Broadway On Ice, July 14 and 15 (matinee and evening)
Andy Williams' Moon River Theatre, Branson, MO
The marquee pictured above takes up an entire street corner on Branson's main drag. The brightly lighted middle part below Andy Williams flashed five phrases: Broadway on Ice...The One and Only...The Electrifying...United States Champion...Rudy Galindo...
Broadway on Ice has been playing at the Moon River Theatre since April and finishes with Rudy's three week run on July 22. Not having seen Rudy since he left the Champions on Ice Tour in February, this was a perfect way to purge haunting memories of his physical condition at that time. Secondarily, it was an excuse to travel to Branson, not an easy place to get to or get around in!!! The Ozarks are beautiful, but Branson is pure tourist attraction and parts of it are fast staining the landscape. The Moon River Theatre is within walking distance of the Radisson Hotel and a McGuffy's restaurant comprising one of the more attractive complexes in the community and making it easy to walk back and forth.
This was a very high quality show--excellent choreography and staging, fabulous lighting and costumes, very well-paced, and with an capable and attractive cast of skaters, plus pianist Eric Hamelin and vocalist Maggie Le May. There was no printed program provided so one had to rely on the announcer's version of names.
Michael Chack is well known to skating fans, of course, and was featured in several segments, including doing his own "talk-singing" of "Trouble In River City" from The Music Man, all the while skating, no less. Since he had a mike on, I assumed it was his voice, but he could just be a superior lip syncher! Others among the featured skaters (phonetically spelled according to what was audible) were Chantal and Justin Bell, Chris Nolan (also director of the show), a beautiful French skater, Florentine Houdiniere, and a Russian adagio pair whose first names were Olga and Alexei (his last name may have been Laetov). Rudy mentioned that Olga, a very attractive blonde who looks like Maria Butyrskaya would like to look, used to be an ice dancer and got into adagio pairs since there were more opportunities there. There was a group of not quite so featured, but very proficient skaters who were also fine performers. One tall, maybe 5'8" woman, Sarah Robertson (or Robinson), is a good spinner and did several spectacular Biellmanns thus dispelling the notion that one has to be Sasha Cohen's size to be so flexible.
There were over forty numbers in the show that moved seamlessly from one to another. Both pianist Eric Hamelin and vocalist Maggie Le May did solo numbers and worked with the cast, with everything put together very well.
With 71 shows going on from April/May-August, there are just too many 2,000 seat venues vying for the traffic in Branson, especially from June on. Many of the repeaters in the Branson audiences are devotees of country-oriented shows and like to go where they've been before. Ice shows of this caliber would require a few years growth period to flourish before becoming a staple of the loyal Branson audiences. Sadly, the overall attendance at this show was probably not sufficient to support the high cost of an ice show. However, the quality of the show would be a wonderful start if the Andy Williams Theatre were willing to try again. It was certainly a show worth televising--far better than some of the things that have appeared in the last few years.
OK, now for Rudy. As usual, I went to see him and did--in three shows. After the first one, I knew I'd enjoy the others. Rudy does the introduction to the show, and appears a few more times as an MC to sort of tie things together. He's becoming very poised at this and it would be nice to see him have some more opportunities along this line.
To me, this was the most obvious I've ever seen Rudy's "star quality" stand out. Granted, it was a show and role meant for that. But his carriage and movement were striking, and the smoothness and quietness of his skating were immediately noticeable. (Rudy has fabulous posture on the ice--what a terrific back!) On the COI tour, everyone is a star. Sure, his fans have always thought he was, too, but this was different. He sparkled. He came early to Branson, took time to prepare, had choreographic help from Randy Gardner who also had done the show in April, and his skating was superb. Rudy looked elegant and athletic doing a minute or two of "Give My Regards to Broadway," and introducing the show in black velvet pants and white velvet (?) T shirt adorned (tastefully, of course!) with Swarovski crystals. He WAS a little out of breath for his introductory comments! His hair looks great, neatly long and smooth, really attractive.
Although Rudy had planned to do some Fosse in Branson, they already had a Fosse segment, so he adjusted "Send in the Clowns" for the small ice. It turned out to be a welcome change of pace, especially for an audience that hadn't seen it before, and gave the great lighting people an opportunity to do magical things with colored hoops, etc. The work with the hoop up so close was breathtaking. The taciturn gentleman next to me hadn't moved or spoken throughout the show. After this number, he said simply, to no one in particular, "That was beautiful," and broke into unreserved applause. Engaging him in conversation afterward during intermission, he said he loved Judy Collins, thought that Rudy was extraordinary in this program, and would be following him from now on.
Rudy's second number was "Let's Hear It For the Boy," from Footloose. This was a completely reworked (by Randy Gardner) version of what Rudy did at the opening of the Rockefeller Plaza ice rink in October, 1999. It's a great number and one of my favorites from last year though no one saw it on TV outside the NYC area. The leather pants are a real highlight, and the skating was fine too! On the small ice, Rudy seemed to be jumping and spinning all the time. I stopped counting triple jumps after a while, but he certainly has triple toes and salchows in and out of combination back in gear. Surprise! Rudy always looked like the fastest skater out there!
When I revealed to a lady next to me at one show that I was going three times and she expressed amazement, I said I had a friend in the show, feeling that wasn't completely inaccurate and it saved me from appearing crazy. Later, after she had gushed over Rudy, she asked who my friend was. Without missing a beat at my answer, she patted my shoulder as she left and said, "Tell your friend he's awesome." I did.
Some of the other highlights from Broadway on Ice were the Russian pair's splendid "Music of the Night," from Phantom of the Opera, Chris Nolan's "Cabaret," Michael Chack's "Yankee Doodle Dandy," the ensemble skating around Eric Hamelin's piano to "Rhapsody in Blue," and the ensemble number to "Seasons of Love" from Rent. It's hard to pick just those out, and tomorrow it might be others. The mini-zamboni was also interesting! Those sitting in the front rows were often showered with bits of ice and water, which was welcome with the hot weather. Oh, and many of us were amazed that singer Maggie Le May could stride so confidently across the ice stage in high heels. Turns out they had little spikes in them!
I wish more skating fans who enjoy ice entertainment could have seen this show. Even flying involves a 50 mile drive on roads under construction to get from Springfield to Branson. And the small commuter flight planes made an impression on Rudy! So it isn't easy.
Check out Sandra Loosemore's review on Skateweb for more information
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Last updated August 21, 2001