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.
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.
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
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).
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
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
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.
“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:
– February 1-2, Rudy Eckerd Hall (Brian Boitano)
Naples, FL –
February 4-6, Philharmonic Center For the Arts (Brian Boitano)
– 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.
Last updated Feb 3, 2005