These days there is only one national tour allowing enthusiasts to see their favorite figure skaters. The Ice Capades folded in 1995 after over fifty years of kitschy entertainment, Champions on Ice went out of business in 2008, and Stars on Ice is the last tour geared towards audiences looking for competition style skating rather than novelty shows aimed at children (i.e. Disney on Ice).
Not that this prevents a certain level of highly entertaining kitsch. There are group numbers with loads of sequins and outrageous Star Search lighting during which tour members flit about to the likes of the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” and “I’ve Got the Music In Me” (Kiki Dee Band), among other selections that will make you giggle, including one number incorporating a giant disco ball for extra fun.
It is also vastly entertaining. Vastly.
At the risk of sounding a touch over-excited: There is nothing like seeing Olympic athletes perform in person. Truly. Especially when you have your own personal Scott Hamilton (read: Kathleen) to comment, gasp and clutch with you.
After the opening group number, the show began with Mirai Nagasu skating a version of her competitive short program to music including “He’s A Pirate” from Pirates of the Caribbean (I told you there would be multiple instances of pirates after the golden dollar debacle).
For reference, this is the program during which she spun so fast at the Olympics that she got a bloody nose on the way to a fourth place finish in Vancouver. Mere weeks later it was the program that garnered her a personal record at the 2010 ISU World Championships and first place going into the free skate with the break out performance of the competition.
Nagasu is purely delightful, the girl is going places; like she says, “I just want people to know that I’m the future.” Her signature grace on the ice came across even in the upper levels– sprightly footwork, fluid lines and unrivaled spins were a joy to witness in person. One might think that watching the same program for the fourth time [after televised coverage of Nationals, Olympics and Worlds] would have been old hat, but it was nothing of the sort– if anything, I just knew what I had to look forward to from the moment she stepped out onto the ice.
Suffice it to say that seeing what Nagasu can accomplish in the coming 2010/11 season will be terribly exciting, and I look forward to watching her show the world what she is capable of.
Second up, another Olympian in the form of Jeremy Abbott– another Words to Bumble favorite– who did not make out quite as well in either Vancouver or Torino for the Worlds. Sadly he did not perform his Beatles short program from the competition season, but he did don another classy mildly bedazzled shirt for a skate to Michael Bublé’s “At This Moment.”
The unfortunate thing about Abbott is that as delightful as he is when he is on, he clearly tends to succumb to nerves after even a minor slip up. During his second solo on the ice Abbott had a few issues and touched down on the ice once or twice, never seeming to recover from an early issue.
Comment from Kathleen: “That boy really knows how to swivel his hips.” This is why she is my own personal Scott Hamilton.
Incidentally, Stars On Ice was founded by Scott Hamilton when his Ice Capades contract was not renewed in the mid-eighties.
Olympians Meryl Davis and Charlie White skated their Indian original dance from the 2009/2010 season. Theirs was one of the few at the Olympics that was not entirely scarring, and its energetic pace definitely translated well as a piece of entertainment to keep the show going. Their crazy lifts (like the one where Davis stands on the back of White’s calf) are responsible for my growing enjoyment of ice dancing, which I often find to be a bit trying, frankly.
Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto gave a narrative performance to Jason Mraz’s “If It Kills Me,” telling the story of a relationship over the years, from childhood into adulthood, complete with props and multiple costume changes. It was pretty adorable.
One of the most distressing aspects of the evening was the low energy of the audience. It was pretty obvious that the lack of enthusiasm was dragging on skaters throughout the evening, most notably Alissa Czisny’s second solo, “I Like the Way You Move,” which should have been a particularly high-energy number.
Michael Weiss on the other hand was particularly adept at connecting with the audience with a rocking crowd-pleaser performance of “Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” complete with my favorite thing ever: back flips!
There was clutching, there was gasping, there were joyous exclamations with each jump– and it was not just Kathleen and myself–everyone was loving it! I always miss back flips, I think there should always be more back flipping– it just brings joy.
However, the ultimate crowd favorite was Olympic champion Evan Lysacek (and how relived am I to be writing about his figure skating skills again instead of Dancing with the Stars!?). I had wondered if he would perform the date that brought him to the dance. He did not, but what he did was amazingly fabulous.
Picture this: the crowd goes insane when “our” Olympic champion is introduced. He appears on the ice… Is that a singular sparkling glove that he is sporting?
Yes it is.
What are those dulcet tones that I hear? Oh, Michael Jackson? Oh, “Man in the Mirror?” Yes, please.
I die. So much joy. Just… watch it. Do yourself a favor. Try to be cranky after that.
As you may surmise, clutching ensued. That was one of the most entertaining things I have ever seen. And they say Lysacek is boring and mechanical. Did they not note the glove?
Sheer joy aside, the one thing I took home from watching Lysacek skate is that he is one tall man. It never really came across to me while watching televised events, but seeing him in person– I repeat– that is a tall man. He towers over other skaters, even alone on the ice his height dominates, which may be part of why he is so impressive. So says Kathleen.
Other members of the tour:
The ever delightful Todd Eldredge: Discuss the fact that Eldredge has been skating since I first started watching… and he is still awesomely at it.
Yuka Sato has been on the tour for several years and is also Jeremy Abbott’s coach, so this has been an interesting little exercise for them figuring out how to tour together as colleagues rather than coach and coachee.
Lastly, Sasha Cohen skated as the only survivor of Champions on Ice. Apparently in the figure skating world, the dissolution of previous ice tours and the dominance of Stars On Ice is chuck full of drama– drama for another time perhaps.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable experience. A little bizarre, a little campy, but also fantastic. There was a little something for everyone: classical pieces, pop programs, campy musical theateresque group numbers, Olympic caliber programs from the faces the world learned to love in Vancouver– overall good times. Plus, when you have gotten used to sitting through an entire night of compulsory dances, the variety brought the best of the best into one whole.
So if you have ever pondered trekking out to see a figure skating tour, I fully recommend the experience. If you cannot make it out: check out the gallery of additional photos from the night on Long Island.