Stars on Ice
Kurt in SOI
Creative Team

Stars on Ice Review - Portland, ME - April 12, 2003

written by Tina

Figure it's about time to sit down and write a review of the Portland show on April 12, 2003. This review will probably be less detailed than usual, since I was extremely focused on getting photos and didn't actually *watch* the show that carefully. Of course, in one of the ironies of my life, unbeknownst to me, my manual focus was on the entire first act so I didn't actually get good photos out of it =P.

As most people know, the Portland stop is the last stop on the U.S. tour. The skaters have a long tradition of playing pranks and doing all sorts of goofy stuff at this stop, though they did break with this tradition for Scott Hamilton's last show a few years ago. This show was no different, though it did feel like they kept the number of pranks pretty minimal. Maybe the new cast hasn't quite gotten into the swing of things yet? Or maybe I'm just imagining more pranks than there were at previous shows, since I haven't seen any other Portland show than Scott's farewell.

Just as a point of reference, my seats for this show were in the 5th row, center ice, on the opposite side of the ice than I sat for two previous shows, so it was a nice new perspective.


Opening Number: The Great and Powerful Oz

Anyway, as the usual string of pop faves (in this case, what sounded like remakes of Beatles songs) faded away, and the opening chords of Ozzy Osbourne's instrumental music resounded through the arena, you could feel a buzz of excitement from the audience, even before the lights went down. The Portland crowd was definitely an enthusiastic one, ready to cheer and enjoy everything the skaters put before them. As each skater made his/her entrance, the crowd roared, with (if I remember correctly) some of the biggest roars going to Kurt. This opening number doesn't have the same group interaction dynamic as previous opening numbers did, and I miss that, but at the same time there's no denying that it carries a certain charged energy and tension that more laid back openings like "Let's Get It On" and "Ice Cream" (going way back) didn't. The music is driving, the tempo is fast-paced, and the skaters are everywhere, doing their moves at high-speed. Power, indeed. A great start!

Born to be Wild - Alexei Yagudin

The music began shifting into Born to be Wild as Alexei pulled his gloves from his back pocket and the other skaters skated off into the tunnel. This time, a crew member came out with Alexei's jacket. The guy seemed to be having fun sliding around on his shoes on ice, I think even executing a bit of a turn/spin at one point. I wasn't sure, but I *think* they only did this for this show - I noticed Kurt still standing by the entrance to the tunnel watching and laughing, and he gave the crew member a high five when he came back in. This program was its typical high-energy, pandering to the crowd self. I did notice what I thought were some variations in the choreography since the Oakland/San Jose shows. Alexei had this whole extended section by the seats to the right of the tunnel (facing the tunnel) where he did pushups on the ice and partially stripped off his jacket that I swear wasn't there before (since I sat in those seats in Oakland). All in all, a fun, energetic, but fluffy program.

Bed of Roses - Kyoko Ina & John Zimmerman

I still think the transition between Alexei and I&Z's programs is one of the prettiest in this show (partly b/c there aren't that many transitions of this sort). The dimmed lighting, and the quiet, smooth nature of the choreography, as Alexei leads Kyoko through some beautiful spirals and spread eagles is just wonderful. It's also a part I have to watch b/c the lighting is all wrong for taking photos ;). This is a really nice program for I&Z. They've really gotten good at conveying and sustaining the mood of the music and choreography. The only oddity I noticed is that in the side by side jump, I *think* John may have been one revolution short of Kyoko. Either that, or their jumps just don't match that well. Beautiful program otherwise though.

Come Fly With Me - Jamie Sale & David Pelletier

I think either Kyoko or John dropped something at the end of their program, because when the lights went down, Kyoko was desperately looking for something on the ice. She was still out there and heading back when the spotlight came up on David at center ice - she almost skated right into the spotlight, but quickly skidded around it, and headed off at top speed. David seemed to take it right in stride, watching her amusedly and then either waving or blowing a kiss at her as she disappeared off the ice. This program is a great deal of fun, and one strong feeling I get from Jamie and David out there on the ice is that they really really enjoy what they're doing. The opening bit with David bopping alone to the music is fun, and they carry off the lighthearted choreography with great aplomb. Highly enjoyable.

Channel 1 Suite - Todd Eldredge

This lighter feel was continued, albeit with the energy level up a notch, with Todd's Channel 1 Suite. My comment when he stepped out on the ice and the music and lighting began for this program? "This program is *impossible* to photograph!" A bit of exaggeration perhaps, but the fact remains that Todd never stops from the get-go. He's always in motion at high speed around the rink, whether it's doing long powerful crossovers, spins, or sequences of footwork. He also seems to be really into what he's doing, skating with a huge smile on his face and seeming to enjoy the feedback from the audience that he gets. I still get a bit thrown off when this program shifts style in the middle, but overall this is a nice (if frustrating from a photographic standpoint) program from Todd.

Blues in the Night - Katarina Witt, Gorsha Sur, John Zimmerman

A shift in mood as the temperature in the arena went up a couple degrees with Katarina's entrance. I always get a kick out of the bit where Katarina flirts a little with Todd, who seems ready to go after her (but gives up a little too quickly) when he's flung aside by Gorsha and John, Katarina's two protective bodyguards =). This program definitely has the feel to me of a flirtatious and coy woman who is both reined in and showcased by her two overprotective bodyguards. Katarina definitely has fun playing this role - you can see it in her smile, the look in her eye, and body language. What I really enjoy about her in this number is that it feels a bit tongue-in-cheek on her part. She's very aware and very amused by the image she's presenting, and is sort of making fun of herself a little while having a good time. Gorsha and John (especially Gorsha) are hilarious as well, especially when they're staring down the audience member Katarina just flirted with (who was a middle-aged man who looked a bit stern but gave a cute little wave at Katarina as she backed off =)).

OverCome - Alexei Yagudin

Overcome is still a wonderful program from Alexei, still one of my favorites, but this time around I didn't feel the same intensity in the air as I have on previous occasions of watching this program. I don't know if it's because I was trying so hard to get photos of the black costume with dark lighting (and just realizing there was something screwy about my focus) or if it's b/c Alexei himself was not projecting the intensity as strongly. It occurs to me to wonder if he'll be doing 2 programs or replacing this one with something else in Canada, since he did Overcome in Canada last year. At any rate, strong choreography from Alexei, and he's still doing that 3-3-2 combo. Quite impressive.

I'm Your Man - Jenni Meno & Todd Sand

Ya know, Alexei really doesn't have a very good reason to reject Jenni's rose, except maybe he knows Todd's coming out ;). Jenni's gotten really good at playing up the dejected rejected girl, hopefully offering her rose to people, and the audience is very responsive, with loud"awwws" emanating from all corners of the arena. My favorite part about this program, though, has got to be Todd. The guy is a goof, and he loves playing one. This time, when he came out, he was wearing these dorky glasses that I'm pretty sure he doesn't normally wear (Portland Prank #1?). Also, when Jenni is standing at center ice with her rose, either Todd or someone in the audience behind him yelled "I'll take it!" but she didn't respond. This is an exceptionally cute number, and a very nice departure for Jenni & Todd from their typical slow love song numbers. I also think it actually suits Todd's personality better. The choreography is interesting, and different, and the characterization is great. The only major mistake of the evening, unfortunately, occurred in this program when Jenni fell out of the landing of her throw axel. Still, lots of fun overall!

How Do You Keep the Music Playing - Kurt Browning

This was probably one of the best performances of this number I've seen live from Kurt. Absolutely gorgeous and flawless, with sweeping edges and jumps that came out of nowhere, up, neat revolutions, and back down again with confidence and smooth landings. You can totally tell that Kurt pours his heart into this performance, from the expressions on his face to the body language in the choreography. Though I'm still not incredibly fond of the music, it's growing on me, and I can appreciate how well Kurt and Sandra have utilized every beat and transition in the song to present a choreographic highlight and carry the mood and interpretation of the piece. All the edgy work Kurt does in this number is beautiful - the Ina Bauer, the spread eagle (ok that's on flats, I think), etc. Footwork is less than usual but great where it is. And I still just love his opening sequence of edges and footwork that just floats up into a gorgeous double axel and out. Absolutely beautiful performance. I'm glad Kurt put something serious in to counterbalance the comedy of the other program. It's good not to let yourself get pigeonholed =).

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

Kurt himself broke the mood set by the previous program by starting to dance at center ice to the swing music starting up for Power Play. He made his way off the ice, exchanging high fives with Todd on his way out (I think). I was rather surprised to find Todd coming over right in front of us to pick up the microphone (b/c I'm dumb and didn't realize that was the mike stand). He smiles right into the audience while he's retrieving the microphone and starting his lip syncing. This program is probably the one I remember the least of since it's exceedingly difficult to decide which of the two pairs to take a photo of. Apparently, the tech guys swapped in a voiceover done by Kurt somewhere in the middle, so that Todd found himself lip syncing to Kurt's voice - I didn't notice this, but was told about it later. What I do remember about this program was the sheer display of great pairs skating. Both pairs are quite exceptional. The feeling of this number, to me, in some ways evoked a more subdued version of the opening number. They didn't go for colorful lights, just a spare white light. Simple costumes, music that just keeps going, and a fast pace to all the moves. It's particularly fun when the pairs are both on the ice at the same time, first doing moves slightly offset to each other, and then finally doing simultaneous moves. It's like, they start off with their own individual styles and moves, separated by time and space on the ice, and gradually move closer and closer together, until they're skating together, in unison, finally coming together for that (albeit slightly cheesy) hand slapping at the end. Story telling through music and choreography. Gotta love that.

At the end of Act I, Kurt came back out in his HDYKTMP costume to address the audience, telling us how the cast and crew of Stars on Ice love to help out off the ice in promoting ..what was it, literacy programs at the Girls and Boys Club of America throughout the country, visiting Girls and Boys Clubs and donating a portion of ticket sales from each show to the local Girls and Boys Club.


Studz - Jamie, Elena, Renee, Jenni, Kyoko
David, Kurt, Gorsha, Todd S, John, Alexei, Steven =)

Act II opened up with the high-energy high-fun peak of the night. Portland's performance was extra-fun for a particular reason, but I'll get to that later. The number opened with the girls making their way out in front of the on-ice seats to dance in front of the audience. This time, Elena was the closest to where I was sitting. It was fun watching her - she was much more into the dancing than I thought she'd be. The guys on the ice at the end seemed to get a real kick out of having the hats on their heads and watching these ladies dancing away for them. When the guys came out to get the girls, it seems there was a bit of horseplay going on - John's hat went flying and he had to spend some time trying to retrieve it with Kyoko on his back. He did manage to catch up with the others and deposit her in the tunnel on time. When the guys turned around in their line, it became obvious that they had been attacked by some strongly lipsticked-lips, leaving kissmarks all over their cheeks. This number featured the normal hijinks and fun, with the guys interacting in all sorts of fun ways. This time around, I got a great view of Kurt being thrown (by Todd?) into a rather high jump - the picture I got shows his legs bent up right around the level of Todd's waist midair. The definite highlight, though, was when the guys jumped off the ice at the end and started running down slapping people's hands. There was a rather enthusiastic dark-haired guy in a white t-shirt, jeans, and a cowboy hat, bouncing up and down at the end and happily slapping each of their hands, before jumping out onto the ice with them. Who was this? Why, Steven Cousins, of course! To the audience's great joy (there were a lot of cheers and whistles), Steven finished out the number with the rest of the cowboys, even stepping off the ice to do the butt-wiggle, and finishing off with the hat-hanging (with a huge grin on his face). That was a *lot* of fun to see, and a great preview, no doubt, to the Canadian tour =).

The Rest of Your Life - Katarina Witt

What do you do with all the energy in the arena generated by seven hot cowboys, tearing it up on the ice? Well, quench it, since you'll never be able to regain control of the audience if you don't ;). The high-energy, high-testosterone Studz was quickly followed by the introspective, subdued, yet passionate skating of Katarina Witt. Katarina's got a beautiful presence to her, and a precision of movement and skating that carries her nicely through her choreography. I like this program because it's not about vamping, sexy Katarina. It feels more mature, more thoughtful, reflective. You almost get the sense of watching Katarina skate alone on in an empty arena or on an empty pond. Beautiful program.

Miserere - Todd Eldredge

Beautiful program that started off a succession of beautiful programs. Next up was Todd Eldredge, skating to Miserere. My only two complaints about this program? The canned applause (since it seems he's using a live version of the music) is rather disconcerting, though I was amused to note that people seemed to be following its lead and actually applauding at that point even though Todd wasn't really doing anything in particular. Also, the music, to me, has too many false climaxes/crescendoes. There are several points where it builds and builds and hits a high point that would seem to signify the end of the program but then it keeps going and hits another false climax. Other than that, however, this program is absolutely wonderful, definitely my favorite of the two Todd does in the show. While it's fun to watch Todd let it loose, so to speak, in Channel 1 Suite, the passion and solemnity he infuses into Miserere is wonderful. Great choreography, great technical ability (it's neat to watch Todd spin, in particular), and just a great performance overall. Also, better costume =).

The Prayer - Renee Roca & Gorsha Sur

*The* pretty highlight of the night (not necessarily the highlight, but the best of the slower, beautiful programs). I absolutely love this program by Renee and Gorsha. Both Renee and Gorsha have a gorgeous quality to their skating - deep, precise edges, beautiful body position and line, and just wonderful carriage. It'd be wonderful just to watch them do simple stroking, edges, and crossovers all day. This program, however, goes way beyond that. Wonderful choreography that interweaves separated skating in unison with lifts and holds and connected skating effectively. Choreography that really evokes the feeling of the music. And both of them are just really deep into the emotion of the program and carry it off beautifully. Just a joy to watch.

Slippery Side Up - Kurt Browning

Now that they've got you floating along, tearing up at the beautiful programs that have come one after another, what better way to wake you up and shake things up than to throw Kurt into the mix? Every time I see this program I'm more and more struck by the difficulty and timing of what Kurt does out on the ice and off. I think the first time I saw this program it was like, ha ha funny slapstick comedy. Great characterization. Now I marvel at the one-footed footwork, the endless turns, the well-timed pratfalls, and the musical timing. It feels almost as if the song was written for the program, rather than the program being choreographed to the song. Absolutely brilliant. And it's wonderful how Kurt literally brings the audience into the performance. We've got interactive media. Now let's have interactive skating! =) Kurt's got the audience eating out of the palm of his hand in this number. When I finally put the photos up, take a look at the faces of the audience members around Kurt. Priceless =). At the end of this program, Kurt plays with the audience a little, directing the cheering on all sides and playing one side of the audience against the other. Finally, he brings his arms down, quieting everyone, so he can yell "HELP!!!" to bring the rope onto the ice. I have to say though - the last fall he takes as he's jerked off his feet and into the tunnel? Looked painful... Wonderful, funny stuff from Kurt.

Love on the Rocks - Kyoko Ina & John Zimmerman, Jenni Meno & Todd Sand, Renee Roca & Gorsha Sur

Still one of my favorite group numbers of the evening, I love how the program opens and closes with the skaters pacing around in a circle as the lights go up (or come down, as the case may be). There's a feel to this program that I just can't describe, that's encapsulated in the choreography and the music. Maybe a sense of subdued whimsy? Also, a great deal of cuteness going on. There's some very definite and very cute characters in this piece. Renee is obviously the bold, flirtatious one. Jenni is more demure. Kyoko is more standoffish. The guys are a bit less obvious - Todd has a degree of Jenni's reserve, John is a bit of the passionate one chasing after the object of desire, and Gorsha ...is a bit hard to pin down. It's fun to watch each couple's interactions, from Jenni and Todd's too cute for words bend at the waist kiss, to Renee coming onto Gorsha, to Kyoko rejecting John, as well as their interplay with each other when the couples trade partners for a while.

Mme. T After Hours - Elena Berezhnaya & Anton Sikharulidze

One thing I have to say - Anton LOVES playing Elvis. The joy and delight he gets out of being the character is so obvious from the moment he flings the sheet off (blinding Kurt momentarily, poor hapless janitor ;)). I'd say Elena is less into playing Marilyn but she's got a definite reserved sass and confidence in the character these days. This program is fun from the get-go, from the setup of the darkened museum after hours with Kurt, the janitor, putting the Elena wax figure in place, curiously peeking under to see what it looks like and dusting busily away, to the unveiling of the two characters and their subsequent interaction. The audience also really seemed to get a kick out of this program in Portland. Another thing to note - Anton started off this program in a pair of semi-goofy, semi-cool sunglasses to go along with the spangly Elvis costume. The two of them have a great interaction with each other, with Elena kind of leading Anton on and Anton being all cool and Elvisy. Lots of fun lifts and choreography here as well.

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

For some reason, this number just draws me in from the very first note, as the lights come up to reveal a very hot, smoking pair on the ice. Jamie and David have this charisma and chemistry that's undeniable. I can't see any other pair on the ice (with the possible exception of Hough and Ladret, only I don't think Ladret would be able to capture the passion quite like David does) who would be able to create this kind of effect. The red and black costumes, the lighting, and the music all help greatly to set the mood of this piece, but it's Jamie and David that really set things crackling. Even when doing technical moves like the triple? twist, the throw jump (don't remember what it was), the lifts, and that handstand (still very very cool), the two of them really sustain the feel of the program. I think that David does a superb job of showcasing Jamie while adding his own chemistry to the mix to underline Jamie's. Probably one of my favorite programs of the night.

Racing - Alexei Yagudin

I wish I could comment in detail about this program but I honestly don't remember it very well. Most of my attention was drawn to trying my best to get photos of it. One thing I can say - this program is extremely choreographed to the other side of the arena. The number of times Alexei did anything facing my side of the arena for any extended period of time can be counted on one hand...probably without using all the fingers. It's a great program - fast, high energy, fun choreography and great technical elements - but I just don't get into it like I get into Overcome or some of the other programs of the evening. Maybe it would have helped if I could have seen his face half of the time?

Finale: I Can't Stop - Cast

And so we come to the end of the show...it's hard to get sad that the show is coming to a close when the cast members seem to be having so much fun. I wouldn't say this is my favorite finale - I hold a special place in my heart for the multi-song finales that give each cast member a time in the spotlight - but it is a heck of a lot of fun and really puts a smile on my face. The skaters just seem so into it, and I find the choreography fresh and sharp. I'm going to guess that's A.C. Ciulla's influence, since it seems similar to the sharpness and difference in style that you could see in Strobe's Nanafushi a few years back, when he was around to help with the choreography. Kurt and Katarina definitely get into boogying down with each other at center ice - I normally primarily watch Kurt in group numbers anyway, but the two of them together just draw the eye. I did note that the other skaters seemed quite into it as well though. I'm glad David (?) pointed out the choreographic tie-in to Dirty Dancing in the A&E special, b/c that bit of choreography just seems that much neater (all of them going into standing lifts) with that knowledge. It's also fun watching Kurt and Alexei shaking away over at the end while the pairs are doing that =). I'm not a Will Smith fan, but I do like this song in the context of the finale. It's just so upbeat and keeps driving the finale forward. All through the season, we've been getting reports of some of the guys ripping their shirts open in the closing bow. This time, they didn't bother to wait that long... in the final pose in the circle, I definitely saw Gorsha with shirt wide open. Looking around, I noticed that at least Alexei, David, John, Anton, and possibly both Todd's (couldn't see them all) also had their shirts open. Quite amusingly, Kurt, who often is the instigator of the shirt ripping, didn't seem to realize what was going on. He came out of his pose, looked around, noticed the other skaters had their shirts open, quickly ripped his open, mugged at the audience, and then just as quickly buttoned himself up again. Many of the other guys kept their shirts open, Alexei among them. A great way to close the show!

When the show ended this time, a whole bunch of crew members came out (pushing Dave Hoffis, I think, in a chair) and hugged the skaters. It's obvious that they're all just this big family. Kurt eventually picked up a mike to address the audience, thanking us and talking about how much fun it was for all for all of them. He pointed out that without us, it'd just be them out there skating to an empty arena. He talked about how some of the skaters were going on to Canada but they were losing others after this show and that they loved them and would miss them (blowing a kiss, I believe). I forget all of what he said...but then he offered the microphone to the others..no one seemed to want to address the audience, though, being too busy hugging each other. After doing a "going once, twice.." Kurt said it was time to party and wished us all a good evening. And that was the end of the show, and the US tour for 2003!