Stars on Ice
Kurt in SOI
Creative Team

Stars on Ice Review - Worcester, MA - Feb. 24, 2007

written by Tina

One thing that really jumped out at me during the Worcester show on Saturday was this - the skaters look like they really are having fun out there. For instance, during either the opening or the closing number, I forget which, something must have happened because Alexei looked like he was about to burst out laughing for a while, skating with this huge grin on his face. Steven, during the opening number, had this absurdly huge smile on *his* face as he skated. David looked like he was going to crack up or was having a lot of fun in various places in the group numbers. And Todd is such a goof with his facial expressions and hamming it out there during the group numbers. I still do feel like there's *something* missing from the show (and the past several) - some emotional something about the old shows that still is lacking - but when the skaters look to be having as much fun as they are, it's hard not to enjoy the show.

The video interludes are sometimes amusing, and sometimes cheesy. Michael Weiss' "anonymous" revelation that John Zimmerman wears a hairpiece was hilarious, but he was a bit *too* earnest when talking about marriage. It was a bit obvious at times that the skaters were reading from a script (not least since I've seen some of the same video bits that had Katia originally, rerecorded with Angela) but for the most part, they were fun.

On to the program by program rundown of the show...

Opening Number - "Double Exposure" - Cast

The opening number made a bit more of an impression on me this time around. I now remember that the skaters started off in sports coats and glasses, trying to look all buttoned down, but then they gathered in the middle, took off the coats and glasses, and stood revealed in red dresses and black and red shirts/pants. I remember liking a particular simultaneous pairs lift at a climax of the music, though now I can't remember the details. It's a fun opening number, and the credits help set the mood for the show. Still not one of the most memorable ones, but not bad...

"Easy" - Kurt Browning

Kurt Browning is clearly well-loved in Worcester. His introduction was greeted with huge cheers, and he got enthusiastic reactions to everything he did, from jumps, to spins, to footwork. "Easy" is a great program for Kurt - it's got a wonderful flow to it, and I love how Kurt's choreographed not just the 2-axels on every iteration of "easy," but the steps in between, which are subtle but flow beautifully with the music. The program is also one of those which allow Kurt to connect easily to the audience, smiling and making eye contact, at one point footworking himself right onto the boards at the end, to the surprise and delight of the people sitting there. Of course he played confused and bewildered (interesting way to sub for jumping into the midst of BNL and playing around) and scrambled off again. Some of his 2-axels were a little wild in the air, but overall the program went beautifully. The audience was also really into it, clapping along loudly to the music, which Kurt appreciated and encouraged.

I believe it was here that Michael Weiss' "anonymous" tip that John Zimmerman wore a hairpiece was run.

"You're Beautiful" - Kyoko Ina & John Zimmerman

This is a lovely program for Kyoko and John. I'm really glad to get two programs from them this year, because I wouldn't want to give up the awesome second act program they did, but it's always nice to see them skate something softer and prove that they can do it well. The song is a bit overplayed, it's true, but Kyoko and John carry it off beautifully.

"There You'll Be" - Angela Nikodinov

Angela's voice came over the loudspeaker as photos of her and her mom showed on the screen, saying that this program was for her mom, that her mom was always there for her. Angela is a beautiful, elegant skater. To me, there's this inherent dignity and internal reserve to her demeanor, while her skating is just flowing and lovely. The program is a lovely tribute to her mother, and it was nice getting to see it again.

"Are You Gonna Be My Girl" - Steven Cousins

It might have been a bit more fitting to put Angela's program near Michael Weiss' heartfelt program about his family, but it probably is a good idea to intersperse the high-energy and softer programs. Steven Cousins' voice comes on in the dark arena saying that every night, there's always some face in the crowd that distracts him, someone who takes his attention. Then the spotlight comes up on Steven as he points into the crowd and the voiceover says "is it you? or you? Are you gonna be my girl?" and with that, the music starts, and away Steven goes. This is a fun, fast, upbeat number of the kind Steven does best - flirting into the audience with a huge grin as he dances down the ice. It's not a huge stretch for him, but it's hard to resist that grin and the sense of sheer enjoyment he exudes as he skates the program.

"At Last" - Jennifer Robinson

I can't remember the introduction for this number - I'm sure there was one since they pretty much had a video or voice interlude between every program. This is a nice number for Jennifer - kind of generic female ballady but she's got a nice connection with the audience and skates the number with confidence and grace.

"I'm Already There" - Michael Weiss

This program set a lot of people around me off, getting them all teary. As someone who's not a parent, it didn't affect me like that, but this is a fantastic program for Michael. I know a lot of people like the song, but for me, the music isn't what makes the program - I actually like the song for the second program a lot more, while this one is a little schmaltzy for me. It's the conviction with which Michael skates it, the emotion, the passion. Michael's taken his love for his family and channeled into a really good program, and I really enjoyed it.

"Ladies in Lavender" - Angela Nikodinov, Jennifer Robinson, Yuka Sato

This, for me, was the oddest video intro since they obviously retaped it with Angela and Katia both, so they said much the same thing as if they were saying it for the first time, which sorta worked. Angela said she remembered going out to the rink with her mom and then skating around the rink in circles over and over, not wanting to get off. As before, Jennifer brought it all back to the pretty costumes, and the program began. Angela was lovely in the program, presenting a long, elegant figure that actually complemented Jennifer's really well. And, I think the flowing blonde hair set off Jennifer's brown hair, and Yuka's black hair well in a way that didn't occur to me until just now. This is just a lovely program with symmetry, counterpoint, and just lovely edges and flow. The lighting also helped set the mood. A very nice ladies ensemble, and now I'm already wondering who they're going to have in it in Canada - Jennifer, Joannie and...Jamie? Marie-France? Kyoko?

"Super Freak" - Jamie Sale & David Pelletier

The video is of 4 guys, not David, talking about terrible costumes and what they would never wear. Steven brings up the fishnet stockings and feather boa of the Moulin Rouge year, Jason says he thinks he wears more sequins than Yuka, and Todd ends on the note that he would never wear fuschia or animal prints and then introduces Stars on Ice's fashion icons, Jamie Sale & David Pelletier. When the lights come up of course David is wearing exactly that - fuschia shirt, and fuschia animal print pants. "Super Freak" is a tremendously fun program. I love what performers David and Jamie both are, though at times I think Jamie sometimes works the audience interaction a bit *too* far with her broad winks and direct stares and flirting. There's no denying that they both know how to work a crowd, and that they both know how to move to the music. I think what strikes me in numbers like these is how well David and Jamie both work as individual performers, while at the same time skating as an undeniable unit together on the ice. I don't quite know how they pull off that that blend of unified individuality, but it works. Lots of fun.

"Broken" - Todd Eldredge

There was a period of time during which I liked Creed. Not so much anymore, and now I'm really not a fan of Scott Stapp's voice, which kind of impeded my enjoyment of this program. That, and Todd's pants, which I just can't get used to. If it was just that pink shirt with brown pants, I could have dealt, but I just don't get the alternating dark and light brown quarters of the pants. Still, despite the barriers of costume and music, I still was impressed by Todd's skate. There is something about Todd that, despite the emotion and dramatic gestures of his solos, and despite the funny facial expressions in the group numbers, that still comes off as kind of bland and reserved to me, which I don't understand, but there's no denying he's an excellent skater. His spins alone are wonderful, and he really commits to his music. As for the underlying impression I get of blandness, it really is quite inexplicable because Todd does skate with emotion and drama and does a good job of it.

"Thank You, Stars" - Yuka Sato

The song does nothing for me. But the skating... Yuka is just a joy to watch on the ice, definitely one of my favorite female skaters out there. She doesn't have the extroverted personality of some of the other women but she's got a sweetness to her that just exudes on the ice, and her skating skills are absolutely lovely. She's got the best feet of all the female skaters, whether in edging or in footwork. Everything's so neat, and controlled, it's lovely to watch. I think Yuka might have had a fall on one of her jumps in this program, but she was right back up on her feet and performing the very next second.

"Legenda" - Alexei Yagudin

I have to confess that I was quite confused when I read the Worcester Post-Gazette review of the show and it said that no one looks like they enjoy themselves more on the ice than Alexei Yagudin, because I just don't see it. I've actually gotten the opposite impression from him from time to time, though I suspect it may because of pain or physical state than anything - one thing I noticed was that after the program ends, Alexei's a bit slow and labored to get back to his feet. And skaters like Steven Cousins, Jamie Sale, Kurt Browning, to me all exude a stronger sense of enjoyment on the ice. However, not agreeing that Alexei looks like he loves skating more than anybody is not the same as not agreeing that Alexei skated fantastically, because he did. Alexei skates this program with a great intensity and some really flashy footwork. His precision and choreography are also really good, and he knows how to stare intently into the audience and draw people in. This is a good program for Alexei, and I enjoyed it.

"Peace, Love, Skating" - Cast

I said in my San Jose review that I wasn't sure how well this program would hold up to repeated viewings. I have to say, it does. It's still every bit as funny to see the skaters in their 60's costumes, acting all stoned or whatever, and the skaters clearly have a great time. It also helped that at various times when some of the skaters were sitting on blankets around the ice, John Zimmerman and Jason Dungjen were on the blanket directly in front of my section, waving and winking, and generally looking like they were having fun and interacting with the audience. I found Kyoko skating with her former and current partner simultaneously kind of intriguing, but also fun. This program was also funny because of all the unusual and shifting pairings of skaters out there on the ice, which apparently is part of the whole 60's era vibe. It's just a fun number, and the audience clearly enjoys it.


"The Heist" - Cast

Another video, this time of the cast members talking about their favorite TV shows (Michael Weiss likes Heroes! Yuka Sato likes Lost!). David Pelletier admits to never having seen 24, and so the cast decides to put on their own version of 24. All events take place in realtime in 240 seconds Wink. Todd Eldredge is completely in his element in this cute group number as the rather dorky, accommodating butler, offering his hors d'ouevres and ushering in the guests. The other skaters come in, two by two, in rather unusual pairings - John and Jamie, Jason and Angela, Steven and Yuka, Alexei and Kyoko, etc. A good half of the 240 seconds is spent with the skaters acting as if they're at a party, admiring the "most valuable skate in the world," bright and glittery on its pedestal, mingling and milling about. Then, the lights go down, and when they come back on, it's revealed that the skate has been stolen. The skaters mill about in a rather amused panic (a lot of the skaters are inappropriately grinning), shrieking at the revelation of the missing skate, pointing accusing fingers, etc. Finally, David the investigator comes in with his big flashlight and spiffy leather coat, and begins to quickly conduct his investigation, ripping the skirts off the ladies, and poking his flashlight at the guys, and investigating every nook and cranny, including patting down two hugely grinning male audience members (well, he patted down one, the girls did the other). Eventually, the party guests run out the door, followed closely by the investigator. When he's alone, as the counter counts down to 0, Todd the butler looks around slyly, before raising his pant leg to show that he's got the skate on, laughing, nd running off the ice. It's a very cute number. Very short on the skating substance, but amusing.

"Home" - Michael Weiss

Michael Weiss' second number is quite the contrast to the first in style and mannerisms. His second number is far more of a sexy-type program, with an intense, different-sounding song that I quite liked. I think as far as emotional impact, the first number had more of that, but the second number was quite enjoyable. Michael Weiss is a good show skater and knows how to connect to his audience (and put in some very crowd pleasing moves).

"Show Off" - Jennifer Robinson

I've already described the video intro to this number in some detail in my San Jose review - Jamie and Kyoko arrive to find that their dressing room is a dump of a utility closet with a guy in it fixing something, and then discover that Jennifer is in a brightly lit sumptuous dressing room full of flowers and one of those mirrors with bright bulbs around it. She offers to let them share it, declaring that she doesn't want to show off no more, and leaves, leaving Jamie behind to darkly declare that Jennifer really thinks she's Lola, her diva character from the previous year's Too-Me Tango. This character suits Jennifer to a T. I'm not sure she should keep pulling out the same character over and over, but in the context of the show, it's a lot of fun. And I love the video chorus of Jamie, Kyoko, Todd, and Steven in their choir costumes singing the background chorus. It's odd, though, because this number feels like more of an individually tailored group number than any of the group numbers, what with 4 cast members pulled in to do the chorus, and 4 of the guys coming out to showcase Jennifer.

"Takes Two To Tango" - Yuka Sato & Jason Dungjen

Yuka and Jason come out to get into their opening poses for their number, only to be interrupted by another burst of "I don't wanna show off no more" with Jennifer stealing the spotlight as she recovers her big white fur coat and doesn't leave the ice until Yuka pushes her off, getting indignant about Jason's attention to Jennifer. I love this tango number for Yuka and Jason. They've got the attitude, they've got the poses, but there's also a palpable affection between them that's really sweet to watch. I think at times their lifts/transitions into/out of the lifts are a little shaky, but the overall performance is just fun to watch.

"If I Only Had a Brain" - Kurt Browning

Kurt, for his second number, has brought back his Scarecrow character from Halloween on Ice earlier this year, minus the makeup. This is a tremendously fun number, with Kurt completely in character and completely on the music, and the audience very much gets into it. The number did look a bit different than it did in Halloween on Ice, since Kurt's been tweaking and improv-ing bits of it as he tries to play with the number to make it work more to his satisfaction. Kurt gets into a character better than just about anybody I've seen on the ice, committing himself totally to being the Scarecrow as opposed to just playing the Scarecrow, and it works nicely. I have to confess that this isn't my favorite number of his, and I would have rather seen other programs of his out there - for one thing, I don't feel the number has enough skating content, though that's one of the things Kurt's working on - but as a show number it's a good one. And it seems to bring back a lot of nostalgia for people remembering watching the Wizard of Oz as they grew up, as well as appealing to kids.

"Swing" - Steven Cousins, Todd Eldredge, David Pelletier, Michael Weiss, Alexei Yagudin, John Zimmerman

In the shows since the San Jose show, the guys have really settled into a comfortable delivery of their lines here. Steven comes out with the mike saying that he always thought he'd grow up and play for Liverpool, who won (I forgot the score - 4-0?) today, news that he delivers with a gleeful smile. He then asks the other guys what they used to dream of doing. David says that he always wanted to lift the Stanley Cup, but ended up lifting Jamie (in a rueful tone of voice). Michael Weiss wanted to be a football player, and goes through a whole "Weiss fades back to pass. He spots Eldredge (who runs out to "catch the ball"), " etc etc..."TOUCHDOWN!! YEAH!!" John Zimmerman ribs him for still sounding like a figure skater, and then says that he always wanted to be in NASCAR because he likes driving fast, and he's from Alabama so of course he dreamed of NASCAR. How he became a figure skater, he has no idea. Todd Eldredge pretends to line up and take a swing (at golf) - they all "watch" his ball until it splashes into the water trap... Todd then says in a matter of fact tone that as long as he keeps hitting his ball into the porta potty, then he guesses he should stick to figure skating. Something about this (despite it being a line that he's delivered a dozen times before) cracks Steven up completely, who has to pause before he can continue to Alexei. Alexei starts talking about how the other guys are lucky for having had dreams for the future and how he just lives in the moment, day to day, and never thought about/thinks about the future. The other guys have their hats down at their chests and look touched, and say how beautiful that was. Then Steven shakes off the mood and says "today, let's play for the Red Sox!" and off goes the number. I know I complained before about the repetitiveness of having another all guys' prop number, and that they seem to be repeating a lot of tricks. At the same time, this is a fun number, and the guys look like they have a ton of fun performing it, which always helps to engage the audience. And the "hey batter batter, hey batter batter, hey batter batter swing" is quite infectious. Fun number.

"La Isla Bonita" - Angela Nikodinov

Can someone perform to Madonna with dignity and integrity? Because I think Angela did. Sure, she wore a sexy orange(?) costume, and sure, she skated with a certain degree of sass and attitude that suited the music well. But I never got the sense of Angela conceding to audience pandering or anything like that. It didn't feel like an out of place attempt to be sexy, she moved to the music well, and her performance was great. The program fit her really well, and I really enjoyed it.

"Remember" - Steven Cousins

I will admit - the sexy flirty dance numbers are Steven's forte. However, I do like seeing him try different directions, like with "Belfast Child", so it's nice to see him do a dramatic sweeping program, instead of a fun bouncy program. Steven covers the ice well in converying the sweeping flow of the program, and I thought conveyed the intensity and the emotion of the music nicely. All skaters in Stars on Ice should always get two programs, since it does a better job of showing the skaters' range than just one program. I do have to say, though - there was one part of this program that made me turn to my friend and say "does he ever *not* flirt on the ice?" Even in a dramatic program like this, Steven can't stay introspective, he still has to reach out and draw the people in with a wink or saucy look.

"Piece of My Heart" - Kyoko Ina & John Zimmerman

I love this program. I mean, what can be so great about another trick-filled program? I don't know (aside from John Zimmerman in that sleeveless black T, which does look quite nice) but I really enjoy this program when I see it. The energy, the excitement... both John and Kyoko look into it when they perform it, I *know* the audience is into it, gasping and cheering at every "how did they do that??" trick. But it's not just that Kyoko is tossed around like a rag doll in some gasp-inducing moves and unusual transitions. I actually feel like this program has some good choreography in between the tricks, and moves to the music well. Having both great tricks and great choreography just makes this an overall winner for me.

"Blues for Klook" - Alexei Yagudin

I think the crowd in Worcester "got" this program more than past crowds I've seen - they almost immediately started giggling at some of his silly moves and poses, and seemed to get into the number pretty quickly. This program is pure exaggerated silliness - Alexei doing all sorts of random moves that fit the music and kind of parody a more serious "artistic" program. It's also got some great footwork in it. Odd costume, but what can you do...

"One" - Jamie Sale & David Pelletier

OK, Jamie and David may finally have done it. After watching this program 3 times live now (as well as a few times on my DVR), I think I'm finally getting reconciled to this version of "One." I found their introduction about how their partnership was unlikely, how they love everything about each other, and how the partnership off the ice was even better than on the ice, and how now they've truly become one ...kinda cheesy. But I've never been one for romanticism, so don't mind me. The program itself, though, I think did a better job of expressing that sentiment than anything they could have said. Jamie and David really do move together extremely naturally, their moves in sync, in counterpoint, and in symmetry just perfectly matched with very little effort. And I think I like the programs where Jamie is more focused on David than focused on the audience a bit more at times. It just seem a bit more natural. They've got great emotion flowing between them, and I really enjoy the choreography of this number.

"Better Days" - Todd Eldredge

This is a great program for Todd. Maybe it was the music, but I found it easier to connect to the emotion and feeling of the program, and to get into it more with Todd. I also felt like there was more genuine conviction and less put on drama in his skating of this number, which also made it easier to get into the number. And I always marvel at watching Todd spin - he's just so well-centered, fast, and with such nice positions. It's nothing spectacularly bendy like what the current eligibles do, but there's something a lot more clean and pure about his spins.

"I Believe I Can Fly" - Cast

So, the song is kind of an obvious one for skaters. And it's a bit cheesy. But I do enjoy this finale. It's not one of the "great" finales, not by a long stretch. There's nothing distinctive enough about it to be one of those. Not enough personality, not an interesting enough theme, not interesting enough solos in it. But as an ensemble number and way to end the show, I think it works well. It's got a great flow (I say that a lot, don't I?) to it, and the transitions between each skater getting their solo spot on the ice work really well. In my opinion, there are two (at least) types of finales - these single song flowing ones where there's never a pause or a break, just skaters seamlessly moving on and off the ice and then moving together as a unit, and the multiple song finales with lots of personality, individual bits, room for character and individuality and changes in mood/tone. I tend to prefer the latter (just look at the Queen/Rolling Stones/Beatles..even the Carpenters' finale) but the former can work really well with the right piece of music and done well (Stairway to Heaven is one of my favorite finales). And I think they did this one well. It's a nice note to end the show on.

For the final bows, Kurt Browning came back out (in his Easy costume) to take his bows with everyone, and seemed to enjoy bopping around out there with the cast. So far none of the post-2000 shows IMO have come anywhere close to the 90's shows in quality, emotion, and just that undefinable something, but this is probably one of the better shows in recent years. Overall, I think this year's show is an excellent one and well worth seeing.