Stars on Ice
Kurt in SOI
Creative Team

Stars on Ice Japan Review - Tokyo, JP - April 10, 2010

written by Tina

When I heard Kurt was going to be performing in the Stars on Ice Japan tour this year, I had the brief crazy thought of going to see him, but dismissed it as an obviously silly idea. But then, as the cast list expanded and more and more amazing Japanese skaters were added to it, the idea became more and more appealing. Couple that with the fact that I've never been to Japan but have wanted to visit, and the realization that the show fell right around cherry blossom season, and the crazy thought became reality. I planned our trip so that the Stars on Ice show would be one of the last things we did after a weeklong trip in Japan.

It's interesting seeing the show with a Japanese audience. They really love Daisuke and Mao in particular, but seemed to recognize all of the Japanese skaters (as well as Jeff, Joannie, Virtue & Moir, and Kurt). The arena was interesting - this big vast wave/boat looking structure. The ice surface was narrow and long - I kept getting nervous about the skaters who did jumps close to the edges. A number of the skaters had issues with their jumps, falling or stumbling or popping them. The audience clapped along enthusiastically with the music, and to the skaters' moves, and ooh-ed and ahh-ed, especially in the beginning, at the various tricks (including Kurt's fast spinny footwork).

The opening number and closing number seemed to be what the Canadian tour opening and closing will be. They featured all the Canadian skaters plus Takeshi Honda and Shen & Zhao, I'm guessing taking the place of Shawn Sawyer and Sale & Pelletier. It was, to be frank, a really dull opening number with pretty dull music. The skaters basically came out one by one as the announcer called their names (only Virtue & Moir had their titles listed), and then went away while the next skater did their thing. I was amused but enjoyed that the audience gasped and ooh-ed at Kurt's nimble feet. Kurt seemed to be having a great time during the show, totally playing to the crowd and really getting into the finale footwork in particular. The end of the opening had the skaters all out doing stuff at the same time, but not for long. Definitely not my favorite opening ever. Possibly bottom of the list, but I'd have to see it again, and maybe it'll improve by the time the Canadian tour starts.

After the skaters skated off the ice, Kurt came back out with a microphone and exaggeratedly panted into it for a while, earning a laugh from the audience. He basically thanked the audience on behalf of the Canadian cast, saying they were honored to be performing in front of the best skating audience in the world (definitely one of the fullest I've seen in a while - expensive tickets, but sold out to the rafters), said he knew they loved their skating and their skaters, and introduced their "queen", Olympic Gold Medalist Shizuka Arakawa.

Shizuka skated to a combination of dramatic music I recognized but can not remember the name of, and then soft, lyrical Ave Maria. The graceful floating numbers really suit her, and show off her flexibility and grace.

Next was Kanako Murakami, who got a sigh of pleasurable surprise from the audience and cries of "cute! cute!" in Japanese (my boyfriend speaks a little). She skated to a fun show tune that I absolutely did not recognize (something about Miss Baltimore something I couldn't make out) but was humorous and mentioned lots of dances (cha-cha, mambo, rhumba, etc), which Kanako acted out. She was charming and sweet, and quite a flexible little performer with a big presence on the ice.

Akiko Suzuki followed, skating to a West Side Story that included Maria, I think the Jets/Shark rumble song, and Tonight. It was a nice skate.

Jeff Buttle did a voiceover intro of Cynthia Phaneuf, who skated to Barracuda. To be honest, I don't think she brought the energy or the moves that song warrants - the program felt a bit empty and slow between the jumps, even though she did try to project the personality, and really perform the program.

Daisuke introduced Takeshi Honda in Japanese, so I don't know what he said. He skated to a song that seemed to be "That Girl's a Genius" (based on the repeated lyrics). Takeshi was unfortunately having quite an off night, having fallen in the intro and again in this program. He may have hurt himself or broken a skate or lace or something after the fall because his energy level went way down and something seemed off after that - his landings were all heavy and labored and kind of awkward, and he skated quite slowly.

Kurt introduced (I think as a voiceover) Marie and Patrice saying they were smooth, sophisticated, and very sexy. I think the song was "Do I Move You" or something like that and boy did I like it. It was a bluesy song. It opened with Patrice reading a newspaper on the side and ignoring Marie, who tried to get his attention and then just pulled the newspaper out of his hands and threw it aside. She was wearing the same costume as in her second Thin Ice number, and the theme reminded me of it. But the program was different. It's interesting - Patrice made a good pairs skater in Thin Ice and Marie did a wonderful job with Michael, but after watching that, it made me really appreciate just how smoothly they fit together and skate together. Their choreography also contained a number of new moves, different entrances and exits to lifts, and I really enjoyed it. Looking forward to seeing that one again.

Honda introduced Nobunari Oda, again in Japanese. He did his Chaplin number, with 8 or more jumps, some in combination. He really has some very springy jumps. His choreography only sometimes evokes Chaplin for me, but it was cute.

Miki Ando got a great response from the crowd when the lights came up on her in her Cleopatra costume. Watching the program, I was reminded how Sandra Bezic said she didn't do much choreographically in between the jumps, and how I didn't understand at all why she said that. She puts in a lot of hand movements and arm positioning, in particular, to evoke the music, and I thought had just as good choreography as many of the other skaters.

Kurt was next, being introduced by Kozuka, who came out with a microphone and introduced him in a mixture of Japanese and English. It was very cute - Kurt was being all cool in his jacket and tie and hat, and when Kozuka started to say "4-time world champion", indicated that Kozuka should introduce him as 14-time world champion, which he did, with amusement. Then, when the music started, he first indicated Kozuka shouldn't leave the ice, and then basically dismissed him. To my surprise, he performed Luck Be a Lady (in figure skates). The program started with a rather wonky 2-axel and an either singled or rather open 2-sal, but then he settled in and landed two nice 2-axels later in the program. The program was a bit more smooth and laid back, with footwork that was more dancey than fast and nimble, and he got oohs from the audience when he did a slow spin with one leg outstretched and hung his hat on his skate as he spun.

Virtue & Moir came out on the ice to introduce the other 2010 OGMs in the cast, Shen & Zhao. Their number was to a mixture of opera music that I recognized all of, but can't put names to. She had a red fan with trailing cloth, and he was in grey. They did their absolutely gorgeous twist (I think triple but can't really tell) and huge throw jump, and just performed beautifully, garnering a bit of a standing O from some members of the audience.

At this point there was a 20 min intermission, during which I ran out to get my program (they sold them in a tent outside the arena, with a really long but fast-moving line to buy them).

The 2nd act opened with a quick group number to "The Way You Make Me Feel" by Michael Jackson - Jeff, Scott, and Shizuka, skating together down the ice. Jeff and Scott were enthusiastic and excitable, but not quite in sync, before being joined by Shizuka. They mostly did side by side choreography (or the two guys lifted Shizuka), but at one point, she and Jeff did side by side jumps, quickly followed by Scott doing that spin with her where they're face to face, his hands are clasped behind her back and her legs and lower body are parallel to the ground. It was a cute little number.

Yuzuru Hanyu was next, skating to U2's Vertigo, and what a little performer he is! He was dynamic and confident on the ice, can really move, has a nice style, and amazing flexibility (did a not-quite Shizuka back bend Ina Bauer, Biellman spin, Shae-crusher type move). I like a lot of the Japanese men, who seem to really move and dance on the ice, and Hanyu seems to be living up quite well to the tradition.

Jeff introduced his good friend Joannie Rochette who not only won the silver at Worlds but inspired a nation with her bronze at the Olympics. Joannie skated a somber dramatic program to "My Immortal" by Evanescence that brought a bit of a lump to my throat. It was heartfelt and gorgeous, and at the same time absolutely solid in all the jumps and technical elements. No bobbles from Joannie at all.

Kurt came out on the ice to introduce Kozuka as one of his favorite men skaters, shh don't tell the others (didn't get much of a laugh, not sure the audience got it). Kozuka skated to Closer by Ne-Yo, which was a really fluid, fun program, with that outsized performance quality and fully committed choreography that so many of the top Japanese men seem to possess. At one point he took off his outside shirt (getting kind of gasps from the crowd rather than whoops as he would in North America), only to flip it inside out and put it back on, not sure why. Nice program.

I was confused by the next couple - Kathy and Chris Reed, who weren't in the program or any cast list I'd seen (apparently they were added in the last week). They were ice dancers, and did a Japanese themed number, both with fans in hand. It was a pretty good, very side-by-side patterns of footwork and edges down the ice ice dance number.

Joannie then introduced her good friend Jeff Buttle in turn. Jeff skated to "Good Mother", which I think was a Jann Arden song, but he didn't use her version. This was a very fluid, smooth, pretty program, and Jeff oozes confidence in his rapport with the audience, and charisma on the ice. The audience certainly ate it up, and I really enjoyed it.

Daisuke Takahashi was next, and landed a whole slew of jumps, including a 3-axel, what was evidently a 4-flip, and combinations. He is ultra charismatic on the ice - I really enjoy watching him skate.

Kurt came out and said in a very admiring tone of voice "wow that guy's kind of good", which drew quite a laugh from the audience, before he introduced Virtue & Moir as the youngest couple ever to win an ice dance gold medal. They did their ballerina/hockey player number - I have to admit, I saw this at the Olympics gala too and both times I felt like the number both didn't really exemplify their skills as ice dancers, and wasn't the most interesting execution on the theme (I've seen many similarly themed numbers in the past). It's a shame, b/c I think they're awesome, lovely skaters. But still, it was fun and cute and did entertain.

Mao Asada came last, garnering a huge response from the crowd. She did a number with a pink fan, and her demeanor was bouncy and exuberant and cute, which didn't exactly jive with the much more serious music, but there's no denying her enthusiasm or connection with the crowd. She did pop what seemed like a 3-axel attempt (from the long and careful build up) but quickly put it behind her and put in a nice performance.

Last came the closing number to "I Got the Music in Me", featuring just the Canadian cast + Takeshi & Shen & Zhao again. I didn't realize V&M weren't out for 1/2 the number (I guess they go last in the Canadian tour and need time to change) and was thinking the Canadian cast looked absolutely tiny. It really isn't that big, especially compared to the massive Japanese cast. The finale was a lot better than the opening, especially when watching Kurt, who seemed really into it and having a great time with the choreography, and I quite enjoyed it. It's still not a stunning number, but way better than the opening, in my opinion.

The skaters went off the ice, but then came back on for a curtain call, led by Kurt shoving the junior skaters out on the ice to take a turn for themselves, before all the skaters came out. Marie-France and Jeff broke away from the group to do a cute bit with each other while the other skaters watched, before everyone came together for a final bow.

Overall I quite enjoyed the show, and the opportunity to see all these dynamic Japanese skaters I usually only get to see on TV. I wish there were more group numbers, but the Japanese skaters seem to all be busy with a variety of other shows around this one, while the Canadian skaters only arrived in Japan a few days before the show, so I'm guessing they didn't have time to put anything together. The skating was wonderful, though, and I'm really glad I went.