to the ice (making sucking up and then slamming noises). He took a hard fall and went careening towards the boards, running into and over some of the lights, and bruising his butt badly. So now, Kurt says, poor Evan's butt is all sore, "right here" (rubbing his own butt), and "there's even a mark". Which meant he couldn't quite get over his edge for the jump and missed it. Of course, when Evan came out, he nailed a 3-3 combo straightaway, and quickly made up for his earlier mistake. As Kurt skated off the ice for Evan to do the retake, he thanked the audience for being so patient, saying how weird it would look on TV if one of them were going into a jump, the audience was there...suddenly the audience disappeared, and then the skater landed the jump and whoosh, the audience was back.

When Evan finished, it was Ben who came out to do the rest of the transitions. If I recall correctly, he pulled out yet another accent (he seems to love doing accents), and again thanked the audience for our patience. He explained that Shawn had to do a retake because some green was showing and (Kermit voice) we can't have the Kermit. Quite amusingly, when Shawn came out, all properly buttoned up with the green shirt all hidden away, he went to sit on the briefcase and start the program, and almost immediately the briefcase fell over. Shawn's reaction was quite hilarious. He clearly doesn't actually put much weight on the briefcase because he squatted there for a moment, sans seat, stopped his typing motions, and hung his head in chagrin. Luckily, his second attempt at redoing the beginning of the program went off without a hitch.

Joannie had the last retake, for a missed jump in "Show Me How You Burlesque". She spent some time clearly mentally working her way through the program before it was like a light switch turned on, and she suddenly was fully into the choreography and sassiness, working her way around to the jump. Unfortunately, she doubled her first try and immediately came to a halt, looking disappointed. The crowd quickly yelled their support and encouragement, and Joannie nailed the jump on her second try with a look of determination on her face. Very cutely, as she wound down the program, she clearly forgot for a moment it was a retake and started to bow to the crowd like normal, before suddenly going "what am I doing??" with an embarrassed start, and waving sheepishly. Ben came out before she could leave the ice, and put his arm around her shoulder as he thanked the crowd and wished us a good night. They both then waved to the crowd and skated off the ice, and that was a wrap.

Overall, despite the fact that the show didn't change much between the US and Canada, it was fun to see it again, and see how things have developed as the skaters have become more comfortable with their numbers, as well as seeing the different little things. Jeff and Shawn were great additions to the cast, and it was neat seeing Kyoko try her hand at solo skating. I look forward to seeing the show again when it airs on CBC in December.