Stars on Ice
Kurt in SOI
Creative Team

Stars on Ice Review - Lake Placid, NY - Nov. 27, 2004

written by Nicole

Right off the bat, I have to say that this show left me speechless. I've really liked the show the last few years, as they've been "rebuilding", but this show far surpassed my expectations from the get-go.

Steven came out before the show started to warm the audience up. He told us that he had a letter to read from Scott that was for the cast but he thought would be appropriate for the crowd as well. It was the first one Scott had missed since the tour started and this was his way of being there. Then Steven made us "cheer" for the cameras, and on the last one, he called Scott on his cellphone so that he could share in it. Definitely a touching moment!

Opening - Pure Imagination
It had a very mystical mood to it, almost ethereal you could say. I'm not too sure if ethereal would be the right word for it, but nonetheless, you could tell right away how the theme related back to the whole concept of imagination and it was as though it were set in a dream-like state. The costumes were pale (almost pastel) blues and purples for the girls (with sort of ruffles... ruffles seem to be in this year with Jef Billings ;)) and the same colours in slightly darker shades for the guys. There's a voiceover to the music done by a child with various sayings along the lines of "I am your imagination", and the skaters seemed like they were "following" the voice. I think it first started off with a few bars of the Harry Potter theme music, then moved into the Willy Wonka music, but I believe it was an "updated" version of it, it sounded a little faster and, well, modern, lol than the movie version. Of course I can't remember specifics about what moves everyone did, and there was way too much going on at once to be able to concentrate! Everyone was announced, save for Kurt and Todd Eldredge. The cast finished up at this sort of podium thing near the entrance end of the rink. This led right into Todd's first number...

Let Me Entertain You -- Todd Eldredge
I have to say, I would have never expected Todd to be skating to Robbie Williams, but good for him for going for something new. There was literally no break between the opening and this number, so it took me a few seconds to realize this was actually his solo. Todd kept up with the energy of the song and had his typical speed. He did have a few glitches in this one though, including a trip-up doing either crossovers or footwork, which was unusual for him. However he got right back up everytime and kept on going like nothing happened.

Naughty Girl - Yuka Sato
I was definitely not expecting Yuka to skate to anything remotely R&B/hip-hop, so to say this was a surprise is an understatement! You guys have probably all seen it on Ice Wars that was just on, but I have to say I really enjoyed her performance of this at SOI. She pulled off the dancing very well, again which surprised me because it's not her typical style. And like others have said, she managed to make the program work with the music without reverting to anything overly "sleazy". Personally, I think a little more attitude would make this fabulous, but Yuka did great regardless. From my memory, she put even more "dance" and overall attitude in it than she did at Ice Wars, but I can't really compare since I didn't see the latter live. Again, all I can really say is that I enjoyed it very much.

I think after Yuka's number was Jamie's "gypsy" transition. It was an absolute RIOT. She plays it to a T. The voiceover is of some old woman gypsy looking into a crystal ball (that Jamie is carrying), and Jamie mouths the words, which is just a funny image in and of itself ;) Lots of funny bits including lines like "I can see that you, sitting right there, did NOT pay for those seats!" and such. She goes on until realizing that the ball is not a real one but it is just a prop, and she storms out. Again, just too funny for words!

Harder To Breathe - Kyoko Ina & John Zimmerman
I won't relay what my friend and I were saying for the first 30 seconds of this program because we'd have to censor ourselves, lol, but needless to say this program was AWESOME. I mean, first of all, any program with John Zimmerman in pleather pants gets a definite thumbs up ;) But it's just chock-full of tricks, including a sort of reverse candle lift, with John in a Besti squat and Kyoko holding on, perpendicular to him and parallel to the ice. It just left our jaws on the ground and suffice it to say, these two keep improving by leaps and bounds every year. What I was thinking was that they were sort of becoming like Isabelle & Lloyd as pros, with huge crowd-pleasing tricks that are leaving them as audience favourites. The program starts off right off the bat with spunk and speed and doesn't let up till the end. Definitely a highlight!

Jitter Bug - Kurt Browning
Now, I don't have the aversion to props that a lot of people do, namely because I missed so many skating specials during pro skating's heyday that included them, but I'm also not an especially huge fan of them. However, I did not mind Kurt's use of them. Admittedly, I'm a Kurt fan and can be entertained by just about anything he does, but I found that the way the props were incorporated into the program made it flow and didn't make them seem like they were a means to an end. You really got the sense of "adventure" that came with the magic box. Kurt was hamming it up as usual and was also a crowd favourite. I can't really remember specific details because I was just busy sitting back and enjoying it :)

There was some transition here, according to my pics, but I really don't remember it at all!

TKO - Steven, Todd, David, Alexei, John
I can't remember specifics of this one either, surprise surprise! However, I must say that even though it wasn't quite up to par with "Studz" (which, let's face it, nothing probably will ;)), I enjoyed it very much, moreso than the broom number last year (as fun as that one was, I just found the music too monotone to keep up with the tricks the guys were doing!). I'm really loving how the producers et al feel it's necessary to have an all-guys number every year. It's about time they get recognition ;) Anyway, moving right along. The guys were dressed up as newsies (and looking fine too, I might add), and the number seemed to involve some "fighting", with various punching movements (actually, looked a little more like kickboxing to me, but just the same!) done to the music. At one point, the guys sort of skating all together, holding onto one another in line, and I think they were each supposed to lean back and one by one "drop" to the ice completely straight (like a stick), in line, then John would weave through them (I know, hard to explain, but I tried my best). But there seemed to be some mishap and it resulted in them all sort of crashing onto the ice in a pile -- we weren't sure if it was supposed to be like that or not (and it worked either way ;)). However from the looks on their faces and the cracking up they were doing, we guessed that was not how it was supposed to look like, and sure enough, they redid that part in retakes perfectly ;)

Raindrops Will Fall - Sarah Hughes
This is another number I don't remember a whole lot of (which appears to be my line of the day). This was the first time I'd seen Sarah live, and it was quite lovely. She's obviously still working to get some of her skills back, but for someone who was off the ice for a year, she did a great job (I know I certainly couldn't look that good after being away so long). She just has this smoothness over the ice, and good edges, that totally make you forget about jumps. Great spirals and spins as well. And by this point I was noticing a theme with the "hip" music that SOI seems to be going for this year ;)

There was a transition here where Todd came out with a bouquet of flowers, and Sarah acted surprised and flattered. Then the voice over went "he loves me, he loves me not", and I think at the end the bouquet changed colours or something like that. Sorry about the vagueness ;)

If I Could - Elena Berezhnaya & Anton Sikhuralidze
Another beautiful, classic program from Elena & Anton. This is another pair that I've found has flourished as pros. They're really coming into their own and have such flow over the ice. Again, I unfortunately cannot recall specifics except that it was in the same vein as "Let Me Fall" in terms of movement. It just had a very sweet feel to it! Made me forget that it was Michael Bolton singing ;)

Radar Love - Jamie Sale & David Pelletier
This was the second time I've seen this -- the first was at Isabelle & Lloyd's farewell show in Montreal -- and it was even more fun this time around. They just ooze so much heat and well, fun, in this. I didn't think they (especially Jamie) could get any more into the program than they already had but sure enough, they topped themselves. And you can tell that it was choreographed by Tuffy & Doug with all the sassiness in it. They just don't let up throughout and keep the energy going. Can't say enough about it :)

The transition here was very effective. I forget who exactly was in it, other than I think Sarah and Steven, but they came out in the red costumes, with what appeared to be oversized pocketwatches (in any case, long strings with a round object on the end ;)), swinging them back and forth and trying to hypnotize the audience. "You are getting very sleepy..." and gradually moving to "You will buy Stars On Ice merchandise... lots of it" and "you will buy tickets to next year's show" etc., which of course had everyone laughing. Then they said "you will watch us while not noticing what's going on at the other end of the rink", and of course, everyone turns back and sees Alexei hanging by the ropes for his number. Very clever!

Passion (The Feeling Begins) - Alexei Yagudin
Alexei spends what seems to be several minutes hanging by white sheets from the ceiling, doing various acrobatic moves that left the audience gasping. I can't believe how much work must have gone into that to get it just right. I don't remember the rest of the number itself, although it did remind me a bit of "Winter". I liked the footwork down the ice at the crux of the drum part of the music.

Ride of Life - Cast
("Who Are You", "My Generation", "Behind Blue Eyes", "Magic Bus", "Love Reign O'er Me")
OK, first of all, I love The Who, so that right there got me excited when I heard the opening strands of "Who Are You". The theme of this is that they're on a roller coaster -- at various parts, they'd be paired off two by two, in a line, and throw their arms up in the air and go "WHOOO!". There's so much going on at once that it's impossible to catch it all! What I really enjoyed is how Kyoko and John were "showcased" in it, considering they've only got one solo. In the "Love Reign O'er Me" portion, the cast all have umbrellas, except for Kyoko and John, and it literally starts "raining" on the ice. Everyone is safe and dry except for Kyoko & John, and at the end, after their own little solo, they take shelter under everyone else's umbrellas.

Mr. Blue Sky - Sarah, Steven, Todd, David, Alexei, John
Can't recall much about this one either except that it was very lighthearted.

Amazing Grace - Yuka
I was very pleasantly surprised that Yuka got a second solo. This one is much more "classic" Yuka. Wonderful, wonderful edging -- you cannot hear a sound when she skates by. Just a very graceful, elegant, understated performance. Very much in the same vein as "Misty" or her program from Hallmark in 2002. And as a silly note, her dress looks basically just like the one for Misty, except white instead of lilac ;)

Come Back To Bed - Steven
I LOVED this. Steven is great in his fast, fun numbers (like Are You Gonna Be My Girl), but I love this somewhat sultry number. He just conveys the music so well, he's got such an innate sense of musicality and obviously "feels" the music (I hate using expressions like that, but it's just so true). It's just smooth in that it seems like the music was meant for him. I'm so glad Steven is back full-time!

Step-Sisters - Steven, Elena, Kyoko, Yuka, Jamie
This transitions right from Steven's number. Someone hands him a jacket and glasses and a paper, and the girls come out in colourful (almost neon-coloured) costumes that look like they're supposed to be oversized Barbie/doll dresses, or maid outfits, or something. Steven's like the "Charlie" to their angels, so to speak, and the voiceover is basically saying how the girls should be prim and proper and this and that. Very Stepford-Wives-like. Then they "break out" and take off the poofy dresses to reveal black sparkly form-fitting dresses, and the music changes to the Eurythmics (which gained SOI major bonus points to me ;)). I was so glad there was an all-girls number because as much as I love the guys, I thought it was about time the girls got equal screen time. There were lots of spins and jumps in unison and just a lot of action all around. There was a sort of "girl power" message to it. I liked it!

Todd's transition was next. He (well, the voiceover) was introducing "the world's smallest performer", and Todd held the microphone to his hand -- it was a flea! The flea sings, and then Todd accidentally claps his hands or something to that effect, and unfortunately the flea is no more. It's very sad ;)

Super - Kurt
Part 2 of his first progam. Again, I was entertained by this and just captured by the mood and childlike quality of it. Kurt just seems like a big kid out there, and has the audience in the palm of his hand. I couldn't believe that he did a double axel right over the box! He also pulled some Gia Guddat-esque moves having the skates on his hands and skating around like that. Definitely impressive!

I believe the next transition was here. A handful of the cast members came out as the "funeral march" was playing, all sobbing and crying. We found out they were in mourning for the flea ;) At the end, David was weeping very audibly, and turned back to ring out his hankie... and a huge amount of water dripped out. Silly but funny nonetheless ;)

Dance Mix - Elena & Anton
This number was FANTASTIC. Also a highlight for me. Who knew they could dance like that?! I never thought I'd see the day where Elena & Anton would be skating to Usher or Britney Spears, or conversely the Chicken Dance, let alone all in the same program! It was again just a whole lot of fun, and they get so into it. Anton was a riot as the "gangsta" ;)

There was a transition next with I believe Jamie, Yuka and Kyoko dressed up in sort of showgirl-like costumes, with huge feathers, tophats and masks. I don't remember what exactly they did except Alexei was involved.

Shout - Alexei
This is a sort of "fluff" number that got the audience clapping and moving right along with him. Also included a part where he sits on an audience member's lap -- that night, the lucky recipient was Daria Grinkova ;)

Next up, another transition. Four skaters come out dressed in red robes (monk-style), seemingly brewing something in center ice, huddled together. There's mist coming up which was a very cool effect. Then there's lightning, and the rink goes dark for a second, and when the lights come back on, Jamie & David are standing at center ice again with the mist coming up. It was a very cool way to move into them.

Who Wants To Live Forever - Jamie & David
When Jamie posted at their site that they were using this number again this year, I was a little surprised, but I am so glad that I got to see this number live, finally. They have new black costumes for this one, with what appears to be deep purple crosses on the front of the costumes. From the very moment they begin, they project such intensity and tension into the program. It was just so fluid and such a departure from their first number and how we're used to seeing them. There were some slight choreography differences from last year. Gone is the Orchid lift and now in its place is a sort of candle lift, except Jamie is rested on the back of David's shoulders (as opposed to say Kyoko & John's, where Kyoko sort of rests on John's chest/front shoulders). Extremely impressive. Also, at the end, they took out the spiral where Jamie breaks off and does a spiral around center ice with David in the middle. I, along with my friends, was waiting for Jamie's spiral to take a picture, and we kept waiting, and then they went and changed it! I also have to add that I *adore* the dancing part in the middle. Again, they just ooze intensity. I really can't wait to see this one again. It wasn't my favourite program last year, and I didn't always get the extreme accolades it got (it's not that I didn't like it, it just wasn't my favourite) but after seeing it at SOI, I just can't wait to be able to see it again to notice things I missed while having my head stuck behind the viewfinder of my camera. Of the performances I've seen of this (on TV), I think this was the best I've seen it skated!

Over The Rainbow - Sarah
Purely superficial note -- Sarah's dress looked like it was made of the same material that Jamie & David's former Who Wants To Live Forever costumes were made of ;) At least they're the same colour ;) White-to-grey. This was another soft program, and unfortunately it sort of blends into the other number to me. It was very calm but it went along perfectly to the mood of Eva Cassidy's version of the song (which is probably my favourite, aside from the original of course).

Forevermore - Todd
This is more "classic" Todd. Again, can't remember a whole lot! I believe this is the same number he did at Ice Wars though. I have to say I'm very impressed with the technical content Todd's going for, he's definitely not just resting on his laurels, and his spins are awesome as well!

There was a transition that led from here into the finale. David, John and I *think* one more of the guys come out carrying a big screen, and Kyoko is with them. Then the guys "fold" the screen over Kyoko, and when they open it up, she's completely changed from the red dress into the silver dress for the finale. During the show, they opened up a little too soon and Kyoko was still trying to get the red dress off and just threw it skating away, lol. It was very cute but she was upset ;) We didn't mind, it just meant more retakes!

Finale - Dream On
I love this song and I couldn't wait to see what the gang at SOI would do with it. It began with Kyoko coming out alone, doing a spin I believe and eventually John joined her, and one by one the rest of the cast.There was so much going on that it was impossibly to catch it all, but there were some awesome lifts done by the pairs that were blazing fast. Also, at center ice, the pair guys would stood around in circles with the pair girls in between each of them, and the girls were raised and sort of "flew" as they skated around the circle. Hard to describe but it was a very cool effect. At the end, it started "snowing" on the ice which was also extremely cool! It was just absolutely fantastic, I couldn't believe it was over already!

Retakes were fun, as usual! Steven came out and asked us all not to leave, and quite a few stayed. At one point someone yelled "I love you Steven" or something along those lines, and Steven joked "That's my mom!". Such a ham ;) During Anton and Elena's first retake, they were waiting forever for the music and Anton decided to serenade the audience by lipsynching to Michael Bolton. The guy is a riot ;)

My overall impression was that SOI is back and better than it's been in years -- and I've thoroughly enjoyed the past two years. The transitions just wove in and out so well and they were genuinely funny and clever. And you could tell how they related to the theme.

Also, there really were no numbers that I did not enjoy. Usually, every year there are one or two numbers at least that I could have done without, whether they are solos or transitions or what have you. But this year, I thoroughly enjoyed each and every moment. The show just absolutely flew by, and when we saw Todd come out for his last number, we couldn't believe it was over already!

Another thing I have to say is that I think they introduced Sarah into the cast very well. I was scared that this would become "The Sarah Show" or that they'd try to make the show "younger" or "hip" to fit into her age group, but I think that they went the other way around, and Sarah's maturity was called upon instead. While she was used in quite a few transitions, I think that's more because she's the lone full-time single lady in the cast. I found that they blended her in very well and while she is the reigning Olympic gold medallist, her "star" shines just as brightly as anyone else's. Kudos to both her and SOI :)