Report & Photos by Melanie Hoyt & Katie Weigel
“Simply Irresistible” – Cast
Katie: And the show has started! Right away I like the silver and black costumes. Like it always is with the opening number, so much is happening at once that sometimes I get a little lost in trying to take photos of whoever comes over my way. I also get very shutter-happy in the first half and especially during the opening number. It’s like I think there isn’t going to be any more skating after the first number! Sasha is introduced last and comes out in a red sparkly dress. She does her take-my-blade-to-my-cheek spin and the whole cast is doing moves in a circle around her. It makes for a pretty cool image. Sasha, Todd, and Jamie & David receive the most applause from the audience.
Mel: I loved seeing this number from about 15 rows above the ice, because of all the choreography. Like Katie, I also thought that the effect with Sasha’s red dress was neat. I wasn’t expecting Jamie & David to be in the opening, since they’re only doing the middle portion of the tour, but they blended right in with the rest of the cast. I probably spent too much time fiddling with my camera to fully appreciate the number, but what’s not to love about a Robert Palmer medley? So much fun. After this number, Todd Eldredge and Jen Robinson came out to “work the crowd.” It was funny to hear Jen say, “Hellooooo, Rosemont!” Yes, the Allstate Arena is in Rosemont, but most of Rosemont is comprised of hotels and office space. Population of Rosemont, according to the 2000 census: 4,224. Chicago’s population: close to three million.
“Fire” – Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon
Katie: Todd, Sasha, and Jennifer Robinson introduce Marie-France & Patrice, who come out for their first number. Marie-France’s skirt goes well with the sexiness of the program – it consists of loose fringe and makes for some pretty cool silhouettes throughout the program. This program is sensual, playful, and quite sexy. At one point, Marie-France takes off Patrice’s tie.
Mel: At this point, I started wondering if the row of children behind me should be watching.
Katie: They seem to be keeping up with their difficult elements, performing one of their trademark low-to-the ice lifts were it looks like Marie-France’s head is skimming the ice. This was a cute program, but I enjoyed their second number better. I’ll get to that later!
Mel: I was definitely impressed by this program. Marie-France & Patrice are such a great addition to the show this year – everything they do is with such polish and attention to the performance aspect. It’s such a treat to see them on tour in the States, and I loved the chance to photograph them for the first time with a “real” camera. The highlight in this program was their final lift – it’s the one where she’s stiff as a board (and seems light as a feather) and he rotates her around his shoulders and neck at top speed. I still have no idea how that works.
“1000 Miles Away” – Yuka Sato
Katie: I like seeing Yuka skate to Jewel. I believe she skated to “Angel Standing By” a few years ago. Jewel’s slower tunes really suit Yuka well. I love her soft edges and overall smooth quality. The flowing dress looks a little awkward in pictures, but it really went with the feeling of the song. Yuka did some nice double axels and a triple Salchow. She also did a double loop, which I thought was maybe a planned triple turned into a double. Yuka has kept up her jumps quite nicely over the years and it always makes me happy to see her skate.
Mel: I agree with Katie – Yuka is an absolute gem. Since it was Oscar weekend and I was gearing up for a night of playing fashion police, I noticed her sleeves and how I wasn’t thrilled with them. And she did break Ice-Dance.com’s primary costume rule by wearing white, but I think it’s acceptable in show lighting. Back to the skating, though – she’s just a dream to watch. She just floats across the ice, and it’s amazing how effortlessly she still skates, despite it being 14 years since the height of her amateur career.
“Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” – Todd Eldredge
Katie: This number was definitely a crowd favorite. It started off with “messages” that were left on Todd’s answering machine informing him of some really bad things that happened to his house. That and the rest of the program elicited a lot of laughs from the crowd. I liked the part where he choreographed a mock grave for himself into the program, complete with laying on the ice and flower clasped in his hand. It was clever and right to the music. I thought this was a fun number for Todd. It was a little reminiscent of something Scott Hamilton or Kurt Browning would have done in previous years.
Mel: Definitely more than a little reminiscent!
Katie: Todd had a little more trouble with jumps in this program than in his second number, but I attribute this to the fact that this number had a lot of difficult choreography and at times he had to look like he was tripping or falling, which is actually difficult to do when you want to!
Mel: As I think back to 2004, the year that Stars on Ice had all of those little transitions with the black and white costumes, I wonder if Stars hasn’t been grooming Todd to take over the entertainer’s role for a while now. As a girl who grew into a skating fan during the ‘90s, I’ve always appreciated Todd’s skating, but have never pictured him as someone who could follow in the large clown-shoe footprints left by Kurt and Scott. He really surprised me with this number and had me the whole way through. Way to go, Todd!
“Enchantment” – Sasha Cohen, John Zimmerman, Michael Weiss, and Patrice Lauzon
Katie: The “Cirque de Soleil” number garnered many “Ohs” and “Ahs” from the Chicago crowd. It was quite spectacular. My favorite moves were all the different lifts the men were able to perform with Sasha. It made me think she could have done really well in pairs. It seemed like the men were lifting a can of soup instead of a grown woman! This was a cool concept for a group number and unlike anything SOI has done in the past. I appreciated the new creativity.
Mel: I know this program was meant to showcase Sasha’s elegant style and flexibility, and it did, but the thing that I keep remembering from this program was Patrice’s rockstar partnering skills! Since he’s been with Marie-France for about as long as anyone can remember, I think I take the partnering for granted; they’re just so comfortable with each other. But watching him lift someone else, including the quasi-Detroiter with Sasha, really made me want to give him props. Overall, I thought this number was great.
“Feeling Good” – Xue Shen & Hongo Zhao
Katie: I was really looking forward to seeing Shen & Zhao in their new roles as professionals. They didn’t disappoint! They had the expression to match their technical prowess and new tricks. But this kind of growth has been a trend for them in recent years, so I wasn’t too surprised of their beauty. I really liked the playfulness of their first number. I had never seen them do “sexy” before. It worked. It shows in their expression that they are very happy and in love. Sigh.
Mel: Like Katie, I was really looking forward to seeing Shen & Zhao, but unlike Katie, I was a little under whelmed by this program. Maybe I wanted to be overwhelmed by it so much that my expectations were too high. I appreciate that they wanted to try something different, and I applaud that, but I feel like there’s a middle ground between classical and sexy that would have worked better for me. Still, it was pretty incredible to see them live for the first time. They really are that good. And they’re just so adorable, too.
“Hero” – Michael Weiss
Katie: Mel and I commentated after this program that it was very Paul Wylie-esque. Right down to the flailing of the arms upward during the sit spin. I actually turned to Julie (Mel’s friend) when Mike did the sit spin and said, “Holy cow – Paul Wylie!” I love Paul and I have come to enjoy Mike a lot more now that he is professional. My only complaint as that I don’t like the song “Hero.” But I just tried to tune it out and enjoy Mike’s skating. He is still doing some great technical elements, including the triple Lutz and triple flip. The backflip always ignites the crowd. And in Chicago it was no different – a man sitting behind me actually exclaimed, “WOW! You go man!”
Mel: Indeed, the program had some Wylie-esque choreography, but really…this song? 12 years after I fell in love with the guy in Albertville, I finally got to see Paul Wylie skate live, and he skated to this song – on this tour! And like Katie said, it’s not even that great of a song! But music choice and enough Wylie echoes to be over the top, I have to say that Mike was a lot better than I expected him to be. I hadn’t seen him skate in a few years, and he impressed me.
“Shine on You Crazy Diamond” – Kyoko Ina & John Zimmerman
I told Mel after the show that Kyoko and John are hard to photograph for two reasons. One, they are very fast with their tricks, which happen so quickly that you barely get time to focus your lens. Two, both of them have hair that constantly gets in the way. Makes a photographer’s job a little harder than normal.
Mel: So many shots of them that I expected to be really neat were actually really blurry.
Katie: I loved their opening poses, which involved some major balancing and strength. They skated a good program, filled with great tricks and great chemistry with each other. I always feel a little bad for Kyoko though, because once John takes the ice, even some men can’t stop looking at him.
Mel: It was fun to see them revisit the music from one of their most memorable programs from their amateur career. This version has lyrics, though, and is obviously a bit longer, since there wasn’t a 2:40 time guideline. I loved the move where John is in a spread eagle and he drags Kyoko in a Besti squat behind him. Very cool lines. The whole program was filled with very cool lines, actually. Great overall effect.
“Anytime, Anywhere” – Sasha Cohen
Katie: I’m with those that don’t like this costume on Sasha. But the program was quite nice, so I’ll forgive her. I’m still amazed by her flexibility. She incorporated a lot of it into her program. She had a few jumps, but I can’t remember exactly what she did. I believe she two-footed a triple toe loop sometime during the night and possibly stepped out of a triple Salchow. But her skating is very smooth and here again, I’ll forgive her the jumps.
Mel: I came into this program with a pre-existing bias against this song, so I admit that the program didn’t thrill me. Sasha seems to be settling into her role as tour headliner, though, and she got a ton of applause and high-pitched screams, especially from the young girls behind me. She’s always been a great performer, and she certainly looks at home under the spotlights.
“Thankful” -Jamie Salé & David Pelletier
Katie: Jamie & David closed out the first half of the show with this excellent number. I’ve always loved Jamie & David and this number didn’t disappoint. They seemed to embody the title of the song -thankful for what they have accomplished and what they enjoy in life: skating and each other. They looked very happy throughout the whole number, and their skating was breathtaking. My favorite move was the classic pair spiral. Secure, long, and expressive.
Mel: I don’t think it’s possible for this program to match the emotional impact that it had at Canadian Nationals, right after they were inducted into the Canadian Figure Skating Hall of Fame, but Jamie & David were flawless in this program. In the Code of Points era, when pairs have to pack in the “features” on the elements to get higher levels, it’s such a treat to see elements like their spiral, which Katie mentioned, and my personal favorite – the platter lift. They are exquisite, and tonight was no exception.
“Hard Steele is Back” – Cast
Katie: Because of this number, I might have to purchase another ticket to SOI this year. I loved it that much. The costumes cracked me up and the whole number was so entertaining. I’d have to see it a second time to determine where it ranks among the great SOI numbers, but right now I’d have it pretty close to the recent 60s number from a few years back and maybe even behind my two personal favorites: the Rolling Stones finale from the 94-95 season and the Fun and Games number from the 97-98 tour. I loved Marie-France’s wig! She rocked it. I could stop laughing at Todd and Hongbo’s wigs either. Both just seemed a little too ridiculous to be real, but that’s the whole point!
Mel: I think it’s on par with “Fun and Games,” but “TGIF” from 2004 is probably at the top of my list. The typecasting of Xue, Kyoko, and Yuka as super-fans from China and Japan was hilarious, and the guys were hilarious as members of a “hair band.” For me, though, Marie-France stole the show from them. With her long red wig and pink guitar, I kept finding her in my viewfinder. I can’t wait to see this number again in Michigan, because I know that I missed things!