I never miss a Stars On Ice show.
In this post-Olympic year, many others didn’t miss it either. The lower bowl was largely filled at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, and some even sprinkled upwards into the nosebleed seats. (Just try to get into a washroom or a snack bar at intermission time- the lineups streamed along concourses forever.) At least in Toronto, it looked like the Canadian crowds of long ago. Obviously, figure skating is still alive in these parts.
And they got their money’s worth, I’d say. This was one of the better Stars productions, and had the hand of skating lead/choreographer Jeff Buttle and artistic director Jeff Billings all over it. The music choices were phenomenal: intelligent, thoughtful, soulful, with some comedic touches that were hip and classy, (if you can put those two words together) rather than stupid-silly (like most American sitcoms). This was not your goofy Smurfs adventure, boys and girls – and you couldn’t beat the cast and the talent. There were no standing ovations until after the finale, but most of the time, you could hear a pin drop, the crowd so engrossed in the action.
Aside from Buttle, a national treasure that we don’t get to see often enough, Patrick Chan and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were back to celebrate their Olympic silver medals with everybody, and medals aside, the audience witnessed some of the best bladework and body movement the sport can muster. You don’t have to travel to Timbuctu to see the masters of the sport. Many of them are right here. Hopefully we won’t be saying goodbye to all of this (come on, Scott, are you really going to work on a farm?), as this generation of skaters moves on.
A few of my favourite things with this show? (Hard to pick, but here goes):
The show opener: Skating to Hans Zimmer’s “What are You Going to Do When You are Out Saving the World,” the cast emerged, carrying billowing white flags to music that had a driving percussion, perfect to get the heart beating.
Then out came Kaetlyn Osmond like we’ve rarely seen her, skating to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” but it wasn’t the usual arrangement. This one was by Jewel and it was beautiful. Of course, this was a change in pace.
Shawn Sawyer doing backflips – a rarity any more – during his “Sail” routine, where he came out with a flotation vest and a kayak paddle. He did one of his backflips with this paddle in his hands. His acrobatics, his stretch during his spins and spirals and his daring sealed the deal for this guy being in the cast.
One routine blending into the next: Joannie Rochette and Patrick Chan skated to “Stompa” by Serena Ryder, singing, “Clap your hands, stamp your feet,” with riveting rhythms. Up next were Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, whose routine started out with them clapping their hands above their heads, carrying on the theme, but they were skating to “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros to a piece choreographed by Julie Marcotte. It was Duhamel and Radford like we’ve never seen them. It was playful. Later, Radford is “shot” by Rochette during her routine: “Bang, bang, he shot me down.” Thankfully, he reappeared later, all in one piece.
Okay, so I can’t stop. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje’s routine to “A Song for You” by Donny Hathaway, had the lyrics: “ I love you in a place where there is no space or time/ I love you for my life. You are a friend of mine.” It was romantic and beautiful and perfect for this team.
And wow, Buttle, skating to “Counting Stars” with words like “Everything that kills me makes me feel alone.” And he makes us love it.
Chan skating to Michael Buble’s “The Best of Me.” Chan’s skills gave you goosebumps as he emoted to “No one will ever touch me more/I only hope that when I return/ No matter how much we have to learn/ That I might have saved the best, the very best for you.”
Okay, so I really can’t stop. Buttle emerged first for a group number, dressed in red and orange and then was followed by others: Chan, Sawyer, Poje, and Scott Moir, all in various bright hues, skating to “The Walker.” At one point they hoisted Sawyer, always a target because he’s the smallest of the group, into a lift while he did the splits. Then the lift evolved. After all of this complicated to and fro-ing, they finished by taking a group selfie at the end, which flashed up on screens in the rink.
Another wonderful moment: the ballerinas, in frothy tutus, at the bar. The group included two blonds (Rochette and Weaver) dressed in blue, and two brunettes (Osmond and Virtue) dressed in pink. The movement was exquisite as they wrapped their bodies around a bar, but listen to the moody words, and they made your hair stand on end: “I want to be special, but I’m not. I want a perfect soul.” The routine was an incredible contrast between beauty and inner pain. See what I mean by this being a very intelligent show: when somebody (namely Buttle) choreographs something beautiful out of a haunting, disturbing theme? Blow me away.
A final, lasting moment? The two guys who had just been to the popcorn counter during intermission. One held an ENORMOUS box, filled to the brim. The other tried to transfer some of the popcorn into a smaller box, digging his hand into the larger bin. And it didn’t go well. It didn’t stop him. After they had finished and moved back to their seats – somewhere else – you just had to look over the barrier and there was popcorn, lots of it, scattered over the matt. That was half-time entertainment.
I could go on, but this is Kentucky Derby day and I must get my ducks in a row and warm up the TV. Crossing my fingers for California Chrome, a personality of the equine kind.
Go. There are still lots of Stars shows left: Hamilton tonight, London May 4 (this weekend is a tough stretch for the crew), Winnipeg May 7, Edmonton May 9, Saskatoon May 10, Calgary May 11, Victoria, May 13 and finally Vancouver May 15. And then all of this good stuff will quietly disappear. Go.