Stars on Ice
Kurt in SOI
Creative Team

Stars on Ice Review - San Jose, CA - Jan. 12, 2003

written by Tina

Something odd happened this year in San Jose. Somehow, most of the lower bowl side seats sold out through advance order forms, within the first week or so of the show. In fact, apparently they got 450 advance forms the first *day*. The result? I got 16th row *off*-center seats, someone else I talked to later in the show got 18th row off-center seats, and both of us sent in the forms that very night or the next day. I haven't had seats *that* bad in ages. On the other hand, we all snuck onto on-ice seats (there were a few but not many open) during intermission, so I saw the second act from center ice, on-ice seats =). *such* a better view. I think I'm spoiled =).

On the other hand, despite the rash of advance orders, it doesn't seem like San Jose sold that many seats beyond that. The lower bowl sides were pretty much full up to the top. The end opposite the tunnel was full halfway up, with random people up into the corners. The end with the tunnel had some scattered people around the bottom of the section. And the upper level was filled maybe halfway up in the center sections, with pretty much no one in the off-center sections. Fuller than Oakland (which is not surprising since San Jose is Sunday afternoon and easier for most people in the Bay Area to get to) but not full.

Two other comments about San Jose before moving onto the show itself - the crowd was rather odd, in that they seemed enthusiastic (cheering when the lights went down before a skater came out in anticipation, cheering loudly for the skaters), yet no one in the on-ice section stood up when the skaters came over to shake hands, and there were basically no standing ovations. Go figure.

Opening - The Great and Powerful Oz

The more I think about the opening to this year's show in comparison to last year's, for instance, the more I can see how they differed the style with regards to the theme of the show. Last year's show was very much about the showgirl, and the opening number was much more dancey, much more showcasing the girls, and much more fluffy. The lighting, costuming, and choreography also more emphasized a nightclub-aspect. This year's show opening is much simpler, the music is a strong rock instrumental, and the choreography seems to emphasize the power of the movements more than anything else. The skaters are introduced almost one by one, doing a relatively clean interplay of technical elements, and the only group skating is relatively trapping-free. The final skating with the group of skaters in center moving in sync consists of relatively simple steps and little or no arm-movement. The lighting, as I recall, is simple - white spots or washes of light with little frill. It just lends a very different feel to the beginning of the show. I think the choreographers really wanted to let the audience know the show was different this year, right off the bat, which is why they chose to open with this and not "I Can't Stop", which feels a lot more similar to last year's opening.

Born to be Wild - Kurt Browning

Yup, Kurt Browning and not Alexei Yagudin. This time, Kurt goes over to the corner of the ice to pull on black half-gloves (the same as Alexei's? his own pair?), and Todd skates out to center ice to help him put on his jacket. Black leather jacket over blue shirt instead of pink shirt, and somehow that just seems to work better for me =). Having now seen this program done by Alexei twice, and Kurt once, I've concluded that this program is pure fun fluff. I can't remember the choreography well enough from Alexei's programs to know for sure if Kurt did the same or made up his own (there were definite similarities, but I think Kurt did add some of his own elements - I don't recall Alexei doing a handstand or stepping off the ice, for instance). I can't even remember Kurt's choreography that well after seeing it. This program definitely doesn't have much substance to it, but it's a fun way to kick off the show and really get the audience in the mood to see more skating. It was awesome getting to see Kurt do it as well. Both Alexei and Kurt do a great job with this program, and they've both got the funky rocking, audience interactive nature of it down, but their styles of skating and interaction are different enough that each makes the program their own. You don't get the feeling that Kurt is doing "Alexei" or vice versa. And I, personally, definitely don't complain about getting to see Kurt do 3 solo spots (or letting Alexei rest that hip so he can keep skating on tour!).

Bed of Roses - Ina & Zimmerman

Of course, since Kurt did Born to be Wild, he gets to do the interaction with Kyoko to transition between the two programs. While I liked the low-key lighting when sitting on-ice, from up in the 16th row it was almost too dark to see the two of them that well, which was a shame. One strong impression I did get, though, was that feeling of solicitousness and enjoyment that Kurt gives off when skating with another skater. He seemed to be enjoying skating with Kyoko and almost protective at the same time, and it was nice to see. Ina and Zimmerman had their usual nice performance to this program. I got a lot better view of the candle lift this time and finally figured out where her head was (bent on his shoulder) too =). The music is a bit of a dampener after the high energy fun of BTBW (there doesn't seem to be much consistency in tone of music from segment to segment of the show) but it's a nice program all the same.

Come Fly With Me - Jamie Sale and David Pelletier

It's kind of funny when you're watching a movie, caught up in the plot, and then a song comes up and suddenly you're thinking skating. Saw "Catch Me if You Can" last night and "Come Fly With Me" came on...and suddenly I'm seeing Jamie and David skating =). Just goes to show how they make the music their own in this program. Great, fun, program, skated solidly as usual.

Channel 1 Suite - Todd Eldredge

As I've said in two reviews before this - fast, fast, fast! Despite his great speed and ice coverage, though, the more I see this program, the more I just don't think it'll grow on me that much. It's a nice program from Todd and he shows good charisma and showmanship in it, but...eh. It's kind of telling that the brief transition into the slower, more melodic music (and corresponding choreography) was more enjoyable than the rest of it...It's still fun to watch though.

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

Don't have much new to say about this program. It's classic Katarina and a good showcase for her, plus a lot of fun for watching Gorsha and John. She definitely seems to get a kick out of it as well. One thing that occurred to me after watching this for the third time though, was... while Katarina definitely does the sexy flirtatious thing well, maybe they should give her *different* personas to play in the ensembles. Push in new directions. Her solo programs in the last two years have been pretty good at that, but her group number work has only utilized the one side of her skating and personality.

OverCome - Alexei Yagudin


Can I just sum it up like that? WOW. Watching this and Racing, you would never guess that Alexei was hurting. I don't know how he does it night after night, but he just comes out with this great intensity, pulls it all together, lands those jumps (I forget if it was this program or Racing, but what was he doing a 3-3-2 combo for??), and gives the audience their money's worth. I love this program!

I'm Your Man - Jenni Meno & Todd Sand

I wonder if the skaters have been reading the message boards or reviews recently? B/c after reading some criticism of the bit of choreography where Jenni's doing a handstand on Todd's feet, and he does a doubletake after looking downwards, I noticed that Todd doesn't seem to be looking downwards anymore. The handstand is still there, the parting the legs and the doubletake is still there, but Todd doesn't look first, it's like he's almost doing a doubletake at her doing a handstand (which is the impression I got the first time I saw this program anyway). Anyway, still a fun, charming program, and the audience definitely eats up Jenni's cute flower overtures in the beginning (I heard a lot of "awww"s and I'm now convinced one guy will *always* yell "over here jenni" in the corner), and Todd's dorky attempts to win her over (lots of laughter when he grabs the rose in his teeth and when he throws his shirt over his head).

How Do You Keep the Music Playing - Kurt Browning

The smoothest performance I've seen of this ever. That's definitely a double axel in the beginning, no hands-down on the triple toes, and I do believe that was a triple sal (though I was looking through the camera so I could be mistaken). Simply beautiful. I must comment though - the lady next to me in the 2nd act mentioned that this program was the first where she thought that Kurt was really skating like Scott, which surprised the heck out of me. Of the programs that Kurt skates in this show, this is probably the last one I would say that about (though I see similarities in the way he stands and looks into the audience to "With One More Look At You"). The Ina Bauer, the spread eagle on flats, the spiral, the sweeps of his edges, steps, head motions in the choreography, everything, is classic Kurt (he's done all of them before). Curious if anyone else saw what that lady saw, b/c the comment had to be based in something...she was a definite skating fan and loves Kurt.

Power Play - Todd Eldredge, Sale & Pelletier, Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze

The transition to this program is cute - Kurt standing around, starting to dance to the music at center ice (while milking the applause and generally drawing the audience in after his introspective program), and then finally moving, turns, and steps across the ice until he "passes the torch" to Todd, who comes skating out, does a number of cool moves, and then picks up the microphone. I wonder if Todd in the early days ever listened to his voice coming over the loudspeakers and cringed? I know I always think I sound weird in recordings =). Anyway, a great display of pairs skating, and staging/choreography/music/lighting that re-evokes the feeling of the opening number... Simple, powerful movements and choreography with no frills. Pairs skating separately and in parallel with the other pair. Single man in black, throwing singles elements into the mix...This was a program that was interesting to see from further back, b/c it was easier to watch both pairs at once (when I wasn't staring through my camera) and compare and contrast their skating. I'm still missing the big cast group number at the end of ACT I, though...


Studz - Cast

Got a GREAT view of this number after moving down to those on-ice seats for the second act. On the other hand, my camera was acting up and I spent a good deal of time being frustrated at trying to figure out what was happening while trying to watch the skaters... very distracting. Didn't get a single picture but got a good view of the action. As in Oakland, Daria was sitting in a chair on-ice, and when Jamie danced by, she got up and joined the girls for their dance at the end of the ice. The choreography for that part is not just simple bopping along to the music, and she's got it down, staying perfectly in sync with the other girls and seeming to have a great time. Someone should have told us that we had two special guests - Katia and Daria! =) Oh, and Renee was dancing right in front of us for an extended period of time..that woman has abs!

Due to my camera troubles, I was able to watch more of this program than usual, and noticed a number of things I hadn't before. For instance, when Kurt gets flung into his long Besti around the edge of the rink, Alexei is just flung to skate on one foot down the side pretending to be all unsteady. I was also in position to see that when Kurt collides into the two guys coming out of this Besti, he kind of glares at them like it's their fault as he falls back on his butt. Alexei and Kurt's back to back move is Besti's with their arms hooked around each other's necks and heads kind of leaning back on each other's shoulders... David and John? do back to back spread eagles and Gorsha and Todd? do what you see them do on TV... Kurt and Alexei seem to be having a great time when they're doing that thing where they hold on to each other's hands and kind of fling each other around in circles... Oh, and I got verification that not only the females in the crowd enjoy this number - my boyfriend went with me to the show and he said that this number was a lot of fun =).

Kurt's hat dropped at the end of Studz, or rather it doesn't seem like he ever really fastened it well. Unlike the other guys I've seen drop it, he went to pick it up and spent time trying to put it back on..then when they drop their arms, he grabbed the hat off his belt, and threw it at the ice in mock anger/frustration =).

Rest of Your Life - Katarina Witt

My one big impression of this program from San Jose? I get the feeling Katarina saw my camera =). Another nice skate from Katarina, a nice change of pace from "Hotter than Blue", and a nice clean double axel and either a double or triple toe.

Miserere - Todd Eldredge

Unlike Channel 1 Suite, I like this program more and more each time I see it. There's something in the dramatic beauty of the music, and the muted passion with which Todd skates this that really gets me. The lighting, combined with the white flowing shirt, and the upwards directed choreography also gave it a bit of a transcendental feeling. Todd also lands some beautiful triples in this number, including I think a 3-axel, a 3-loop, and either a 3-toe or 3-flip (with Todd I think I have the jump identified until I realize he spins backwards and uses the opposite foot I expect).

The Prayer - Renee Roca & Gorsha Sur

Definitely *not* a jarring change of pace, this program flows out of the other one quite smoothly. Renee and Gorsha are such beautiful skaters, it's just a joy to watch them every time. Even if they did nothing but turns and crossovers, I'd still be captivated, but this program is particularly beautiful. Gorgeous lifts and positions, nice interplay of skating together and apart... beautiful music. Simply wonderful.

Russian Folk Dance - Ekaterina Gordeeva

Another skater whom I think spotted my camera. Too bad that every time she was looking towards me, she was also skating within the range that I wasn't equipped to zoom that quickly to or focus that well =P. It was really nice seeing this program from a better angle instead of staring at her back all the time. Cute choreography, well-timed to the music, great steps, and nice, fast skating. The audience was thrilled to see her there and really got into clapping along with the music. Katia's a joy to watch and it was really nice to see her back with the show. Daria seemed to enjoy it too, jumping up to give her mom a standing ovation at the end of the program =).

Slippery Side Up - Kurt Browning

Lights come up, and there's Kurt, holding Daria's hand and swinging it back and forth for a while =). Having seen this program 3 times, I can say, Kurt makes it look spontaneous and natural, but every step and bit is completely choreographed. There really doesn't seem to be much room for improvisation in this number. Kurt may look like he's just goofing off, or walking randomly back and forth, but every turn, every step, every gesture is timed perfectly to the music, and he always stays perfectly on cue. One thing that strikes me about programs like this one, where Kurt actually skates right to and off the edge of the ice, is that his control over his speed and direction has to be perfect, or he'll reach the edge too soon or too late and throw off the timing of the program. It's kind of like those spread eagles and spirals he does right at the end of Raggy across the ice, just narrowly missing one side and hopping up onto the judge's table perfectly in time to the music. And those turns he does across the ice... they just keep going and going and going. The one thing I have to say "against" this program - it's just hard to buy that anyone who can do turns and footwork like that would have a hard time getting off the ice at the end =). And the audience just eats it up.

Love on the Rocks - Ina & Zimmerman, Meno & Sand, Roca & Sur

Still love this ensemble. There's some undefinable quality to the music, and to the low-key choreography that really hits the right note. Despite desperately trying to take photos, I did have the time to notice a few more details of choreography that support my theory that each couple embodies a different stage in relationships. I was mainly keeping an eye on Ina and Zimmerman, but for instance, their choreography is a lot more challenging, a lot more of John trying to win Kyoko over while fends him off. Not only is there that slap, at one point he dips her backwards but she's got her hands up, kind of pushing his head away. At the end, when he throws himself after her and she kind of just walks away, he seems to do it with more fervent hope than the other two. And her body language is very much "hands-off, buster". In the meantime, Gorsha and Renee - feels more like Renee seducing Gorsha. There's that leg up on his shoulder, and I remember at one point her moving towards him only to have him do that kind of "uh-uh-uh" finger shaking at her. Her body language towards the other guys when they're trading partners is also a bit challenging and come-onish. Jenni and Todd I got less of an impression of but it seemed more harmonious in general. It's a shame that it takes several viewings to really appreciate the nuances of this number, and that most people will only see it once and miss out on what they're seeing.

Mme. T After Hours - Elena Berezhnaya & Anton Sikharulidze

What more to say about this program after having seen it (and reviewed it) 3 times (this being the 4th)? Lights are too dark over the first part - I know what they're trying to be, a dimmed museum, but I couldn't get any good pictures of Kurt dusting off Elena! =) Anton *really* gets into being Elvis and Elena seems to be finding her Marilyn. She's definitely still too reserved of a person to carry off a Marilyn Monroe persona but she's got some refined sass and attitude going, and she and Anton seem to get into the dancing more naturally. I *think* Elena might have fallen on a throw but I don't quite recall... ending is still too jam-packed and not smooth enough, Marilyn parts are still too jarring, but this is a cute program with a lot of personality, and is a nice showcase for a different side of these two.

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

Sultry, slow, and intense, Jamie and David capture the mood of this program perfectly and carry it off beautifully. I sometimes feel that in pairs skating, it's up to the woman to do the emoting and carry off the acting (Elena and Anton seem to do that backwards), while the guy is just there to showcase her, but in this program, both Jamie and David have got their act down perfectly in facial expressions and body language. I love this program more and more each time I see it for the combination of impressive technical elements (triple twist, Jamie's handstand on David's arm - got a great view of that in San Jose, throw triple (I think they did one in this number), other lifts, pairs spins, etc) and great choreography/music utilization. The costumes and lighting are also perfect in creating and sustaining the mood.

Racing - Alexei Yagudin

Another great performance from Alexei. This program is fast and high-energy, and never lets up. Somehow Alexei manages to ride that line of doing really fast, frantic movements, yet not quite looking like he's rushing or hurrying to get it all in. Fun to watch!

Finale - I Can't Stop - Cast

Once again had my eye on Kurt and Katarina for the entire extended initial sequence where they dance together. Those two have a blast out there together =). Not much new to say about the finale - it's fun, the dancing is great, the music is enjoyable, love the choreography... one thing I did notice this time that didn't really stand out from the previous angles I saw this from... they do highlight each skater/pair briefly in a last sequence down the ice, where each skater or pair breaks away briefly, is highlighted by a spot, and then rejoins the group. The only solo highlighting I remember otherwise was a brief spot on Katarina doing some footwork or something down the ice for a bit... it actually made it really obvious she was the only lady. Four guys doing triple toe, went off without a hitch...good stuff and a fun way to end the show. As for handshakes - after jumping up, and then noticing I was the only one standing, so I sat down again, got to shake Renee's hand and Katia's. Final bows had an unexpected bonus..several of the guys, apparently led by Kurt, ripped their shirts open all the way! Lots of cheering from the crowd. Kurt spread his shirt wide, like to show himself off to everyone with a big grin, but then quickly wrapped his shirt around him again, pretending to be all sheepish about it. Very funny =)