BROADWAY ON ICE - 2004/2005


Broadway On Ice
(January 1 and 2, 2005 – evening and matinee performances)
Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA
 
When I saw this show in Branson, Missouri, at the Andy Williams Theatre in summer of 2000, I was impressed with the quality of the entire undertaking as well as the skating (see review). The Willy Bietak production (http://www.bietakproductions.com/) has now evolved into a first rate entertainment vehicle. The show has been marketed to local theater organizations and has most often been a part of an annual subscription package of  theatrical presentations. From November through February, it will appear in ten venues; others have indicated interest in presenting it in the future.
 
Much has been added to the show as it moved into several theaters across the U.S. in late 2004 and 2005. Sara Kawahara directs and choreographs. The numbers and transitions are more crisp, the sound system is much superior, and the guest skaters and singers are better integrated into the show. The stage settings are attractive, yet unobtrusive and easily moved and adjusted.
 
The program credits Jef Billings as Costume Designer, and the ensemble skaters definitely sparkle more than in Branson! Interestingly, Rudy and Oksana brought their own costumes (except for one of Rudy’s). Unlike Branson where there wasn't any printed information about the show, there are now “Playbill” style and souvenir programs with complete performance listings and skater biographies. Rudy, Oksana, and Leslie Uggams, the guest singer for several of the shows, had full page glossy inserts in the souvenirs.
 
The Fox Theatre in downtown Atlanta was another grand experience. Built in the 1920’s as the Yaarab Temple Shrine mosque, “it was a beautifully outlandish, opulent, grandiose monument to the heady excesses of the pre-crash 1920's.” What I thought of as an open air Elizabethan-style theater because of the ceiling of evening sky above with constellations in perfect order and clouds moving past the turrets, was actually modeled after an Arabian courtyard. Sitting in the first Loge (above the Orchestra seats) for the Saturday night show, I felt like I was in an outdoor theater in perfect weather watching Broadway the way Rudy said it was supposed to be in his introduction …”On Ice.”

The rest of the Theatre has made use of large ballrooms and halls for everything from refreshment areas to rest rooms. After some treacherous up and down times, the Fox Theatre finally achieved standing both as a National Historic Landmark (1991) and as a “Museum,” the most important State-wide designation. Therefore, its existence should be assured for many years to come.
 

After two sellouts in Florida in Sarasota and West Palm Beach, this show was not as well attended, possibly because of the inability of people to leave regular New Year’s Day activities or recover from New Years Eve celebrating! There is also the fact that this is a huge theater. Throughout the intermission and after the show, the talk among those who did attend was of what a wonderful event it was and why didn’t Atlanta come out in greater numbers to see it. The Sunday matinee crowd was an especially responsive audience whose enthusiasm poured out into the lobbies during intermission and at the show’s end. Pre-show publicity was sparse in Atlanta, again possibly due to the holidays.
 

Looking over the program, I was pleased to see that two of the skaters I had most enjoyed in Branson were also featured in this show. Chris Nolan, who is listed as associate choreographer, would again perform “Willkommen” from Cabaret and be featured in several other numbers. Other than Rudy, he may have done the only other triple jump I saw. Sara Robertson was back in the ensemble doing “Broadway Baby.” At Branson, she proved the Beillmann spin could be done by a relatively tall, statuesque skater to dramatic effect. I also noticed that Sylvia Fontana was a featured skater and was going to perform “I Dreamed a Dream.” This turned out to be a highlight.
 

Others skating in the ensemble and company were Sarah Bickford, Jed Hopkins, Samantha Huntt, Colleen Moyer, Phillip Patterson, Lynne Petta, Pete St. Germaine, and Samantha Taylor (in addition to those mentioned below). The only name I recognized in the credits besides those mentioned before was Cindy Stuart, who, along with Cathy Steele, provided additional choreography.
 

Rudy introduced the show after an initial “Putting It Together” number featuring most of the cast. Wearing the gorgeous jacket he used for his 2001 Moulin Rouge program (http://www.rudy-galindo.com/wic012-46.htm), he again amazed me with his professional and well-articulated (albeit a little breathless) speaking. He slows down the "California-speak!" Rudy has such wonderful personality and style for a theatrical setting.
 

The first part of the first act was called Stomp, and it moved very quickly, and really blew the audience away with its with about 30+ minutes of uninterrupted and fast-paced skating. Following are the numbers:
 

“On the Town” (company) Everyone got in on this.
 

“All I Ask of You” (Principal pair Svetlana Butova& Maxim Fomin – Russia)

The audiences responded with amazement and admiration to both pairs’ athletic lifts and moves and their touching interaction throughout the show. According to the program, they hold the title of Master of Sports of Russia in figure skating. In this country, they were third in the American Open Professional Figure skating championships (no year given).
 

“Somewhere” (Oksana)

Oksana moves so well on the ice. I’ve heard her fans refer to her as a dancer, and her performances in this show illustrated why. Her jumps were much better in the matinee performance than the evening before, but they still had an awkward look to them on the small ice since she is so dependent on speed to complete them. She could have left them out and few would have cared. One thing that happened 3-4 times each performance was that Oksana would appear to be going into a Biellmann spin holding her leg back and up over her head.. The audience would murmer with anticipation. Each time, she sort of dropped the spin and her leg and finished it as a kind of modified donut on a stick spin. The audience was palpably disappointed!
 

“Willkomen” (Chris Nolan and ensemble)

Chris sings and speaks part of this number himself, and did a good job with it, even the accent. He has  mastered the art of skating expressively on very small ice.
 

“Hot Honey Rag” (another principal pair Viktoriya Glichenko & Andrey Baka of  Ukraine) and "All that Jazz" (Silvia Fontana & ensemble) continued the Fosse tribute. It was most enjoyable, although I fondly  remembered Oksana’s version of it!
 

“Trouble” (in River City) from The Music Man (Kelly Smith) mixed skating with a tap dancer who performed on a table in one of the weaker moments of the evening. In Branson, Michael Chack did this number and my recollection is that it was more successful with his fine skating—and without the dancer.
 

Then it was back to Fosse with Oksana doing “Big Spender.” I had a hard time with this one as I sort of consider it Rudy’s territory, but adjusted to it and realize most consider it a woman's song! Oksana does Fosse very well, too.
 

“We’re In the Money” (company) was a rousing way to end Act 1, part 1.

The cast appeared to be very comfortable with the company and ensemble numbers and there weren't any  glitches I could see. With prior performances in Palm Desert and San Francisco, CA, and Grand Rapids, MI, in November and December, as well as Sarasota and West Palm Beach, Florida, they had put things together very well indeed. The "star"  performers had no trouble fitting in.
 

The next part of the first act was titled In Concert, and it began with Leslie Uggams singing three numbers. One, “On My Way to You,” was outstanding, both in terms of the lyrics and music, and her rendition of it. She mentioned it was on her latest CD.
 

Rudy then skated to “Send In the Clowns.” He did this in Branson at the last minute when the Fosse numbers he had planned were already scheduled, and it was so well-received that he was asked to do it again here. He was mesmerizing and the hoop work enthralled the audience, as did the double axels. One thing he did differently was to substitute a hand stand (held for several seconds) for the cartwheel he has done previously in this program.
 

The “Officer Krupke” and “Cool” set, done by the ensemble, might have been placed elsewhere as it was a little out of place (and unnecessary) here between two of the highlights of the show (Rudy and the next number...
 

“Seasons of Love” that featured Chris Nolan, Silvia Fontana, and the two principal pairs. The Rent number was beautifully choreographed, well skated, and the audience loved it.
 

The first act ended with a rousing and good-humored version of “America” from West Side Story.
 

During the intermission, I always like to wander among the audience and listen to comments. Most had never seen an ice show on a theatrical stage and it was evident that people were surprised and pleased at what great entertainment it was.
 

The second act of the show is also divided into parts in reverse order of the first act. The specialty numbers and In Concert segments precede the longer Broadway Medley skating segment. The idea of organizing the show with fast-moving skating periods at the beginning and end was a good one!
 

Spirits of the Night features Butova & Fomin doing a medley of songs with on that theme—“Manja de Carnival,” “O Fortuna,” and “Music Of the Night” along with the ensemble. The audiences again appreciated the pairs moves—and the lavish costumes and dramatic music.
 

In a fairly long In Concert segment, Dale Gonyea, a pianist/comic and special guest star, combined both talents with some well studied local humor and songs that really tickled the matinee audience, in particular. Then he did what he really came for and played a very creditable “Rhapsody In Blue” for a performance by a group of the featured skaters. After that, Oksana, Rudy, and Leslie Uggams gathered around the piano for some lighter fare: “But Not For Me/” “S’Wonderful” (Oksana, Leslie, Dale), “My One and Only” (Leslie, Rudy, Dale), and “I’ve Got Rhythm” (All).
 

At some point in the early second act, Oksana came to front stage and delivered some slightly off the wall and breathless (from skating) comments to the audience. I’m not sure any of us understood what she intended to say, but she was charming in a quirky sort of way.
 

The final part of this act was aptly titled Broadway Medley. It was uninterrupted skating that left the audiences as uplifted and excited about the show as the first Stomp medley.
 

Oksana and the ensemble led off with “Give My Regards To Broadway,” followed by two lively ensemble numbers, “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “42nd Street.” By now everyone was accustomed to the skating moves and ice coverage and appreciated the unique and dramatic possibilities of performing on the ice.
 

Two of the lady featured skaters (Sara Robertson and Samantha Taylor) did an attractive and flirty version of “Broadway Baby.” Robertson did the Beillmann the audience had been waiting for Oksana to do.
 

Chris Nolan and Samantha Huntt followed with “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “All I Need Is the Girl.” Nolan, but for lack of a readily recognizable name, could carry much of the show. He has jumps, spins, and excellent flexibility.
 

Silvia Fontana’s “I Dreamed a Dream” was superb. It’s a real solo meant to showcase the skater, and she worked very hard to make it a well-developed and varied program. The audience loved it. I assume that Silvia will be almost elevated to guest star status during the period Brian Boitano does the show in late January and early February.
 

The ensemble reappeared to perform three upbeat songs: “Another 100 People,” “Don’t Rain On My Parade,” and “Before the Parade Passes By.”

The two principal pairs engaged in some mock competition to “I Can Do That” and again the audiences responded to lifts and throws.
 

Rudy was up next with a spirited “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” He put a lot of typical Rudy energy into this number with numerous double axels, spins, etc., and a triple salchow. The latter was perfect for the matinee, a little off the night before when Rudy ran out of room! Amazingly, the audiences knew the triple was something more than they had seen before. They seemed to really appreciate the liveliness of this upbeat program.
 

Oksana came back to reprise “Give My Regards To Broadway” and do a little of “Razzle Dazzle” with the entire company joining for the finale.
 

In many ways, this show combines some of the best features of Champions On Ice and Stars On Ice—individual skaters doing what they do best, fine ensemble skating in various configurations, and excellent production values. At least in comparison to COI and SOI, the cost of tickets seemed to be considerably less ($48.50 top in Atlanta). There are four more venues that I know of for those who would like to see the show:
 

Clearwater, FL  –  February 1-2, Rudy Eckerd Hall (Brian Boitano)
 

Naples, FL –  February 4-6, Philharmonic Center For the Arts (Brian Boitano)
 

Raleigh, NC  –  February 8-13, BTI Center for Performing Arts, Raleigh Memorial Auditorium (Dorothy Hamill)
 

South Bend, IN  –  February 15-20, Morris Performing  Arts Center (Dorothy Hamill)
 

I'd recommend Broadway On Ice for all figure skating fans who are able to appreciate the entertainment aspect of the sport and theater fans who are willing to be adventurous with something a little different than they may be accustomed to. I only hope that this show can succeed financially and that new versions will be forthcoming. It's something that audiences seem to like in that it's much more intimate (and warmer temperature-wise!) than arena events. It's also another opportunity for the many talented professional skaters out there. The technology of setting up temporary and relatively small rinks seems to be more practical than it once was. It's an innovative way for  performing arts groups that develop subscription-based season offerings to fill out schedules with a family show that is likely to be a pleasant surprise. I did see an ad of sorts on a concert ideas page that suggested Broadway On Ice was ideal for performance on college campuses.
 

This show could improve even more with some assurance that it does have a market. For now, it's well worth a the ticket price and an afternoon or evening out.

 

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Last updated Feb 3, 2005