Just got back from the DC show! It was awesome. This one, and the first show I saw (2008) have been the best so far. I warn you, this is long, so you might want to wait until you've at least 10-15 min free before you dive in.
FIRST, THE PRE-SHOW STUFF
This is gonna be a long post, but here goes...I arrived at the arena about 1:15pm since the meet & greet confirmation told us to arrive there at around that time. There was already a line of people waiting when I arrived, and more came afterward- it wasn't until around 1:30 that will call finally opened for us to get our passes. Once we showed our IDs, they gave us our pass and then the security guard let us past the entrance. We were then ushered into the arena where we took seats in the upper bowl to watch skaters practice (!) before we were taken down to the meet & greet area. There was no one on the ice when we got there, but barely a couple minutes had passed when Evan Lysacek came onto the ice. Some of the girls went crazy, yada yada, etc. It was really cool, though. I've attended this show for 4 years and this was the first time I actually got to watch the skaters practice for the show. Sasha Cohen joined Evan on the ice a few minutes later. She cut her hair- it's now short and black. Think the way she had it circa 1999...that's the way it is. Not a fan of it.
Then other skaters came out- Joannie Rochette, Michael Weiss, Todd Eldredge I believe. I saw Kurt Browning talking to someone on ice level as well. We watched them practice for about 10 minutes. I've a few photos and a video I posted on my twitter account- I'll see if I can get a few up. After we took that in, we were led down backstage- actually, into the same area it was last year. They gave us those blue frames and then we were led to the table where 3 skaters- Ekaterina Gordeeva, John Zimmerman and Kyoko Ina were. Some people already bought programs for them to sign, but since I was attending the pre-show reception for the Capitol Skating Fund where we're given free programs, I decided not to get one. I did bring last year's program, though, just in case there were skaters there that could sign that. Unfortunately there were not, but at least I tried. I got my frame signed, which I then lost...but at least I was able to get some pictures of them, and a picture with them. (Pictures are more important to me personally than autographs are, although both are nice.) I asked for photos of them, then I was able to get a photo with them. All three were very nice to us. Chalk up another positive skater experience into the bag!
Afterwards, many of the fan club members went back to watch more practices, but it was 2:30 by now and I needed to get upstairs to the reception before things got underway. I was already afraid I'd missed the beginning, but turns out they were just getting settled in! Excellent. I brought my camera to take some photos, and as soon as they saw my camera (I had an SLR) I was designated the photographer...boy that's some pressure lol, but I did get a few good ones. (I'll post a few later) Phyllis Howard addressed the crowd, and introduced a few skating names in the audience. Don Laws was in attendance, as was someone else I can't quite remember at the moment. Lower-level skaters Kristine Musademba and Haley Dunne were there too. Afterwards, USA Today journalist Christine Brennan gave a short speech. Basically talked about her background, briefly about the looming NFL lockout, and then tied it into skating again citing that 1994 Olympic ladies SP is the 6th most watched TV program ever in the US. However, she mentioned that this year's Nationals got a TV rating of 0.5 as opposed to the 48.5 the '94 Olys got (wow, shows how far skating has fallen off the map since). Of course, ratings for all other sports except the NFL have been going down, and she made sure to point this out as well. Someone asked her what we need to get skating back on top- she first joked that we should wait until Tonya's baby boy gets to be 18 and hope he skates (haha!!!) then she mentioned the need of a superstar (precisely, a female superstar)- which I agree with, but I think said person really needs to transcend sport. Say, like a Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods type. It would take someone extraordinary I think, and even then, you need some drama. I don't think we'll ever see numbers like that for skating or ANY event not named the Super Bowl ever again...
Anyway, when she was done, there was a raffle, and two of the prizes were copies of two of Brennan's books (I forget titles already...) which she said she would sign and personalize. I was one number off the winning one!! alas. After that, some went over to the silent auction that was going on...then the skaters came up. They came in via the back and had to go up front. Once they got to the front they lined up, and then they were introduced. Tanith Belbin addressed the crowd briefly, saying she hopes we enjoy the show, etc.
Then the chaos began. As I told my Twitter followers earlier, Evan Lysacek was SWARMED immediately by fans. Ben Agosto, Tanith Belbin, and Michael Weiss were close to where I was. Todd Eldredge I think was on the other side of the room, John Zimmerman and Kyoko Ina in the middle, and...? They actually had to announce Sasha Cohen since no one really saw her, lol. She got her hair cut and sneaked into the crowd, so they had to point her out. haha. I think she was behind me somewhere at this point. Anyway, I believe I went to Todd Eldredge first since he was the closest. Then Ben Agosto. Cool guy, like always. I was then planning on making my way over to Lysacek, but I saw the HUGE crowd (of mostly fangirls) surrounded him and just said, nah, not worth it. (Last year at the reception I waited in a big crowd for Jeremy Abbot and Todd Eldredge and because of that I missed Mirai Nagasu and Alyssa Czisny!) I knew I had to be strategic this time around, so since Tanith Belbin & John Zimmerman had smaller crowds, I decided to go to them instead. Now, there were two skaters I really wanted to meet coming here: Tanith, and also Joannie Rochette. At least I'll get one of them! I'll tell y'all right now that Tanith was REALLY nice to me (us) and actually is the only skater that I got to talk to briefly...it was so cool. I was on cloud 9 at this point (but surprisingly not nervous! I guess I'm becoming a veteran at this, lol), but I recall Belbin asking me whether it was my first year attending the show, I said no, it was my 4th. She said something I don't remember exactly- something along the lines of being a regular to the show. I told her the first show was the 2008 one in Baltimore, then the 2009 and 2010 ones in DC. She then said, so now you have something to compare this show to. (Absolutely.) I told her that I saw those shows, and always wanted to meet her- then decided to actually introduce myself (never done this before w/a skater!) and we shook hands. Then I was on cloud 9999. I did not get a picture with her though- partly because I wanted to try to catch the other skaters. All this time I was trying to get good pictures as well.
Next, I think was Sasha Cohen, as she was pretty close by. I remember the first time I saw her (at this same event, 2 yrs ago) I was somewhat nervous approaching her- part of the reason was her sorta being stand-offish. This time it was better, but after getting a few shots of her, I just had time for her to sign my program quickly, no real opportunity for a small talk like in '09. Weiss was close by, so I was able to get to him as well. I then tried to chase down Evan Lysacek (well, ok, not literally, but you get the picture) but just missed him. I think Christine Brennan had him sign some stuff and then he had to go. JUST missed him. But oh well, I already have his autograph and pic from last year's M&G, so that was ok. I then found Kyoko Ina and got her to sign my program this time. I think by that time the skaters had to leave, so things were winding down. I spotted Kristine Musademba and was actually debating whether or not to approach her, but decided not to. I then decided to find Christine Brennan and ask her a question about the Olympics. She was talking to another young skater, Haley Dunne when I found her. When they finished, I asked her who we should keep our eyes on for 2014. Of course it's early, and she mentioned that, but mentioned Mirai Nagasu (if she can gain consistency) and Lindsey Vonn. Who knows at this point though. We talked real briefly afterwards, then it was time to make our way over to the show. Another solid skater experience in the books. And meeting Tanith Belbin was the highlight of it all for me. Surpasses Czisny last year as my favorite skater encounter, just when I didn't think that one could be topped (Czisny remains a very close 2nd). A LITTLE disappointed we missed Rochette (and also about that frame), but good stuff still went down and that will be remembered.
Ok, rambled on and on about the pre-show. Now the show itself. I'd have 2011 up there with 2008 (the very first show I saw) as my favorite. Very well done, and I liked the group numbers as well. In fact, I wish there were more of them. The show went by rather quickly I must say.
Attendance was very good, I thought. DC always draws a solid crowd, I think SOI will continue to come here in future years.
It opened with Kurt Browning talking with Scott Hamilton on the video screens...it was a simulated convo between the two. I understand Hamilton was actually at the Boston show to do it live...we just got the regular video recording. Still though, it was cool to actually hear his voice. You could just feel the appreciation behind his words though. If there's one thing he is, it's sincere. They showed snippets of past SOI performances all throughout the show.
Michael Weiss was the first skater out. He is a native of the area so he got a decent reception from the crowd. I love his backflips. Again, he appears comfortable with the crowd, and it shows in the performance. Awesome.
Joannie Rochette was next. This was my very first time seeing her skate live, so it was exciting. She has some nice qualities to her skating- I think she projects to the audience more than Cohen does, but I still found some of the pro skaters (Gordeeva, Browning) more engaging. Then, they've been doing this forever. Rochette is an enjoyable skater, though, and I think she can really develop into a great performer with more time on the tour.
I have to mention that I really enjoyed the transitions between pieces in Act I. Makes the show flow better, gives it some purpose and a sense of a theme. I thought they should have continued it throughout the whole show rather than just in the beginning.
Now I see what the hype is about Gordeeva. She and Kurt Browning IMHO were the real stars of the show. They made it happen. I really think the show needed Kurt's "wackiness"- I think that and the group numbers were what were missing last year.
Geoffrey Tyler was there with Kurt Browning in his first number to sing "Steppin' Out Of My Mind" live. Tyler was in the NE corner while Kurt performed his piece. He acknowledged Tyler at the end of the performance.
Cohen was Cohen- still very inward style of skating, but continues to draw one of the biggest crowd reactions. Funny thing about her is, though, during the group numbers I could see glimpses of her actually reaching out a bit more, enjoying herself- so I think she IS capable of it...anyway, she had a fall in her "Nobody Knows" routine. In "Mein Herr" I think she had another landing that was a bit funny, but in general- again, I think that character requires a skater that has a bit more engagement with the crowd to REALLY pull it off.
I liked the piano number (the "Knock Knock" routine)- although the piano was blocking my view in the very first part, so couldn't really see some of the skating that went on in the very beginning. Thankfully it got moved elsewhere (lol) in the middle of the program. Another good one (probably the best) was the balloon-kite one in group 2 with Eldredge, Cohen and Browning. It was really cool to see Browning flying the kite around the arena, and also Cohen letting herself go a bit, having fun.
Nice to see Ina & Zimmerman again. They're a welcome addition and I think did really well to replace Sale/Pelletier.
Gordeeva's 2nd performance to Whitney Houston had me in from beginning to end. Unfortunately had a fall, but still good.
Browning is just a natural entertainer, a natural performer. The show needs more of that! His addition added SO MUCH to the show's element IMHO.
Lysacek's first performance was pretty good, did not like his "Roxanne" routine though. I mean, it was OK, but compared to everything else I thought it looked a bit bland, at least for a performance from a reigning Oly champ.
Belbin/Agosto were awesome. They are learning the pro routine quickly. I think they fit right in. Solid addition to the cast.
There was one SOI alum in the audience- Kurt introduced her in the 2nd half of the show. Elena Bechke was in the on-ice seating and Kurt skated over to her, introduced her to the audience, then they embraced.
The funniest thing about the whole night is how often I kept crossing paths with John Zimmerman. He was the skater that came to our section during the handshake portion and he even said he recognized me from earlier. (!) Three times- the M&G, the reception and now this. I think he asked me first if I enjoyed the show, I said yeah it was fun.
All in all, the show was highly enjoyed, and is highly recommended by me. If you can see it- if it's coming near you- if you are a skating fan to the heart, you really owe it to yourself to try to catch this one.