Stars on Ice
Kurt in SOI
Creative Team

Stars on Ice Review - Lake Placid, NY - Nov. 30, 2002

written by Tina

For everyone who was worried that Stars on Ice was going to continue down the road of lots of talking, not so much skating, and sex kitten acts, you can stop worrying now. Stars on Ice has returned to the mode of letting the skating do (most) of the talking, and there's some very good skating in this year's show. This year's edition of Stars on Ice could *almost* be entitled "Pairs on Ice"... virtually every ensemble this year was centered around the pairs. The only talking (yes there was one number with someone actually making speech into a microphone) was done over skating, and was actually done quite well. The only sexy/sensual skating was done by the one female skater who it suits well - Katarina Witt. More on that later. This year's show also doesn't really have a theme, which is both a good and a bad thing. Last year's show was probably an example of a theme taken a little too far. This year's show, though, almost seemed to lack a special, unique, standout-ish feel to it. At this point, if I were to look back on this show years from now, I'm not sure I'd be able to point out any particular uniquely identifying feature about it, besides the large number of pairs. However, it was a very good show, a great improvement from last year's, and I enjoyed it a great deal. It was also really well put-together. Any concerns I might have had that they wouldn't be ready by opening night were dispelled - the ensembles were almost more polished looking than I remember seeing last year or in Halifax the one year I went to CSOI's opening night. The only real complaint? Not enough Kurt! And I have to say...welcome back Renee and Gorsha!

To properly understand the context for my comments on this review, let me tell you the perspective I was watching it from. We were in 2nd row on-ice seats, just off of center ice. 2nd row on-ice seats are on risers, but not high enough that the skaters didn't disappear behind people's heads frequently. I was also trying my best to take photos, and had to track much of the skating from my viewfinder, to best take advantage of the moments when the skaters actually appeared between heads. Therefore, I didn't come even close to catching everything, and am very glad I'm seeing the show again to more fully see what was happening. To my left, was a section of on-ice seats for the VIPs - Steven Cousins, Kristi Yamaguchi, Denis Petrov, Scott's fiancee, Kurt's father, David Baden, and more. To my right in the row in front of me were Victor Petrenko and his wife, and Richard Callaghan. (No I didn't go up and talk to any of these people).

A couple more general comments (yes I know I'm babbling on and on =)) before I get into the actual program-by-program review of the show. The new skaters fit well into Stars on Ice. They seem to have gotten right into the mode of doing the ensembles and show skating/connecting with the audience. I'm not usually a fan of eligible skating because I feel that the choreography tends to be more jump-oriented with less emphasis towards fully utilizing the music or finishing the moves, but these new skaters brought both great choreography and the excitement of well-done technical elements that we've gotten out of the habit seeing as much of in Stars on Ice (no offense to the older skaters). They seem to have given Alexei much the same role that Ilia had last year - three solos - but he is also in one of the group numbers and seems to be a little more integrated into the intro/finale and less "featured" than Ilia was. It would have been interesting to see how they would have arranged things had both Ilia and Alexei been on the tour. They seem to have given (or he chose??) a much smaller role to Kurt this year - he's in pretty well featured positions in the intro and finale, but he only has two programs, one of which is hardly a program, and is only in one other ensemble, which was a bit of a disappointment for me. The emphasis this year was definitely on the pairs.

Act I:

The show opened with Scott Hamilton skating out in jeans and a black shirt and holding a mike to welcome everyone to the show. Then the lights went down in preparation for the opening number.

Opening Number - Orin Does Ozzy
The music for the opening number was entitled "Orin Does Ozzy" in the program, and seems to be an Orin Isaacs remix of Ozzy Osbourne. However, since I don't know Ozzy music at all, I couldn't tell you what song or songs he was remixing. It was a rock instrumental, however - no vocals. The skaters came out one by one to do a segment to the music. I think most of them skated their section and then went back in the tunnel, but Todd stayed out for a while. I was having trouble with my camera during this number so I'm afraid my attention was a bit divided. Todd Eldredge came first, followed I *think* by Ina & Zimmerman, then Meno & Sand, and Roca & Sur. After them, S&P and B&S came out at the same time. Following them I *think* came Alexei, then Katarina, then Kurt (Alexei and Katarina might have been in opposite order). As I recall, Scott Hamilton also skated out a bit too in the opening, which surprised me since I wonder how they'll fill that spot choreographically when he's not around. Their costumes were jeans (or jeans-looking pants) for the guys and denim-looking short skirts for the girls, with pastel-colored shirts on top. I recall that this number seemed to have better ice coverage than the previous year's opening number, with the skaters skating all the way down the ice on both ends (though Todd Sand seemed to be going too fast in one sequence, went down, and was unable to stop himself before he hit the edge of the ice and actually slid off. Looked kind of painful, but he got back up and found a spot to rejoin the choreography). At the end, the skaters stopped in a line down the ice, and were introduced one by one, in this order (to the best of my memory): R&S, M&S, I&Z, Todd, Kurt, Katarina, B&S, S&P, Alexei. Since I don't remember much more about this number, I'll move on.

Alexei Yagudin - Born to be Wild (Steppenwolf)
As the opening song wound down, the skaters skated off the ice, leaving Alexei Yagudin standing towards the corner of the ice, pulling on black leather half gloves and a black leather jacket to skate to "Born to be Wild". Given the music for this number, you can imagine what the choreography was like. It was a fairly fun number with Alexei playing the bad boy, at a couple points spinning across the ice with one hand down on the ice.

Kyoko Ina & John Zimmerman - Bed of Roses (Bon Jovi)
At the end of Alexei's number, Kyoko skated onto the ice, as the music suddenly dropped in tempo and mood, and Alexei skated towards her. The two of them skated around with each other a bit until John appeared on the ice, at which point, Alexei essentially ushered Kyoko towards him and almost handed her off to him. This was a nice, melancholic piece with a lot of interesting bits of choreography. There was the lift (?) that I've seen them do in the past, where Kyoko stands on John's legs as he does essentially a Besti squat and arches backwards, John skating down the ice in a spread eagle, with Kyoko parallel to the ice and holding on to his ankles, and various lifts. They ended with John kneeling on the ice, holding Kyoko up over his head, with her parallel to the ice.

Jamie Sale & David Pelletier - Come Fly (Frank Sinatra)
A spotlight came up, highlighting David Pelletier standing alone on the ice in a white shirt, black tie, and black pants. After grooving alone to Frank Sinatra, he was joined on the ice by Jamie (in a white dress). This was a nice, light, swinging number with choreography that emphasized moments of the song, such as David throwing Jamie up in the air in almost a fly high and say bye (except I don't think he turned) at "Come fly with me" a few times. They had a number of nice lifts that were held a lot longer than I'm used to seeing in pro skating, a beautiful throw (don't know what it was), and possibly a twist (though this could have been only in the other number - I know they did one in the other number). This was a nice light-hearted number with a lot of personality that was fun to see.

Todd Eldredge - Channel 1 Suite (Buddy Rich)
Todd Eldredge came next, skating a program that I honestly can not remember very well at all, which should not reflect on the quality of the program. I spent much of this program tracking him furiously with my camera, trying to get a shot, but he skates incredibly fast with great ice coverage, which makes it really hard to pin him down between people's heads. Unfortunately, I was trying so hard to get a shot that I don't remember his program well at all. He was wearing black pants, and a black shirt with a white front (except the collar and button area) splattered with green.

Katarina Witt, Gorsha Sur, John Zimmerman - Blues in the Night
The following number was the evening's first ensemble, and was a cute number highlighting Katarina Witt's sexy side, along with her sense of humor about it. She and Gorsha, in particular, seemed to really get into this number, which had Katarina skating from one guy to the other, or at times with both of them. Both guys wore black suits with white, large-collared shirts, open a few buttons and no tie. Katarina wore a lime green dress loose-materialed dress gathered at the waist, with straps over her shoulders that kept slipping down. At one point, they lifted her with one of them holding her arms, and the other her legs. They also turned her with her arms outstretched, each holding one of her arms. The program ended with Gorsha and John lying on their backs with the top of their heads to each other, lifting her straight up over them, parallel to the ice. This number was really fun - a bluesy, enjoyable number with two of the biggest flirts in the cast, and one of the cutest guys ;).

Scott Hamilton - Chuck E's in Love (Rickie Lee Jones)
Scott Hamilton came next, skating a program that I believe he did at his own special this year. He seemed to be playing a lovable dork in love, skating and skipping his way across the ice. He did a lot of goofing off, including some lying and sitting on the ice. Scott wore a red shirt, grey pants, and suspenders. The program ended with him down on his knees at the side of the rink, arms held out towards his fiancee in the first row. This program was a fun, lighthearted number - not much substance, but the audience seemed to enjoy it.

Alexei Yagudin - Overcome
Alexei's second program was one that he did in CSOI last year and had a very different feel from his first program. While that one was playful and very much playing to the audience, this one was intense and more introspective. It opened with the sound of a heartbeat, with Alexei miming pulling himself into and out of a box? to the beat of the heartbeat. The choreography to this program had some nice moments of varying intensity, and one straight-lined footwork sequence which was going quite furiously until he suddenly took a spill right in the middle of it. I think this was the same, or a similar, footwork sequence to the one that all the skaters mimic during the finale. I enjoyed this program when Alexei did it in CSOI and I enjoyed it here.

Jenni Meno & Todd Sand - I'm Your Man (Leonard Cohen)
As Alexei took his bows, Jenni skated her way onto the ice with a shy, demure expression, and holding a rose. She spotted Alexei and tried to offer the rose to him (rather like a sweet little girl) and was downcast when he skated off the ice backwards, shaking his head and gesturing no with his hands, like "I can't accept that". Then she brightened up as she spotted somebody in the audience, and tried to offer the rose to them, but then got all downcast again and had to give up. Finally, she stood alone on the ice, and heaved a big sigh, rose still in hand. Right about that time, Todd skated out on the ice behind her with a bit of a flourish, and ended up to her left by the edge of the ice (she was standing towards the middle). She looked towards him, he spread his arms like, how about me? She looked at the rose and then gave him a funny look that made him look down at himself, like, what's wrong with what I'm wearing? Finally, he skated towards her and I think (missed this part) grabbed the rose out of her hands with his teeth and skated around with it. He then approached her, she finally seemed to accept his advances (with some reservation), and they began skating together (after dropping the rose on the ice). This was a really fun, whimsical number, that I enjoyed a great deal. It was really a nice departure from the type of soft love songs they've done the last few years, and really gave Todd a chance to showcase his personality. If any of you have ever seen Gary Beacom's program, you'll know the song, and have a feeling for the slightly offbeat feel to the music. Jenni and Todd did it well (and Christopher Dean's choreography was fun). One funny point - towards the end, Jenni went down into a death spiral around the rose, but I think she was too close to the rose and started dragging it around with her. In retakes later, they redid the death spiral and that time they cleared the rose nicely.

Kurt Browning - How do you Keep the Music Playing (Tony Bennett)
The last solo performance before the end of the first act was Kurt skating to a song by Tony Bennett. The lyrics talked about a lover who was also his best friend, and I think something about how do you keep the music playing when you're gone or not around or something like that, and it felt like another program that was directed towards Sonia. The choreography for this program was done by Sandra Bezic, and had some of the nice feel of a Kurt/Sandra collaboration - the moves were heartfelt and went well with the music. This is a good program for people who were interested in seeing Kurt do another slower program with sweeping edges after seeing Solitaire last year. Aside from a few moments of footwork to some piano riffs in the music, this program was largely edges and turns. He had a nice Ina Bauer down the ice, as well as a spread eagle on flats diagonally down the ice. I wasn't overly fond of the costume - a light blue long sleeved v-neck shirt with a white stripe, that seemed to bunch oddly and give him more of a gut than he's got, and grey pants that also didn't seem to fit him that well either. The music was also a bit too bland or easy-listening for my taste (I've really enjoyed a lot of the music Kurt's picked in the past), but Kurt did a really nice job to it. The only problem with this number that night was that Kurt had a number of problems with the jumps. He went into a nice, beautiful, high double axel, but bobbled the landing, and popped a triple ...toe-loop, I think... He seemed to be really frustrated with himself after messing up these jumps, and each time he made another mistake, seemed to only do a half-hearted effort at the choreography, since he knew he was going to have to do retakes anyway. Despite his obvious frustration, this was a nice program, if not quite up to the standards of some of his past programs. I think I'll need to see this one a few more times to see if I'll like it more.

Elena Berezhnaya & Anton Sikharulidze, Jamie Sale & David Pelletier, Todd Eldredge - Sing Sing Sing
The closer to the first act was the only time in the show there was talking, and was also the ensemble that most people will probably be the most excited (and for some, the most surprised) to see. This was the number in which B&S and S&P skated together. The one doing the talking was Todd Eldredge, who held a mike and essentially "narrated" the piece in a somewhat abstract, poetic way. His speaking skills really impressed me, btw - there was a naturalness and conviction about the way he spoke that many skaters can't achieve. He also had a great connection to/interaction with the audience, making eye contact and really drawing the audience in. What he spoke about as he skated around the ice (sometimes breaking into footwork and bits of skating that joined the pairs on the ice, before breaking away) were things like "who can judge me?", speaking about individuality, appearances, etc, and the inability for someone to truly judge you, as well as about power. At first, as he spoke, only one pair was out at a time, but eventually they both skated on and he skated off the ice. This was a wonderful display of pairs skating, though it was really difficult to decide who to watch as they mirrored each other in lifts, spins, death spirals, as well as did very different things simultaneously on different parts of the ice. As I recall, they didn't actually do any skating together (the four of them) or trade partners, but it was an impressive number that seemed there partly to emphasize how the four of them are still friends despite all the controversy. A nice, if different (I was a bit surprised to have the lights come up, even though I had read this was the last program), way to end the first act.

Act 2:

Elvis vs JXL
After a twenty-minute intermission, during which all the skaters on my left disappeared, the lights went down on the arena, only to pick up in the corners, where Elena, Kyoko, Jenni, Renee, and Jamie had stepped into the audience in cowboy hats and glittery shirts. The five of them danced around in the audience before stepping onto the ice and convening at the end opposite the tunnel. In the meantime, six guys - Kurt, David, Todd S., Gorsha, Alexei, and John Zimmerman - stepped onto the other end of the ice in their own cowboy hats, jeans, leather gloves, and shirts of various styles (white tshirt and vest with do-rag on head on Kurt, sleeveless denim on Todd, sleeveless beige shirt over white tank on John, rolled up flannel on Gorsha, short sleeved black Western shirt on David, and long sleeved western shirt on Alexei). They skated down towards the girls, and each picked one up - David had Jamie slung over his shoulder, Kyoko was riding on John's back, Jenni had her legs clasped around Todd's waist from the front, Renee had her arms wrapped around Gorsha's neck with his arm under her legs, and Kurt was kind of dragging Elena across the ice, first with his arm around her stomach, and then by the armpits. After disposing of the girls, they donned their hats in a line at the end of the ice and started dancing around to the music. This was a really cute, fun number that the audience really seemed to get into. The guys did all sorts of tricks and skating down the ice, sometimes together, sometimes individually, and sometimes in pairs. Kurt and Alexei were paired together fairly frequently. At one point, Kurt and someone did a throw waltz jump, with Kurt being thrown... the guys also did back to back besti squats, and a number of other fun "pair" moves together. They also dropped to the ice to do pushups, to the audience's delight. They finally wound up lined up at the end of the ice by the tunnel with their backs to the arena, dancing around, before turning, each with their hat fixed to the front of their pants, Full Monty-style, only with their pants still up. The guys seemed to be having a really good time, and the audience was really into this number. It was a fun, energetic way to open the second act, and a number I'm looking forward to seeing again, if only to catch what was going on on the parts of the ice I wasn't watching.

Katarina Witt - The Rest of Your Life (Barbra Streisand)
Katarina was the first solo skater in the second act, and her music was a shift in mood from the previous high energy number. Wearing a deep purple/blue dress with a kind of gauzy, slanted hem skirt, and black lace under, she skated pensively to the music by Barbra Streisand. In contrast to the dramatic, strong woman program she skated to the previous year, this program was softer, slower, and prettier. Although she only landed doubles (and she did go for a few), and although her skating is obviously slower than those freshly out of the eligible ranks, she has a wonderful presence on the ice, and this program suited her well.

Todd Eldredge - Miserere (Andrea Bocelli & Lucio Dalla)
Todd Eldredge's second program was to a dramatic piece by Andrea Bocelli, and suited him well. Todd's interaction with the audience and enjoyment of his skating is quite apparent in the ensembles and his other number, but he really shines in this more dramatic, serious piece. My only issue with this program had nothing to do with Todd's skating - in the music, I'm not too fond of the voice of the other man singing with Andrea Bocelli. It's a raspy-ish voice, and reminded me of the jarring incongruity of Bryan Adams singing with Pavarotti. Otherwise, though, this is a beautiful song and Todd does a great job skating to it. An amusing note about the applause for this number - the audience gave Todd a standing ovation, and Victor Petrenko stood as well - then I saw him turn and try to get Richard Callaghan to stand too, who demurred (probably embarrassed to give his student a standing ovation).

Renee Roca & Gorsha Sur - Prayer (Charlotte Church & Josh Groban)
Renee and Gorsha's solo was the same number they skated to in the closing ceremonies of the Olympics with Charlotte Church and Josh Groban singing live. It was beautiful to see it in person. This is just a lovely, lyrical number - wonderful song, beautiful choreography, and very heartfelt execution by Renee and Gorsha. The program had some beautiful lifts and holds, and included the move that I love seeing them do, where Gorsha spins around with Renee arched back, supported only on his outstretched arm. I was thrilled to get to see this program, and am really glad to see Renee and Gorsha back with the tour.

Kurt Browning - Slippery Side Up (James Cotton)
Kurt's second number wasn't precisely a skating number at all, and wasn't precisely a revival of Raggy the Clown either, but was a fun, funny, comedic piece with a Raggy-like character dressed in a bright red dorky hat, white t-shirt, really huge jeans kept up by suspenders, and, to start with, bright yellowish-green and orangish-red skate guards. Kurt started off among the audience at the end of the ice but then seemed to spot something really interesting in our section - towards center ice across the ice from where he was. After making a number of funny faces, and pumping himself up, he decided to try to reach our side of the ice, and stepped happily onto it, before slipping and sliding everywhere and realizing he had his skate guards still on. I can't remember if he got his skate guards off at this point or actually made it across the ice to our section first. Eventually, though, he made it, seemingly tired and worn out, even plopping down in an audience member's lap (who started laughing in a surprised manner when Kurt sat in his lap) to recover. However, as he did so, he spotted something interesting on the other side of the ice (the spotlight would highlight the new interesting area before Kurt headed over). After pumping himself up again, he headed over to that side of the ice, doing some footwork, and some comical slipping and sliding before ending up over there. Once again, though, he spotted something interesting in the other corner of the ice, and started working his way down the side of the ice in that direction. Amusingly, he half skated, half stepped his way down the side, continually coming on and off the ice as he made his way down, and looking confused when everyone started laughing. After skating to practically every side of the arena, Kurt finally started doing some skating on the ice, doing footwork and some circular steps around the ice. Towards the end, he did this sequence of hard falls - getting up, and then slipping to fall full bodied on the ice. I couldn't help but wince watching him - he must have been covered with bruises trying to work this number out! It was really funny, though, and the audience really got into it. After the song ended and Kurt got his bows, he stood there in the middle of the ice, looking at the tunnel, then looking at his feet, and then looking at the audience, saying "help!" Finally, a rope was thrown out from the tunnel, and Kurt reached for it, but came up shy. He threw himself at the ice full-bodied, but still came out up shy, so he finally crawled, then wiggled, then pounced his way to the rope, managed to pick it up and stand up, and wrapped it happily around himself. As he raised his arms triumphantly, someone on the other side of the rope suddenly gave it a tug, pulling him (desperately clinging to the rope) back into the tunnel. This was a fun, funny number, and really cute to watch. However, I was a bit dissatisfied (and still am) in the back of my head, because it felt more like cute filler than an actual full-fledged program. I would have been perfectly happy if he had done this number, if he had had another full-length solo to round it out. As it was, this number, plus the nice-but-bland Tony Bennett number, and only one ensemble number outside the opening or closing, just didn't feel like enough Kurt in the show. 'Course, I'm biased as a Kurt fan =).

Kyoko Ina & John Zimmerman, Jenni Meno & Todd Sand, Renee Roca & Gorsha Sur - Something Stupid (Robbie Williams & Nicole Kidman)
The next ensemble was a pleasant surprise. I knew that they were going to highlight their Gold Medal pairs, but I was surprised to see an ensemble that featured the other two pairs and dance team. Actually, when I took a closer look, I realized that these were all US teams (since Renee and Gorsha also competed for the US). I wonder if that was their intention? Anyway, this was a light, smooth, laid back yet subtly sultry piece (I'm having a great deal of difficulty finding the right adjectives to describe the mood/feel of it). If you listen to the music then you should get a feel for how the mood of the piece was, since the choreography matched it nicely. The song was basically something about having such a good time and then doing something stupid like saying "I love you". The three couples matched each other in various parts of the choreography, dancing to the music, and at other times, seemed to be describing slightly different types of relationships. For instance, John seemed to be trying to win over Kyoko, who would reject him or slap him or something similar. Renee and Gorsha seemed less argumentative but not necessarily together. I wasn't really watching Jenni and Todd (couldn't decide who to watch and Kyoko and John were in front of me) but I have the feeling theirs was a more harmonious relationship. There was nothing extremely obvious or overt, but it was there subtly in their body language. This was overall a nice ensemble, with a pleasantly enjoyable feel to it.

Elena Berezhnaya & Anton Sikharulidze - Elvis & Marilyn
After the three couples cleared the ice, a lump covered by a white cloth made its way from the end of the ice onto the ice, and then just sat there for quite a while. After a while, the audience grew restless and started whistling at the lump, and then clapping rhythmically to get something to happen. Suddenly, Kurt appeared at the end of the ice, still in his costume from Slippery Side Up, pushing a red dolly on which another lump covered by a satiny white cloth stood. Kurt stopped the dolly, picked up the white object (with some effort), and set it on the ice. He then busied himself with dusting it off with a feather duster he unclipped from his belt, and as he circled it, he subtly hooked the cloth to a hook that had descended from the ceiling earlier. As he started to get curious about the white object and peer under the cloth, the other white object suddenly moved and caught his attention. He started skating towards it, peering at it curiously, when suddenly Anton whipped the white cloth off of his head and stood up, flinging the cloth towards the end of the ice, and scaring Kurt. Kurt quickly retreated, only circling around to retrieve his dolly and beat it off the ice, as Anton stood there doing his best Elvis impression. Anton seems to love playing the Elvis character - he was really hamming it up to full effect, staring into the audience with a bit of an Elvis sneer (and a barely concealed smile) on his face and strutting down the ice. As he skated around the other cloth-covered object, the hook pulled up into the ceiling, uncovering Elena, who stood there proudly with her arms crossed, looking up like "I'm the center of attention". This was a cute, fun number with Anton playing Elvis and Elena playing Marilyn (with bits of Marilyn's "I Wanna Be Loved by You" interspersed with whatever Elvis song was on at the time). I believe the Elvis songs included Jailhouse Rock and Can't Help Falling in Love With You, though the choreography didn't so much match the lyrics as the mood of the music. One thing I noticed watching this program was that these two have some of the similar moves as Bechke and Petrov did, what with Elena doing a somersault in the air over Anton's head, and some of their lifts. They also did a nice throw, and a twist (I believe), as well as some nicely held long lifts down the ice. I don't recall seeing the one move I really enjoyed when they did this number in Kurt's show - Elena doing a spread eagle while Anton did a spiral with his hand on her shoulder - but otherwise this was a nicely done program.

Jamie Sale & David Pelletier - Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin' (Journey)
Jamie and David's second solo was kind of a playful (I seem to remember) skaters in love piece, that reminded me in some ways stylistically of Hough and Ladret. There was just something to the interpretation of the music, the choreography, the way Jamie skated backwards kind of enticing David after her that really seemed reminiscent of their style. This was a cute number that rather highlighted the differences between B&S and S&P in both tricks and style in a good way, showing how each pair brings something unique and different to the ice. The only thing about this number was that the song was rather repetitive, and after a while I felt like it was going on too long - not because I wasn't enjoying their skating, but because it was just getting so repetitive. Otherwise, though, they carried off this program with verve and really sold it. I was also rather impressed by the high twist that David threw Jamie into right in front of me =).

Alexei Yagudin - Racing (Safri Duo)
Alexei's third number was yet another style, which felt kind of like a mix/middle ground between his previous two. It was lighter in style, with him mimicking driving a car around (at the time I didn't know the title of the song and wasn't clear why he was doing it) yet at the same time the choreography felt more intense, like Overcome. One thing that was impressive and fun to watch about both Alexei and Todd was their jumps - beautiful, high triple axels and a number of other triples, as well as their fast, centered spins. It was also neat to see two such impressively technically talented skaters with such different styles on the ice. Alexei's three numbers showed off his skating really nicely, and I look forward to seeing the three programs again.

Scott Hamilton - Figaro
Rather amusingly, by this point in the show, I had almost forgotten that Scott Hamilton was skating, and kind of expected Alexei's number to be the last solo (current Olympic Gold Medalist and all that). Imagine my surprise when the spotlight came up on Scott, decked out in full Figaro gear and skating to the opera. This is Scott's spoof on operas (whereas Don Quixote, which we saw in Gotta Skate this past weekend was his spoof on ballet) and was a cute interpretation. I've seen this program before, but it was fun to see the little nuances that Sarah Kawahara and Scott put in, like the head movements emphasizing the repetitive nature of some of the music, or the overly dramatic gestures. It was also really funny to see how well Scott knows the music by now, since he's fully able to lip sync almost all the Italian in the opera, with comic touches in his facial expressions. Just a fun, funny number. Also one of the only instant full standing ovations. I have to admit to rolling my eyes a bit at his spreading his arms out to soak in and encourage more applause, since I've seen him do it so much now. At the same time, there was no doubt that people enjoyed seeing him back and that he enjoyed being back.

Finale - I Can't Stop (Will Smith)
They've gone back to doing the finale to one song, instead of a medley of songs, this time a song by Will Smith that was an interesting hybrid of styles. There were elements of rap, hip hop, and almost Latin-sounding music fused in there. This was also one of the most ensemble-ish finales I've seen in quite a while. The skaters almost didn't have individual spotlight moments, or if they did, I couldn't really spot them in either the original or retake version of the finale. The song was really upbeat and the skaters seemed to be having a good time dancing to it. They did a really good job with the funky dance aspect of the choreography (A.C. Ciulla must have helped them), and I noticed Kurt in particular seemed to really get into it and was having the time of his life. I also have to confess here that I basically had my eye on Kurt the entire time, and couldn't really tell you what anyone else was doing. I remember the opening of the finale many of the skaters were paired off with Kurt and Katarina in the center, kind of doing a fusion of club and latin dancing. At a different point in the finale, the skaters were paired off with the guys kneeling as the girls danced around them, except that Katarina was dancing with Todd E. and Alexei while Renee was dancing with Kurt and Gorsha on the other side of the circle. This one felt less like the girls giving the guys a lap dance, like that part of the finale last year, and more like the guys watching and supporting the girls as they skated around them. At another point during the finale, the four pairs were on one end of the ice and all went into identical lifts (but not turning or moving), while the other four guys and two girls danced at the end. Kurt and Alexei at one point were mirroring each other, before Katarina and Renee came up behind them to dance with them a bit. Later, four of the guys - Kurt, Todd, Alexei, and David (!) broke away from the group to skate down the ice and do either double axels or triple toes (I can't recall which now, I just know it was one of the two). This was really odd, b/c the four skated down together, but then Todd went right while the other three went left and jumped in opposite directions. I kind of feel like that piece of choreography would have been more effective and less messy looking if they had two clockwise jumpers and two counter-clockwise jumpers instead of one of the one and three of the other, but they had to work with what they got. It was also rather surprising to realize that David was one of the four jumpers. I wonder if they decided to fill David in for Steven instead of turning into three jumpers? The finale also had the skaters spread out down the ice dancing while staring into the audience, very much like in Strobe's Nanafushi, which was a lot of fun (especially if you're sitting on ice). I just felt bad because I was staring at Kurt to my right and failing to look at the skaters right in front of me (John Zimmerman and Todd Sand if I recall correctly). There was also a section where the skaters lined up across the ice with Alexei slightly in the lead, doing a rather toned down version of his straight line footwork (similar to Overcome), only less fast, less furious (didn't see much ice flying), and a lot more fun... they eventually caught up with Alexei, and Kurt ended up next to him, which was neat to see - two footwork skaters next to each other. The finale was a whole lot of fun, and I really really liked the feel of it. Great way to end the show!

Of course, this being Lake Placid, the show wasn't over yet (though you wouldn't have known it from the mass exodus to the doors, despite Scott asking us to stay). Scott grabbed the mike and first did a speech to close the show for TV, thanking us for watching NBC's presentation of Stars on Ice, etc etc. Then, after a pause, he addressed the audience, telling us that they were going to do retakes and would we like to see the finale again? Apparently (and I hadn't even noticed this), Kurt had taken a fall in the middle of some of the dancing when he was smack in the middle of the group, and they possibly had other errors that I didn't notice as well. So they came back in and did the whole finale again, which was a lot of fun to watch. Then, following the final, Scott came out dressed in his Figaro outfit to do his retakes. He took the mike again, killing time while waiting for them to be ready to shoot his retake. He talked about how he had done this wonderful goodbye...two years ago (looking a little abashed by this)...and how he never thought that he'd have the opportunity again to be out there like this, but then he got the call 10 days ago (he then looked into the audience and thanked someone there for all the notice - I think a higher up at IMG, I can't remember his name). He talked about the injuries on tour, saying "Tara Lipinski with her injury", and then something about their morale officer, Steven Cousins, injurying himself a short while ago but how he was there that night and they'd miss him - the cheering for Steven was so extended he finally stood up and waved to the crowd with a big grin on his face. Scott then said that if he hadn't taken those two years off, though, he wouldn't have been able to do the most important thing he's ever done - get engaged to get married in two weeks. He then mentioned how the "heart and soul of the tour" Kristi Yamaguchi had done the same thing - decided to stop touring in order to start a family, and then looked at Kristi and said something like look, I'm here..you should really consider this! Then he said I'll talk to Bret, and then backtracked saying something about, no I couldn't make Bret do anything, he's huge, he's (reaching his hand up) this tall, so tall I can't even reach high enough, he's like 6'5"...but he's the nicest guy, etc etc... He also said something (could have been before this) about how he had to do retakes because he had some...rotational deficiencies...and how we (in the arena) could see his imperfections, but that the rest of the country couldn't...because he's vain =). Finally Sandra's voice came over the loudspeaker telling Scott they were ready, so he went and redid his jumps, as I recall, landing them perfectly the first time. He also did some amusing filler in the parts of the music he wasn't skating to as he waited for his next cue, exaggeratedly lip syncing the opera. It was quite fun to watch =). Alexei then came out and redid part of his program, including the footwork section he had tripped on earlier. Meno & Sand had to retake their throw jump, and had an amusing little bit in the beginning when Jenni was trying to figure out where to place the rose on the ice to maintain continuity, and neither she nor Sandra could remember where it went, so she just shrugged and dropped it on the ice (I wonder if we'll notice this in the broadcast). They had a little problem getting the throw landed right (they were going for a double I think) but finally got it after a couple tries. I can't remember who else did retakes besides Kurt, who had the hardest time getting his jumps landed, particularly the popped toe loop, which he popped in exactly the same way the second time he tried it. He finally, after many tries, got his jumps landed, but the poor guy was obviously frustrated from the many attempts. They handed him a mike at the end, and he, out of breath, told us that was it for this year's show, and thanked us for coming. Then he took the time to thank the sponsors, particularly Smuckers for coming in for them...how they all worked so hard for the show and they really appreciated Smuckers for stepping in. He then said next time we were in the grocery store, to slip some jam into our bag, if we knew what he meant...He thanked Sandra Bezic...then said something about missing Steven Cousins, I know you're in here somewhere, I was doing those steps, thinking "Steven would look great doing these steps" and then suddenly looking at the ceiling (in reference to his fall in the finale). Finally he thanked all of us again and said good night, and the evening was over.

Overall, it was a great show - definitely better than last year, with some great skating, great choreography, and great music. Not their best show ever, but it gives me great hope for the future of Stars on Ice. Looking forward to seeing how the show develops when it comes to my area!