Stars on Ice
Kurt in SOI
Creative Team

Stars on Ice Review - Oakland, CA - Jan. 10, 2003

written by Tina

First, a comment about our seats. We ended up in the exact same seats as last year - on-ice on the end of the skaters' tunnel, all the way in the corner to the left of the tunnel (if you're standing in the tunnel looking out). It was an interesting different angle to see the show from - most things were definitely oriented towards the side to the right of the tunnel (again, facing out from the tunnel) and moving towards that end of the ice, but there were some things, like the layout of skaters in "Love on the Rocks," that were more interesting to see from an end perspective.

I love getting to see this show several times, since I pick up things each time I didn't notice before (the fact that my eye is almost glued to my camera viewfinder doesn't help ;)). Oh, BTW, the ice was pretty crappy in Oakland - it looked almost cracked under the surface.


Opening - The Great and Powerful Oz

The opening begins with the opening chords of the instrumental Ozzy Osbourne song playing through the darkened arena. As I recall, Todd Eldredge first skates out in the dark, and then the spotlight comes up on him at center ice, to big cheers. The opening is not very ensemble-ish, with each skater coming out to do a separate spot (sometimes skating with or around a couple other skaters). I don't recall the exact order of skaters coming out, but I think most of the American skaters come out first - Todd, I&Z, M&S, R&S - followed by the two gold-medal pairs, who skate out together but break into separate moves down the ice, followed by Katarina, Kurt, and Alexei. Moves I recall from the opening - I&Z doing that move where she's standing on his legs leaning backwards while he's doing a Besti squat, both B&S and S&P doing lifts, but different ones (I'm sorry, I don't know the names of any of the lifts), S&P doing a move where he's in a spread eagle, holding her, who's got one leg up on his shoulder, the other hanging down in almost a split, while arching backwards...As I recall, B&S and S&P got huge cheers when they came out, as did Alexei and Kurt...and Todd when he first came out (though I couldn't tell how much of that was b/c the show was starting and how much was for him). Anyway, after the skaters line up down the ice, they're each introduced with a spotlight and introduction, and then break into a little group skating, eventually ending up with Alexei pulling on his black gloves, Kurt skating off to the tunnel to retrieve his jacket (and standing there waiting for his cue), and then Kurt tossing Alexei his jacket as Alexei breaks into...

Born to Be Wild - Alexei Yagudin

This number is totally Alexei playing to the audience. Lots of pointing and winking into the audience, total eye contact, and the audience definitely ate it up. If you compare this program to Alexei's other two programs in the show, it definitely doesn't stand up in terms of technical content or even interesting choreography (it's a lot more repetitive, though I'm not sure if that's b/c Alexei's trying to be equal opportunity to both sides of the arena ;)), but it's a fun way to get the show started, and really showcases how Alexei's got those showman skills.

Bed of Roses - Ina & Zimmerman

I like the transition between Alexei's program and Ina & Zimmerman's. It's a nice way to ease from the high energy fun of Born to be Wild to the more angsty (though still rock) ballad of Bed of Roses. I could also see it a lot better from the angle I was at last night. Kyoko skates out and skates with Alexei for a few moves, which mainly consisted of Alexei doing a spread eagle while Kyoko did a spiral or some similar edgy move, holding his hand...lights were low in this part, and they were skating in semi-darkness. It was a nice low key transition to John coming out. I definitely enjoy this program - I think I&Z get into the mood of the music very well, and they've got some really nice moves and bits of choreography. I remember the (candle?) lift they always do, where he holds her straight upside down with her head on his shoulder (somehow, I still haven't figured out where her head is - they were too far away), John doing a spread eagle with Kyoko kind of laid out over his feet, several lifts, death spiral, that pairs spin they do where she's facing the ice with her free leg straight up in the air, and he's got his leg up over her...I like the ending pose in this program, where John lifts her over his head, and then carefully lowers her so she's laying on him.

Come Fly With Me - Sale & Pelletier

This is a really cute, light, swinging program in which S&P do a nice job of conveying the upbeat freeness and lightness of the music. I think of the two programs they did, this is definitely my favorite one. David starts out alone on the ice, kind of dancing to the beat alone in the spotlight (I think he'd make a good singles skater) before being joined by Jamie out there on the ice. This program does a nice job of highlighting some of the accents of the music, with David lifting Jamie in time to "come fly with me" in a nice, easy manner. In this program, as well as their other program, it was nice to see the blend of good choreography and attention to the details of the in-betweens, along with a good variety of pairs elements. I think S&P are a great addition to the pairs world, and I'm glad they're in SOI for the next however many years.

Channel 1 Suite - Todd Eldredge

All I can say about this program is - wow, is this guy fast! Skates fast, spins fast, never stops moving...This is a nice program that showcases Todd's speed (duh ;)), footwork, jumps, spins, etc, but is an *incredibly* frustrating program because even without heads in front of me, I found it impossible to get pictures of it =). One of these days I should just give up and enjoy it. The music for this program does a nice job of continuing the upbeat, high energy vibe from S&P's program. And Todd is obviously enjoying himself out there and really connecting with the audience.

Hotter than Blue - Katarina Witt, Gorsha Sur, John Zimmerman

Another cute transition, where Todd is finishing up alone on the ice, when Katarina skates out in a kind of confident, flirty manner, while Gorsha and John come out and stand with their arms crossed near the tunnel. When Todd reacts to Katarina's presence (as I recall, kind of double take and starting to go after her). Gorsha and John skate out, grab him by his arms, and keep him from going after her, and then kind of propel him towards the tunnel. The first time I saw this program, I thought, oh Katarina flirting with and skating with two guys. The second time, I got more of an impression of Katarina as kind of a diva flanked by her two bodyguards. Yes, she did a lot of individual skating with each of them in a flirty manner, but the feeling I got this time off of what they were doing was more the protective (like when Katarina starts flirting with a guy at the end of the ice, and they insert themselves in between, crossing their arms and looking sternly at the guy) and showcasing role (lifting her between the two of them and turning so everyone saw her). There was no sense of contention between the two guys or anything like that. Of course, I could be entirely wrong in this interpretation (esp given the title they gave the number), and I might come up with a different idea on Sunday. I enjoyed it though - it was a fun, nice showcase for Katarina, a nice chance to see Gorsha and John out on the ice, and a number with a lot of personality.

Over Come - Alexei Yagudin

If I were to sum this program up in one word, it'd probably be intensity. Alexei skates this program with awesome intensity, throwing himself into the choreography, the footwork, the jumps completely. I think this is probably my favorite of all the programs I've seen Alexei skate live (not that I've seen that many). I've now seen it several times, from either CSOI or SOI, but it still draws me in everytime. The guy is amazing, there's no two ways about it, and the choreography is just awesome. Wow.

I'm Your Man - Jenni Meno & Todd Sand

I like how they seem to be trying to ease the transition between drastic changes in music this year by doing a skater transition. Here, Jenni skates out on the ice as Alexei finishes bowing and cutely offers her rose to him, but then gets disappointed when he hesitates to take it. As he skates off the ice, she tries to offer the rose to someone else, but then sighs in disappointment again (ignoring someone to her right who yelled "over here Jenni!" =)), finally standing in the middle holding the rose forlornly. Around this time, Todd skates out to her left, and starts trying to attract her attention - as she looks at him, the rose she's holding in front (with her hands near her waist) droops (to big laughter from the audience). As the music starts, Todd skates by her and snatches the rose from her with his teeth... This is a really cute program and I really enjoy it. Especially in the beginning, I really get the impression of Todd trying his best to prove that he's Jenni's "man" and winning her over, and her kind of being resigned to being with him (but not incredibly thrilled). One bit of choreography coordinated to the music I missed before was that when Jenni is doing a handstand on Todd's feet, and he parts her legs, it's to the words "if I were a doctor, I'd examine every inch of you." I've seen some disparaging comments about this move on some newsgroups, but I honestly think it's an amusing, but quickly done so you almost don't notice it bit of choreography. I think Christopher Dean definitely captured the quirkiness of the music in his choreography and that Meno & Sand do a great job performing it.

How Do You Keep the Music Playing - Kurt Browning

The opening moves to this program are just beautiful. Kurt skates out, doing some turns and building speed, and then up into a gorgeous double axel (I think) with a beautiful flow out of the landing. As the guy sitting to my right said, "wow, he's just so fluid". On second (live) viewing, I definitely appreciate and enjoy this program a lot more. Helps that Kurt definitely seemed more committed to it and more into it than he did in Lake Placid. Not a perfect performance - hand down on the landings to two triple toes at the end, but beautiful all the same. Other moves I recall - a beautiful delayed double?? (on the other end, wasn't sure) salchow (he distinctly went up straight, pause, and then pulled in for quick revolutions), turns into a nice triple toe on my end of the ice (towards my right), Ina Bauer that nicely highlighted the music, that spread eagle on flats (that headed straight towards me - much scrambling to try to get a picture of it), some of that choreography that either Sandra or Kurt seems to like to incorporate into Kurt's slow programs these days (head bend backwards or to the side)... I was trying to figure out why even though I enjoy this program a lot now, I still don't like it as much as say, Solitaire (even though it has some of the similar moves) and I think it's the music. I think I enjoyed the way Solitaire built, musically, and how they utilized the choreography in response to it. I felt like "How Do You Keep the Music Playing" would have these minor swells but then come back down again, so none of the builds (until the last one) really had a good payoff. Nonetheless, this was a really beautiful program, skated wonderfully by Kurt, and I look forward to seeing it again and appreciating new nuances.

Kurt got a bit of a kick out of milking the applause and playing to the audience as he danced around and waited for Todd to come out for Power Play. From milking the applause, to some nice dancing/footwork, to slapping Todd's hand (I think) to transition over to Todd skating around, doing some of his own footwork and possibly a jump before going to pick up the microphone...

Power Play - Elena Berezhnaya & Anton Sikharulidze, Jamie Sale & David Pelletier, Todd Eldredge

Just in case there was ever any doubt, that voiceover by Todd is prerecorded, and he's just lipsyncing his part. Which makes sense, b/c the effectiveness of that piece would be blown if he flubbed his lines one day, whereas most people in the arena probably wouldn't notice if he got off track and didn't sync up every now and then. There's a kind of odd..spareness? to the staging of this number which I didn't entirely get until I was talking to my friend Wendy after the show. If she writes a review, she could probably expound on it more, but she was speculating that this program was staged to resemble eligible skating, with the wash of white light over the whole ice. My personal impression of this number is that it's an exhibition of pairs elements, and the number that really embodies Sandra's Power theme. You've got the two pairs out there, doing their technical elements at the same time, you've got Todd's narration about judging, power, etc, the implied themes of the Olympics and the dream of the Olympics... I don't really see the Power theme in evidence anywhere else in the show but it's clearly in this one. Having seen this program again, I have to say - while it's really fun and neat to see all that pairs skating done by the two top pairs in the world, and nice to see them skating together (though they never really come together until the end), it's probably my least favorite group number. From a choreographic standpoint, the other three hold a lot more interest for me.


Studz - Cast except Anton and Katarina

The opening of this ensemble provided us with a really cute, unexpected bonus. As you guys know, it opens with the girls coming out in sparkly tops, cowboy hats, and shoes, to dance in the audience, before gathering together at the end of the ice. Well, last night in Oakland, I think Daria was sitting on a folding chair at the end of the on-ice seats where the girls gather (I'm pretty sure it was her but I was too far away to see for sure). When Jamie ran by her, she waved at her like, come join us! so we were treated to Daria dancing along with the rest of the girls and getting the choreography down pat, before the guys came and swept the girls away. It was such a cute, funny moment, and I say - that girl can dance! =) (shortly after this program ended, I saw Daria go backstage - I wonder if that was preplanned?)

One of these days I should give up on photographing Studz and just sit back and watch it. There's so much to see, and so much you can miss if you're following the action through the viewfinder. The audience *definitely* loves this number, you can hear the cheering, whooping, and whistling throughout it. This was another number where sitting on the end might have put me fairly far from the action, but it also gave me a better chance of watching more of the guys and see what they're doing. The guys broke off into two groups several times, with two pairs guys and one single guy per group. These two groups would do the same or similar things in opposite directions down the ice, such as having Alexei and Kurt sitting on the shoulders of two other guys going down the ice, or when they broke off in two groups and the two guys propelled Alexei or Kurt away from the group down the ice (Kurt doing a cute Besti?? down the ice while bopping along and interacting with the audience before almost colliding into the other two guys, Alexei doing...not a Besti, not sure what he was doing b/c I wasn't looking but I remember it was different than what Kurt was doing). Or they paired off, with Kurt getting thrown into a waltz jump, flipping over each other's backs, doing back to back spread eagles or Bestis, etc... the audience at the end and side of the ice also get a great treat when the guys step off the ice and dance in front of them. This group of screaming (REALLY LOUD) teenage girls got the treat of their lives when the guys stepped off in front of them...I didn't see b/c I was trying to take a picture but I have a strong suspicion those guys were in strong danger of being molested when they did that. Just for the record...in the ending pose...Todd lost his hat this time but everyone else kept them on.

The Rest of Your Life - Katarina Witt

One of the few big transitions in tone that didn't have a corresponding skater transition (not sure how they could have done one smoothly anyway)... the energy level in the arena definitely dropped a few notches for the slower song. It was almost like they wanted to put a damper on the female fans after Studz ;). Anyway, contrast between programs aside, this was a really nice, elegantly done program by Katarina. It was especially nice seeing this program after last year's..contrast between last year's "strong woman scorned" and this year's more romantic soft number. Katarina does both quite well. She also landed some nice double jumps - axel, toe loop, etc...

Miserere - Todd Eldredge

As nice as it is to see skaters stretch and try out different styles, sometimes they have undeniable strengths in certain areas and it's nice to see them do that well. Miserere undoubtedly plays to Todd's abilities as a strong, dramatic skater. As fun as it is to see him really connecting with the audience in his first number, the introspective interpretation of this number really shines. I also like the music a lot better this time around =). And Todd's spins...wow.

Prayer - Renee Roca & Gorsha Sur

*Definitely* one of the highlights of the evening. Roca and Sur are such gorgeous skaters - lifts, holds, etc aside, just watching them do simple strokes across the ice, or edges, or crossovers is just beautiful. Posture, position, deep edges, smoothness, glide... Add beautiful music and great choreography to that mix, and it's just magic. I love that they brought back one of my favorite moves of theirs for this program, where Gorsha spins around with Renee draped over his arm - how he supports her like that without her even trying to hold on is just breathtaking to watch every time. I also loved the way the choreography varied between them skating apart and skating together in a way that really went well with the music. And I have to confess, I like the simple ending pose - I love "Everything Must Change" but it always bothered me how they had to switch between several different ending poses before settling on the final one. Beautiful, beautiful program. *So* glad they're back.

Russian Folk Medley - Ekaterina Gordeeva

Or at least, that's what I think it's called, given that she's not listed in the program, the program notes, and wasn't mentioned anytime until she actually appeared on the ice (so much for the idea that the spot in the opening where Scott skated in LP was for the guest star - I don't even remember what they did then). A voice came up saying "please welcome our special guest, Ekaterina Gordeeva" or something like that. Katia got a really nice huge cheer when she came out. I realized as I watched her that I'm not sure I've seen her live from seats that close to the ice before =). This was a nice treat. I wasn't as fond of this program as some of the stuff she's done in the past (Fragile, the Gershwin number, etc) but it was really cute and she skated it well. I remember that she did some nice double jumps as well. It was nice to see Katia skating in Stars on Ice again, but it was just odd to have her appear for the one solo spot, and not be in any ensembles, the opening, or the closing (she came out after the bows).

Slippery Side Up - Kurt Browning

The audience adored this number, laughing out loud in a way I don't recall hearing since Kurt's Improv number. I remember the people next to me chuckling at his antics =). From my angle, Kurt was fairly far away for most of the program, but I could see some things more clearly, like the fact that he definitely had his guards on during his first foray across the ice (and that just holding out the guards the way he does doesn't really inspire the person to take them ;) - I can't help but think *someone*'s got to retrieve those guards b/c I doubt he goes through a new pair of guards per show). He altered a bit of the choreography - when he pulls that white cotton puff or whatever it is out of his pocket and sticks it on his head, I think he keeps doing turns or footwork, whereas in Lake Placid I remember him holding a pose with it on his head with something held out in front of him. Some other highlights - when Kurt comes down the side of the ice, half on the boards, half on the ice, as he looks at the light opposite, he pulls on his suspenders to raise his leg over the lights which prompted a lot of laughs from the audience. I also don't remember him doing quite so many turns around the ice, to the point where I was sitting there going - good lord, how many turns has he done, and where the people next to me were like, he must be so dizzy! Footwork, character, were all incredible, and during that sequence of falls, I watched carefully and noticed how he always lands butt/lower-back first, right on the padding. I can't imagine how much experimentation it took to completely control his falls like that... I still find it incredible that he chooses to beat his body up like that every night, but at least he's got padding =). Fun, funny number =).

Love on the Rocks - I&Z, M&S, R&S

Probably my favorite ensemble number after Studz. What I enjoy about this program might be why so many people are saying it's a forgettable number though - it's subtle. You pick up new things every time you see it. For instance, I didn't really register that the three couples, while often doing the same thing, differed in their choreography in some crucial, yet consistent way. Their costumes (the guys', anyway) also reflected these differences. At certain points in the music, each couple would freeze in different positions reflecting what seemed to be different stages of relationships. Kyoko would fake-slap John (rejection), Renee would put her leg up on Gorsha's shoulder and look him straight in the face flirtatiously/challengingly (seduction?), and Jenni and Todd would bend forward at the waist and kiss each other in a rather cute innocent way (i guess relationship?). Correspondingly, John was in a casual t-shirt and jeans, Gorsha was in a more dressy white flowing shirt and nicer pants, and Todd was wearing basically a tux, which seemed to reflect the different stages of relationship and life. I also really liked how they opened the number with the light coming up on the six skaters skating in a circle, and closed on the three guys lying in the middle while the girls skated around them in a circle as the lights went down. The little bits where they kind of traded partners were fun as well. This program was definitely more dance-feeling than pairs. I really liked it, if you couldn't tell =).

Mme T. After Hours - Elena Berezhnaya & Anton Sikharulidze

This program, of course, opened with Kurt, still in Slippery Side Up guise, wheeling Elena out on a hand truck (while Anton makes his way out from the other end of the ice). Things I didn't notice in Lake Placid (or else are new additions) - when Kurt takes out his duster to "dust" Elena, his duster is preloaded with tons of dust and creates this huge cloud of dust around her head =). As he peeks under her sheet, Anton starts moving, causing Kurt to skate that way in curiousity, only to be frightened by Elvis throwing off his sheet (which conveniently lands in Kurt's arms ;)), causing him to shriek in dismay and run for it, grabbing the hand truck on his way out. The audience really cheered Anton's Elvis dancing, and he in return really got into it. I have to say though - why is it that the more I see this program, the more jarring the Marilyn music cuts get? I could have *definitely* done without any of that (partly b/c I find Marilyn's singing and boop boop's really annoying in their own right). Elena seems to be getting more into the Marilyn character, though, putting some sass into her movements, particularly at the beginning of the program. My only other problem with this program - I really don't like the new ending to "Hound Dog"...it feels hastily put together and kind of stuffed with stuff that doesn't quite flow as well as the early part of the program. I'm not clear why they changed it at all, since my memory of their performance at Gotta Skate was a good one...

Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin' - Jamie Sale & David Pelletier

A strong performance from Jamie and David. I think I missed the impact of this program the first time I saw it, but this time I really noticed how Jamie and David manage to capture and create a mood with this program. Yes, it's another one of those "sexy" routines done so well by Hough and Ladret before S&P, and choreographed by Sandra Bezic, but Jamie and David pull it off convincingly, with the right degree of intensity and charisma. I also got a lot better look at Jamie's handstand on David's arm, and I'm just astonished by it - his strength, her balance...how the heck do they do that?? This was also the program with a really nice triple? twist and I believe a throw something or the over (I can't tell with pairs throws what jumps they're supposed to be). Good stuff!

Racing - Alexei Yagudin

Another great performance from Alexei. The music for this program just grabs you and doesn't let go, and neither does Alexei. I'm not as fond of his "driving" motions and bits of choreography as the choreography from OverCome, but he (and Tatiana) definitely get points for interesting and different choreography. Great demonstration of Alexei's footwork and presentation and his connection with the audience. I remember one odd thing about this program - there was a jump he went up to towards the end that was definitely a triple and had a beautiful, solid landing, but for the life of us we couldn't tell what it was because the takeoff was so odd and the rotations a bit wobbly... he definitely picked with his left foot, but not behind him where he should have picked for a toe loop, and he seemed to pre-rotate the jump before he ever got off the ice. A triple toe-sal? I remember thinking, though, that the jump was a testament to his strength of will, since the takeoff and rotations were so messed up yet he landed it beautifully and solidly. Great program.

Can't Stop - Cast

Finally, we came to the time that every Stars on Ice fan dreads and looks forward to at the same time in the show - the finale. While I don't think this is the best finale they've done (this would make a great opening number), I really really enjoy it. High energy, great fast dancing, which admittedly, some skaters are better at than others, but they all give it their best and they've all gotten a lot better since Lake Placid. I can't help bopping along to the music, and I really love watching the skaters have as good a time as they seem to be having. The choreography for this number also has a lot of fun moments, such as the four guys (Kurt, Alexei, Todd, and David) going down the ice for their triple toes (and Todd veering way off the other way for his jump), the pairs coming out to do almost simultaneous (in time to the music) lifts, while the remaining guys and two girls are down at the end dancing around, when the skaters come around and end up with the four pairs doing lifts in a row while the remaining skaters skate in two lines behind, dancing around, the times when the skaters are together in a group, looking into the audience and dancing...Just a lot of fun, and a great, upbeat, high energy way to end the show. As for handshakes, got to shake Elena's hand (she's so small and so cute!) - Kurt almost made it to us but had to go to the middle for bows.

Overall impressions of the show on second viewing? Great show, overall quality of the skating, choreography, costuming, music, etc have all gone up. At the same time, a much more disconnected show with a lot less of an apparent theme tying it together. No muses, it seems little attempt at transitioning the styles smoothly in a consistent manner (though the transitions they did do were fun), ensembles that had little to do with each other except that they had a lot of pairs/dance in them... I'm not saying that past ensembles were all related but somehow this year's show felt more like a collection of exhibitions with some group numbers thrown in. If I were to sum it up in a single sentence, I'd say that the overall quality of the show has gone up, but at the same time the number of absolute standouts has gone down. Last year's show was a lot more uneven - definite low low low points, but also definite highlights (like Kristi and Denis skating to One Day I'll Fly Away or Kurt's Solitaire). This year's show felt a lot more even - low points and high points both have been smoothed out. Definitely worth going to, you won't be disappointed. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing it again.