I loved the show, thought it was the best one yet. Of course, I seem to say that every year, and then after a while start second-guessing myself. But this time around the show had this finished, polished, *coherent* feel to it that the previous years' lacked. Plus, no gimmicks, just good skating. The opening number to Nessun Dorma was a pretty big signal of how this show differed than the previous ones. Opera music, simple costumes (apparently designed by a local, Denis Pizzacalla), elegant choreography (which turns out to have been done by one Brian Orser). Instead of trying to provide some sort of "creative" (and oftentimes cheesy) introduction, the numbers just transitioned from one to another with a simple introduction over the loudspeaker (which I suspect was prerecorded) by Kurt. And there were more group numbers - or, if not more, better. The opening went straight into Kurt, Elvis, and Brian's trio act, which was simply charming. The three of them were clearly having the time of their lives, and it was just a lot of fun. I'm really looking forward to seeing this on TV partly b/c 1) I was busy trying to take pictures which always means you miss things in a group number - not too many of the pictures turned out well =(, 2) There was a stupid TV camera blocking my view of center ice and 3) it's such a fun number I want to see it again!
There wasn't an obvious stated theme to the show, but the Act I closer, Kurt's first number, and the finale (along with one of Sato & Dungjen's programs) gave it a distinctly 50's American or Elvis theme (there were a lot of Elvis songs but I wasn't able to tell if they were *all* Elvis songs). There was also a running gag in the second act where Katarina kept coming out, all dressed up like an old-fashioned maid, wiping things down, picking things up (like Kurt's discarded skate guards when he came out to introduce Jann Arden, or Shae-Lynn's wrap), and finally skating a really cute number with Kurt. It actually served to provide a nice connecting element between the programs that tied the second act together in a way that last year's theme tried, but IMO fell short on. Don't get me wrong, I liked last year's show, but this year's show did a bunch of things better. Lea Ann Miller later told us during retakes that Kurt and Kat had worked on it over the summer and wanted to explore Kat's comedic side with it. That number was also really charming and something I want to see again on TV.
Kurt's first numbervwas a fun character piece. Not overt comedy like SSU, but definitely an attitude standpoint. It transitioned straight into the Act I closer, which to my surprise and delight, was a full-fledged multi-song group number, much like the SOI act closers/finales. Obviously b/c of the reduced rehearsal time, it wasn't as complexly choreographed or arranged but it also didn't feel like something that had been thrown together in 3 days. Lots of fun to watch. His second number was skated to Michael Bolton and was a more pensive number, but not in the HDYKTMP style. More like... hmmm. Serenade to Sonia style minus the intense romanticism? I'm not sure how to describe what I'm getting at, just that the overall mood was the kind of romantic pensiveness, but the choreography used to get at the mood wasn't your typical sappy skating program. Unfortunately, Kurt did sit right down on a spread eagle as he went by Michael Bolton, and moments later went down on a jump (his reactions were causing a lot of laughter in the audience just b/c they were so cute). After messing up element after element, he tried to recover but then kind of gave up and just knelt on the ice looking sheepish and apologetic towards Michael Bolton, knowing that he'd just caused Michael to have to resing the whole song. He pretty much apologized profusely, making some cute joking comments that I may be able to provide later, he and Michael praised each other for a while, and then he got right to an immediate retake, this time nailing everything, including a triple sal that he had doubled the first time around. Kurt's sal and double axel (and possibly toe - I wasn't paying that close attention) are still beautiful and high, and of course his footwork is stellar and different each time.
Kurt also came out on the ice at the beginning of act II to introduce Jann Arden, and the two of them traded quips, banter, and compliments for a while. To be perfectly honest, I found this part a tad bit forced with several long pauses that threw off the rhythm of the banter. But it was a fun bit, as well, where Jann would ask about a skating element and Kurt would demonstrate it. For instance, Kurt said that he was often asked how they stopped, and Jann concurred, saying you'd think they'd just fall over. So he did a demonstration of a slide stop with arm outstretched towards Jann saying something about..oh I forgot, but it was kind of complimentary, something about reaching towards her or something. Then she asked about spins, saying how most people would just fall over, how do they do it. Kurt laughed about this one, saying self-deprecatingly that some people find spins easy and get bored during them but not him, to him they're hard work, having to hold his leg up like that (as he demonstrated a camel spin). I also forgot what he said about not getting dizzy, but it was a funny comment. I'll post if I recall it. She also sent him out to show her a jump, saying "do a triple lutz-sal-loop thingy" to which he laughed and said "of all things, she had to pick the triple lutz. I'll do anything but the triple lutz". It was a cute bit.
As for the other skaters, I enjoyed them all except for Elvis. I've never really watched Elvis skate so I didn't have much of an opinion of him one way or the other. But I found myself quite literally disgusted by the content of his programs. Not in an "ewww, gross" sense, but in a "I can't believe he gets away with this as choreography" sense. He spends half the program pandering to the audience, but not even in the funny, part of the choreography way that Scott or Kurt would do it, but simply by extending an arm sweepingly over a portion of the audience (something like 8x in one program) or extending both arms, and basking in the screams and cheers that evokes. Or blowing a random kiss into the audience, or worst yet, climbing over the barrier...slowly, reaching towards a woman, planting a kiss on her forehead (also slowly), then raising his arms like "yeah, love me, see how cool I am!" and then finally getting back on the ice. Pointing to the audience while mouthing the words to the song is not choreography. It's not even skating. What really turned me off was how the audience completely ate it up, cheering madly if he so much as looked in their direction, giving him standing ovations for both programs. That's not skating! He had good jumps in there which he landed solidly and beautifully, and there was a sequence or two of footwork I found impressive, and I could see that he *is* a good skater, but the choreography! Ye gods!
Anyway, enough negativity. It's getting late so I won't go into more detail. It was a fantastic show, though, and I really enjoyed myself. As they kept reminding us in the arena, it is airing on CBC Dec. 8 (9-10PM) and NBC Dec. 19 (4-6PM EST). Don't forget to watch!