Stars on Ice
Kurt in SOI
Creative Team

Stars on Ice Review - Victoria, BC - Apr. 20, 2007

written by Tina

It's always interesting to see the US tour and the Canadian tour in the same year. What changes have been made as the tour transitions to Canada and changes cast members? What do the new cast members bring to the same group numbers? It's doubly interesting to see the last show of the tour. The choreography has sunk in, the skaters know it well, and there's the giddiness of it being the last show adding a different energy to their performances. More importantly, there are the pranks and gags that the skaters pull, knowing it's the last show.

The Victoria stop of the 2007 tour already had all these things going for it. But what made it extra special this year was that it was also the last stop on the final professional tour of a true skating great's career. This tour was Brian Orser's last (though he isn't giving up on skating and performing, just touring), and the Victoria show, as the last stop on tour, was his very last touring performance. That, alone, would have been well worth the price of admission (not to mention, the trip north of the border!).

The group numbers in the Canadian tour this year are exactly the same as those in the US tour. There's the "Double Exposure" opening number which introduces the theme by drawing parallels to Superman's double life. There's the lyrical "Ladies in Lavender" trio of women, which for lack of single ladies skaters in Canada includes a pairs skater. There's the utterly hilarious "Peace, Love, and Skating" 60's act I closer. There's the cute, 240 second long "24" spoof featuring the most expensive skate in the world. There's the annual all-male props number, baseball-themed this year, to "Swing" by Trace Adkins. And there's the sweeping finale to "I Believe I Can Fly," the Yolanda Adams version. I don't know if it's the new blood, the shorter tour, the sense of fun Canadians have, or maybe the relief at being at the end of a long skating season for both the pros and the eligibles, but the Canadian version of these group numbers have a unique energy level and a sense of fun the US tour doesn't lack, but maybe has in more moderation. The skaters seem to be really enjoying themselves and each other, and really get into the performance and character aspects of the show. The pranks, which I'll get into later, help, of course.

As for the taped video transitions between programs, the most fun were those that weren't exact duplicates or adaptations of the US versions. There's something less than interesting and less than convincing when the same words and "secret lives" are attributed to entirely different skaters. The "daily chores" video was cute, for instance, but when they've given Joannie and Kurt the exact same passions as Yuka (knitting) and Steven (fixing the zamboni), I somehow don't believe that these are their true "double lives." The marriage video with the married male skaters - and Patrice - talking about how great marriage is and how much freedom they have and how they can do anything they want (or at least, so Kurt claims), and telling Patrice he should get married, felt a little over-scripted and not natural, though the punch line of David walking off chained to Jamie is still cute. The video talking about costumes - Kurt, Todd, and John - was very similar to the one in the US, except Kurt's animated description of the boas and fishnet stockings from the "Because We Can" number 6 years prior livened things up quite a bit. The video with Jamie babbling on and on and on was fairly similar though they lost the joke about John always being on the cell phone, so him opening up his cell and starting to talk on it wasn't nearly as funny (I think Kurt fell asleep in the back). And the video of Jamie and Kyoko finding Jennifer/Lola in her fancy dressing room was the same video as the US, which worked just fine.

However, and I could be biased here given that Kurt's my favorite, the new video segments, many of which featured Kurt, felt more spontaneous and natural, and often quite hilarious. You can feel the friendship and the teasing when Jennifer, Brian, and Jeff (especially Jeff, who looks particularly sly) talk about how wonderful Singing in the Rain was, and how awesome it was that Kurt really skated in the "rain", and how they can't wait for what he does next. Especially since the camera pans from skater to skater, to end on Kurt who's been watching them all say these nice things about him. And then, when all the skaters attack Kurt with watering cans, they have the most priceless pseudo-innocent, evilly grinning expressions. And Kurt's reaction is funny - his sudden understanding why they were all saying such nice things about him.

The video intro to Kurt's first program, where the various skaters say one word adjectives describing him (spontaneous, entertainer, initiator, etc), was livened up by John Zimmerman's laughing "balding," only to have Kurt show up "that's not funny!" and tackle him off frame. Jamie and Kurt make natural bantering partners as they talk about how most of them were different on and off the ice. Jamie says that Kurt's sometimes a clown (as Kurt reverses his hat and puts on a funny facial expression and silly body language) and sometimes serious (Kurt's all "I have no idea what you're talking about"). However, there is one skater where what you see is what you get, who's the same on and off the ice...Jeff Buttle. Whereupon, of course, the lights come up on Jeff in his mohawk and punk outfit for his Clash number. Kurt seems to have learned from Scott Hamilton the art of pre-recording a taped segment where it seems like he's really interacting with the skaters on the ice. There's a segment early on where Kurt announces the reigning Canadian champion, and the lights come up on Joannie, Jeff, and Dubreiul & Lauzon, each ready to begin their program. Kurt dithers a bit about how yes they are all reigning champions but he had hoped they wouldn't all show up on the ice at the same time like that (while the skaters on the ice are all making outraged faces and gesticulating at each other and Kurt). He tries to figure out who should go first (as each skater points to him or herself) before deciding ladies first, and announcing Joannie Rochette. Kurt also recorded a really sweet intro to Brian Orser, talking about how great a friend Brian is, and what a wonderful influence and example, and saying how he'd miss getting to see Brian skate live. Actually, Kurt's voice is all over this show, also providing the introductions over the loudspeaker of the special guests - Shen & Zhao, Mai Asada, and Mao Asada. It leads to an interesting effect - Kurt's first number closes out the first act before the 60's group number, and it wasn't until it started that I realized I hadn't actually seen Kurt live since the opening number.

Speaking of the special guests, they were a very nice bonus to the show. Shen & Zhao were exquisite, and performed 2 programs, while Mai and Mao Asada performed one program each. All these solos made the show feel nice and long, although it also made the show feel a little light on group numbers, since we went for such long stretches without any sort of ensemble. Overall, the cast was excellent, representing over 25 years of skating.

Enough overall impressions, though...time for the program-by-program breakdown part of the review.

I can't remember if it was before or after the opening number (I think it was before, right after the credits) where they showed the video of Jamie, Todd, and Brian talking about the Superman mythos. The joke is altered slightly for Canada - instead of Kyoko saying that the S on his costume stands for "Smuckers", Jamie says it stands for "Sale."

Opening - Double Exposure - Cast

After seeing the opening for the third time, I'm still not overly impressed with it. The transition from glasses and suits to tight red and black costume is cute, but overall there's nothing overly memorable, in my opinion, about the opening number. The music is fine, the skaters are great, but it just doesn't leave a lasting impression on me.

Caruso - Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao

Kurt's voice comes over the loudspeaker to announce their special guests, Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao, who receive an enthusiastic reception from the crowd. These two are so lovely to watch, and their love for each other is palpable on the ice in the way they look at each other, and the way that they touch each other. However, it's not just peeking in on a loving couple, these two are also performers, reaching out and drawing the audience in, and feeling the music as they perform. "Caruso" is a sweeping dramatic piece, and Shen & Zhao performed it beautifully.

Kurt's head comes up on the videoscreen to announce the reigning Canadian champion, only to have Joannie, Jeff, Marie-France and Patrice all show up on the ice. After a bit of indecision, Kurt decides on ladies first.

Heartbreaker - Joannie Rochette

No pretty princess program for Joannie here. Dressed in a red bra under a black mesh shirt over a short black pleather skirt, with her hair in a sassy ponytail, Joannie comes ready to rock. And rock she does, in a high-energy Pat Benatar number that has her skating with attitude. It's a fun number, and a looks like a great way for her to let off steam at the end of the season.

I think, but I don't recall, that the transition to the next number is the skaters doing the single word descriptions of Todd Eldredge.

Broken - Todd Eldredge

The shaggy cut on Todd Eldredge looks a lot better than I would have expected. I'd read reviews saying he looked good with longer hair, and couldn't picture it. Todd Eldredge with long hair? I wouldn't say it's *long* but I have to agree. It's a good look for him. As usual, Todd put forth a strong performance, skating with a lot of commitment. I do have to say that he seems to have slowed down a bit recently - his spins are still solid and centered, but don't seem quite as fast, and his skating around the rink is also not the super-speedy Todd of several years back. It does make it easier to catch photos of him though ;).

Whole Lotta Love - Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon

I had two rather conflicting major reactions to this program. On the one hand, I was very impressed by Marie-France and Patrice's ability to rock out and move to the music. I have to confess that after Gotta Skate, I wasn't convinced they were all that great at moving to faster music, but they really sold this program. Lots of flirtatiousness, lots of attitude, lots of conviction and commitment to the music. It was great fun to watch. On the other hand, I kept thinking "why? why this version? what's the point of this version? why?". It's not like Tina Turner really reinterpreted the song, so why not use the original Led Zeppelin song? I just kept getting distracted by the ways in which the song was just like the original and the ways in which it was different. I would have been happier had they used the Zeppelin version. All the same, though, this was a very fun program for D&L and I enjoyed it a great deal.

At Last - Jennifer Robinson

I don't want Jennifer to revisit the Lola/diva character year after year after year. But I do have to say that numbers with personality like that fit her really well, whereas "At Last" was kind of more of the generic female ballad. It's a nice song, and it was a nice skate to it. But having seen Jennifer's more playful side and her ability to inhabit a character, I wasn't quite as interested in a program like "At Last." Still, she did a beautiful job skating to it.

Night and Day - Brian Orser

I knew Brian's last two performances would be poignant. What I didn't expect was for one of them to be so exuberant. In "Night and Day," Brian skated better than I've seen him skate in years. The program had spark, it had energy, it had a sense of lightness on the feet, freeness in movement and joy in skating that was delightful to see. "Night and Day" made me really wish Brian wasn't retiring from touring, because if he keeps skating like that, he's still got a lot to offer audiences!

Ladies in Lavender - Jennifer Robinson, Joannie Rochette, Jamie Sale

I had been wondering who would do this number in Canada, since the Canadian cast has fewer singles ladies skaters than the US cast. Jamie Sale proves in this number that you don't need to be a singles skater to put down beautiful edges and nicely positioned layback spins and spirals. At times, I think Jamie outdid her fellow skaters in this number in terms of extension and presence on the ice. Overall, all three ladies did a lovely job in this group number.

The next video transition came up with Jamie and Kurt, sitting and chatting, as I described above, about how the skaters were different on and off the ice, except for one skater. With Jeff Buttle, they claimed, what you see is pretty much what you get. He is exactly the same, on and off the ice.

Should I Stay or Should I Go - Jeff Buttle

Which, of course, is when the lights came up on a punked out Jeff Buttle, sporting a mohawk, and punky clothes with chains and ripped pants, ready to tear up the ice to the Clash's song. One thing I have to say about Jeff Buttle - he really commits to the choreography of whatever program he's doing, throwing himself into every movement with what appears to be no restraint whatsoever. This commitment really helps sell his performances, particularly when he seems to be having as much fun as he's having in this number. I don't entirely believe Jeff as a punk, he's got too much of that wholesome big grin going on, but it doesn't really matter. This number is fun, it's energetic, and if Jeff wants to play the punk, I'll gladly go along with him.

Unknown - Mai Asada

Kurt's voice comes over the loudspeaker to announce Japanese team member Mai Asada. Unfortunately, the music listing that came with my program didn't have Mao or Mai Asada on it - it seemed to be an old printout from when Miki Ando was on tour - so I don't know what either of them skated to. Mai Asada has noticeably less polish than Mao, and she seemed a little bit nervous at first, but as she relaxed into her performance, she seemed to open up more, smiling at the audience sweetly. Overall, I thought she had a nice performance, and it was nice seeing the new blood on the ice.

Before Kurt's performance, there was a video intro where each skater described Kurt with one-word adjectives like "entertainer", "clown", "instigator," "spontaneous," etc. John Z went last, and said "balding", while smirking and running a hand through his own hair. Kurt suddenly appeared out of nowhere, saying "that's not funny" and appearing to noogie him as he tackled a laughing John out of frame.

Easy - Kurt Browning

I have to confess to be highly biased when it comes to "Easy," since the Barenaked Ladies are my favorite band. However, I really do enjoy this program. There's this relaxed...easy feeling to it, and it's fun watching Kurt sail through those beautiful high double axels on every "easy" in the chorus. Even when Kurt's just goofing and interacting with the audience by "accidentally" skating onto the boards and acting surprised to find himself right in front of the on-ice people, he still keeps a good ear on the music, moving naturally to the beat and exploring the intricacies of the notes in his footwork and movement.

The video intro to the 60's number was much the same as the US, with the skaters talking about their favorite bands and music before hitting on the 60's and starting to muse about how much fun they would have with that music in those costumes...

Peace, Love, Skating - Cast

Honestly, there's too much going on in this number for me to do a direct comparison with the US version. I don't remember everything they did in the US and I don't remember everything they did in Canada! The hair in this number is hilarious though. Basically all the guys had long dropy mustaches (except David). I think John, Joannie, Jennifer, and Kyoko are the only ones with their own hair in this number. Jamie and Jeff both were sporting huge curly afros, and I mean *huge*. They looked like dandelion heads when the dandelion is in seed. Marie-France and Patrice both had longer wavy black wigs. Brian's head was topped with a curly black wig, while Todd and David both wore a long hair-band style wig. The most awesome one was Kurt, though. Kurt didn't get a nice, full wig like everyone else. Instead, he had a bandanna tied around his head like a sweat band, with long, stringy straight hair coming out from under the bandanna...and his own naturally bald head on top. The resulting effect was that of a balding, aging hippie. And based on his performance, a stoned, befuddled, balding, aging hippie. Which made the whole sequence of the guys picking him up, flipping him over, and generally sending him careening all over the ice make a lot more sense than the same actions applied to Alexei in the US version. Whereas Alexei looked just generally amused while he was being tossed about, Kurt was fully in character, stumbling dazedly into the midst of these guys and looking completely dazed and confused when finding himself lifted up into the air. The guys looked like they were toying with him, teasing the more dazed hippie, and the overall effect was hilarious. The number had all the partner swapping of the original (apparently evoking the 60's wife swapping, and including David and Todd having a bit of an inadvertent encounter of their own), had Jeff cozying up to Joannie and Jennifer, had John and Patrice tossing Kyoko around like a very brave rag doll, etc. It also had the skaters sitting in their big circle (though dazed hippie Kurt had some trouble stumbling his way down to a sitting position) and laying back waving their lighters. It also had a very warm and amused audience response. A very fun way to end the first act. At the end, stoned hippie Kurt is left staring with fascination up into the lights, until one of the skaters has to come and pull him away.

Before the lights came up for intermission, Jennifer Robinson came out to talk about World Vision and donating money to help children in developing countries. Very out of breath, but very articulate, as usual. Jennifer's a great public speaker.


The Heist - Cast

Act II opens with a video introduction of the skaters discussing their favorite TV programs. After David confesses that he's never seen 24 (a show that makes Jennifer and Kyoko coo "Jack Bauer!"), they decide to stage their own version for him. The video screen then shows a headline on a paper, something like "Stars on Ice displays most expensive skate in the world!" followed by a timer reading 24..pause..240...pause...seconds.

As the laughter dies down, Todd Eldredge appears at the end of the ice in grey vest, glasses, mustache, and a tray - the butler and his hors d'ouevres, ready to usher the guests into the lavish party. As the skaters enter two by two, it becomes very quickly apparent that pranks are the order of the day for this number. First comes John Zimmerman, with his hair slicked down and tied back, and his big bushy mustache from the 60's number plastered on his face, wearing a supercilious expression and ushering in a giggling Jamie. Next comes the haughty Kurt Browning, with his spiky mohawk (courtesy Jeff Buttle's Clash number) and shaven head, escorting Kyoko. They are followed in short order by Joannie and a grinning Jeff in Patrice(?)'s long black wig from the 60's number, and Brian in *his* big bushy black mustache, along with Jennifer. This dignified crew bow and banter, greet each other and gossip until suddenly the lights go down, the alarms go off, and it's revealed - the super-expensive skate has been stolen! The "guests" gather around the podium where the skate had been and then quickly start to lay the blame - everyone turns and points firmly at Kurt, who's like "what? me? what?" and then starts laughing. They then proceed to lay the blame all around, pointing fingers at each other, gesticulating, and "arguing." Finally, David the policemen/investigator is brought in in his spiffy leather jacket and sunglasses, chasing people around with is big flashlight and generally suspecting everyone. The other guests quickly point him to Kurt, who goes all bitchy diva, acting all bitchily affronted with facial expressions and body language that they would blame him, which was utterly hilarious. David quickly moves on from him and starts to "question" everyone, including patting down two audience members on opposite sides of the audience (actually, he let the girls pat down the second one, while he held the flashlight). Eventually, he lines everyone up and proceeds down the line, apparently hitting Kurt in an uncomfortable place, peeking under the skirts of Kyoko (I think), getting repelled by John's underarm odor, tickling Jennifer, patting down Brian, laying a big kiss on Jamie, examining Jeff's mouth, and finally chasing Joannie off the ice as she runs from him. After everyone leaves the ice, Todd is left alone (somehow sans mustache) and, as the time runs to 0, gleefully reveals the shiny skate on his own foot - the butler did it!

Somewhere in Time - Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon

I think it might have been before this number that the whole video talking about marriage and encouraging Patrice to get married took place.

After the gleeful silliness of "The Heist," Somewhere in Time is a rather big change in pace. The romantic, flowing program is D&L's signature program, I believe, and you can see the comfort level in their performance. It's a dramatic, sweeping, passionate program, with a lot of gazing into each other's eyes, gazing keenly heavenward, stretched out positions, and beautiful musical interpretation. My only real complaint is that I almost never watch eligible skating, and I watch dance even less, but I feel like I've already seen this program several times. D&L gave a beautiful performance of this number, and it is a beautiful number, but I preferred their first program for its freshness and change of pace.

The video transition here is the "Daily Chores" video, a cute and amusing "old-fashioned" video introducing some of the skaters and their "passions," only hampered by the fact that I'd seen the same video with the same "passions" in the US, only with different skaters. Jennifer Robinson, as in the US, is passionate about washing the dishes and housework, Todd Eldredge is passionate about skate sharpening... Kurt Browning is substituted for Steven Cousins for fixing the zamboni, and Joannie Rochette is substituted for Yuka Sato for loving to knit.

Go the Distance - Jeffrey Buttle

What I said earlier about Jeff's commitment to his choreography and his selling of his programs still applies here. However, there's a distinctly Disney quality to this song, especially this version of it (and yes, I do realize it's from the soundtrack of a Disney movie) that adds an element of cheesiness to the program that is hard for me to overcome. Jeff thrusts his chest out, looks out into the distance, and in general sells the reaching for the sky theme of the program. I just probably would have liked a different program a bit better instead.

The introduction to Jennifer Robinson's Lola number is exactly the same as the US, which works just fine since Kyoko, Jamie, and Jennifer are all in both casts. It's a cute introduction to the Lola character, what with Jennifer somehow ending up with the cushy dressing room and the roses, while the other girls are stuck in an utility closet.

Show Off - Jennifer Robinson

As I said before, I wouldn't like to see Jennifer revisit this character year after year. However, two years in a row is ok, and the character is slightly different. Besides, she plays it really well. By this last stop in the tour, Jennifer has the character down perfectly. Her petulant casting off of her fur coat onto an audience member to "I don't want to wear this no more" is spot-on perfect, as is her discontent and oblivious look as she turns around. There's more to this character than just flirting and showing off - the almost innocent self-absorption, the air of cute entitlement... it all works beautifully. This number also had one of the funniest unexpected pranks. Towards the end of the program, John, David, Brian, and Patrice come out to showcase Jennifer and lift her... As they lifted her into a split position over their heads, there suddenly came a perfectly timed, loud farting noise over the speakers, which totally cracked Jennifer and the guys up. It's a good thing they didn't drop her! There was a later, softer farting noise, but that first one just convulsed the audience in laughter. Just too funny.

Of course, just because Lola's program is over, doesn't mean Lola's ready to relinquish the spotlight. Shen & Zhao come out to start their program, only to find that Jennifer's still out there, gathering up her fur coat. She stops to flirt with Hongbo until Xue sends her packing with a slap to the butt.

Meditation from Thais - Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao

It seems all is forgiven, when Shen & Zhao come together, take each other's hands, and gaze into each other's eyes before the program starts. Once again, Shen & Zhao are marvelous, simply exquisite. Their program is romantic and passionate, their lines (particularly Xue's) are beautiful, and their connection on the ice wonderful. They even managed to overcome the fact that my main association with this song is the harmonica version Kurt Browning skated to at Improv on Ice years ago.

Unknown - Mao Asada

Kurt's voice over the loudspeaker welcomes World silver medalist Mao Asada to the ice. I don't know what the song was, but I believe this may be the same exhibition program Mao performed at the World championships. Either that, or it's one of her competitive programs. I just know I saw it at Worlds. It's not fair to compare sisters, but I do have to say that Mao's more polished, faster, more flexible, and probably more musical. You can see the quality that helped win her the silver medal. Mao's got a lovely floating quality over the ice, and she is of course unbelievably flexible, which she showed off in a range of moves, from the inevitable Bielmann spin to a split position spin where she's got one leg straight up in front of her, to catch foot spirals and other moves that require her free leg to basically be vertical. A lovely performance all around.

Swing - Kurt Browning, Jeff Buttle, Todd Eldredge, Brian Orser, David Pelletier, John Zimmerman

Kurt's got the mike for the Swing number, and starts off basically marvelling "wow" at Mao's performance. He then starts asking the other guys what they wanted to be when they grew up, before they became skaters. His own answer - "taller," and no that's not a Toller Cranston joke. He gets to David, who says that he always dreamed of someday lifting the Stanley Cup, but instead (in a rueful tone of voice), he ended up lifting Jamie instead. John, when the microphone gets to him, laughs that that's really not a bad thing. He then says that he's an Alabama boy, so for him, it's all about NASCAR, with the fast cars. The response in the audience is rather strong to the mention of NASCAR, leading John to marvel that he gets a bigger response to NASCAR in Canada than in the US. Kurt tells him "it's not NASCAR, it's your hair" to the laughter and cheers of the audience. Brian's next, who said that he was from ??, prompting a few cheers from the audience, which led him to say "and I think we're all here tonight." If I recall correctly, he says that everyone skated and it's always been about skating for him, and he wouldn't change a thing. Kurt says he wouldn't either. He gets to Todd, who's wearing his wig from the 60's, and doesn't say a thing. Instead, he gets into position, and lines up his swing, as Kurt does the "announcer" thing. He takes his swing, you hear the thwock of the ball.... all the guys are staring off, watching the ball fly... Kurt's saying that in 60 cities, Todd's never gotten the hole in one, would he get it this time... we still don't hear the sound of the ball landing... Kurt goes "how hard did you hit that thing??"...Todd's standing there with a peaceful expression on his face... and finally, finally we hear the sound of the ball dropping into the hole. Hole in one! Everyone cheers and celebrates. Finally, Kurt gets to Jeff, and now I'm completely blanking on what Jeff said. Eventually, though, Kurt says that they didn't get to do any of those things, but now they're going to play for the Victoria All-Stars.

The guys were having the time of their lives in this performance of this number. It was all laughter, grinning at each other, and pulling off pranks on Brian. At one point, when all the guys were supposed to do an axel together, instead they let Brian do the jump himself while they skated along. Then, at another point, they're supposed to all go down on their knees and spin. Instead, they let Brian do the spin himself while they all presented him "ta-da!" leading to a very amused rueful expression from Brian and a lot of laughter from the guys once Brian realized what happened. In the US, they had Alexei and Michael Weiss taking turns flipping over the bat held by John and David. In Canada, it was just Kurt taking his turn at the gymnastics, as he did a forward roll over the bat, and then was lifted upside down hanging by his knees, which he got out of by doing another flip. John really played up being all stunned and disoriented after being sent to knock over the bats set up as bowling pins (though he very neatly caught his own bat as he bowled past). All in all, what made this number particularly fun was just the sheer fun the skaters were having.

Summertime - Joannie Rochette

Joannie comes on the ice holding a baseball, the one thing the guys were missing throughout their number, and tosses it to David, before setting up for her own number. I wonder how many versions of Summertime there are out there, because I feel like I've seen a ton of skaters skate to it, but it's been a different version every time. Joannie's version is flirtatious and a little bit sultry, and she commands the ice convincingly in her interpretation.

Better Days - Todd Eldredge

Definitely my favorite of Todd's two numbers this year, though it does (IIRC) employ one of my least favorite choreographic motifs - the repetitive sequence of actions to the repeated chorus. Overall, though, I like this program. It could just be that the music appeals to me more, but I feel like Todd connects better to this song. It's less overdramatic arm flailing, but ultimately a more compelling program.

The video transition of the skaters all complaining about touring, and then Jamie going on and on and on about all the wonderful things went here. I still don't quite get the transition between Jamie's realization that all her friends have abandoned her (including Kyoko and John) to her turning to the camera and saying "ladies and gentlemen, my good friends Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman" but whatever works.

Piece of My Heart - Kyoko Ina & John Zimmerman

I'm sad that Ina & Zimmerman were demoted back down to doing only one program on the Canadian tour, but what a program it is. Kyoko is utterly fearless, and she and John just keep finding new, heart-stopping ways for him to toss her around. The Brasseur & Eisler influence undoubtedly help them in Canada, but Kyoko and John are showstoppers in their own right. What makes this program particularly enjoyable is that the skating and choreography in between all the tricks is strong. It's not all just trick to trick to trick. What an awesome performance, and what a way to raise the energy level in the building through the roof.

The video transition into Kurt's second number starts with the camera closeup on Jennifer Robinson, who gushes about her favorite program by Kurt being Singing in the Rain and how wonderful it was. The camera then pans on down to Brian Orser, who's sitting next to Jen, who agrees, saying more nice things about the program and its brilliance. The camera then slides down to Jeff Buttle, who concurs as well, talking about how one of the most awesome things about it was that it was done in the actual rain, and he can't wait to see what Kurt does next. The camera then slides down again to Kurt, who's been watching all this. He turns to the camera, starts saying how he's glad they all liked it so much, how it was his favorite program as well, how they reproduced all the sets and it was so awesome...and then suddenly he flinches and looks up, discovering that Jennifer, Jeff, and Brian are hovering about him, diligently watering him with watering cans and grinning at him and the camera. Kurt deflates and is like "now I understand why you guys were all saying such nice things about me."

If I Only Had a Brain - Kurt Browning

I have now seen this program three times live, and it gets better each time. Kurt's grasp of the character, his precision and his musical timing all combine to make a gem of a program. No one inhabits a character like Kurt. The floppy body language belies the clean, crisp, quick footwork underneath. Each movement is perfectly timed to the music, yet seems to come naturally from the Scarecrow character. And everything seems to have a greater degree of finesse and polish to it than previously. The audience reaction to the program in the arena was a bit subdued, but maybe they were just spell-bound ;).

The video transition here has Kurt, Todd, and John talking about costumes and what they wouldn't wear. Kurt's all "you weren't on tour yet, and this was before your time" and then goes on at length (with much emphasis) to describe the feather boas and fishnet stockings they were made to wear in Stars on Ice for the Because We Can number. Todd was like, yeah I put that in my contract - no fishnet stockings, no boas, no animal prints. Who would wear that? Then they rethink - well maybe someone would. "Ladies and gentlemen, the fashion icons of Stars on Ice, Jamie Sale & David Pelletier."

Super Freak - Jamie Sale & David Pelletier

And of course, the lights come up on Jamie and David in their fuschia, leopart print panted glory. I have to confess to being a bit surprised that, on dropping a program in concession to Jamie's pregnancy, they kept the one which has Jamie dangling upside down with her feet around David's neck, being spun in a detroiter, and doing the handstand on David's arm. But, there is no doubt that of "One" and "Super Freak," "Super Freak" is the high energy, audience-grabbing show program that lets Jamie and David cut loose and just have a ton of fun on the ice. I've said it before, but Jamie and David are performers down to their core, and they really play it up in this number.

Happy Endings/Story of My Life - Brian Orser

Which leads us to the poignant part of the evening - Brian Orser's final performance. And what a performance it was. The artist - Neil Diamond. One of Brian's favorites, from what I understand. The song - Happy Endings. Very appropriate. And the performance - heartfelt, touching, dignified and classy, just like Brian. Halfway through the program, the lights went down and a video started playing on the monitors of some of the highlights of Brian's career, from his eligible triumphs and heartbreaks to his win at the 2001 Canadian Open over younger skaters like Kurt Browning, Elvis Stojko, and Emanuel Sandhu, to the present day. As the lights came back up, so did the audience, jumping to their feet and beginning a standing ovation that lasted throughout the rest of Brian's performance, to "The Story of My Life," Brian's signature program. It was an amazing moment, with the love of the audience for Brian, and Brian for the audience palpable in the air. Visibly touched, but determined to give us his all, Brian finished his program to the continual clapping of the standing audience. When it came time for the bows, he was clearly tearful and appreciative.

Finale - I Believe I Can Fly - Cast

It is difficult to follow up a program like that, but the cast fully committed to this, their final performance of the 2007 tour. Each skater/team came out individually and were highlighted in turn, skating some beautiful transitions with the next skater as they flowed on and off the ice. The finale could in no way live up to the emotional impact of Brian's last performance but it was a nice high note on which to end the evening.

After the bows, the skaters welcomed their special guest stars out to take a bow themselves. As everyone hugged (especially everyone hugged Brian), Jamie went and fetched a microphone for Kurt, and a camcorder for herself. Kurt seemed a bit startled when Jamie handed him the microphone, and needed a little time to regroup. He was like "you can tell this is an unusual show. I don't usually cry on the ice at the end. I usually wait until I'm back in the dressing room." ;) He said that Brian was going to be back to do the whole tour again next year, causing Brian to shake his head vehemently and wave his arms "no!" He thanked HSBC and Smuckers and basically begged them none too subtly to keep supporting them so they could keep touring. He said some really heartfelt stuff about everyone there owing something to and learning from Brian, and how they'd really miss him and then said he'd let Brian babble on to the crowd, and gave him the mic after a few more really complimentary things. Brian pointed out that Scott Hamilton was in the crowd, and went to give him a hug, and talked about how ending his professional touring career in Victoria was particularly meaningful because he had essentially ended his eligible career there, winning his last Canadian title before going onto the Olympics (Kurt nodded in recognition, like he hadn't realized it before that point). He said he loved all of us too and basically talked about how it was a good time to move on, how there was this brilliant new generation who were going to take over and continue to make Canadian Stars on Ice great and how it would live on for years and years to come. He basically kept it simple and classy and wished us all good night and happy trails (eliciting a laugh from Kurt).

Overall it was a wonderful night of skating, and a very classy farewell to a very classy guy. We'll miss you on tour, Brian, but I look forward to continuing to see you perform for some time to come!