Hello. Posting this here, because I haven't seen any alternatives. Spoilers are kinda inherent in a review like this.
I had an absolute blast at Stars on Ice. I ate dinner at Nick & Stefs, a nice but expensive steak restaurant located next door to MCI Center. I discovered that the restaurant actually had a set of doors that led you into the arena so you didn't have to go outside. Unfortunately I was too early to actually enjoy that perk; the arena wasn't technically open yet, so they shooed me back through the other entrance.
I had "on-ice" seats, the closest I have ever managed for any skating event. The crowd was still sparse considering how sold out I've seen Champions on Ice shows, so I'm wondering if the holiday scheduling wasn't key. They didn't add this date at the last minute this time.
On the major plus side: there was not a sign of a chair or vanity in sight this year. Someone clearly got the message that the audience wanted real skating. I actually filled out a survey during intermission with the possibility of winning two tickets to next year's show. The audience really did get what they paid for this time around. My comments are mostly random observations; it was really hard to keep track what people were landing or not.
On the minuses: (and I'm being really picky here) The fancy lighting schemes make things a little hard to follow. With the array of pairs teams, Bezic and Seibert had plenty of opportunities to explore their fascination with couples. SOI was definitely showing the lack of female singles skaters though. Katarina was fine, but they definitely needed someone else, even if she doesn't have the star wattage of Tara or Kristi. Skaters/choreographers need to remember there are two ends of the rink and to choreograph routines accordingly. I was on one end and everyone seemed to do everything (jumps, lifts, etc) on the other side.
The show (more or less in order):
"Opening": Program book said something by Ozzy Osbourne. I can't remember the song title, but it was a big guitar-ridden heavy metal instrumental song. Finally they introduced everyone down the line with Alexei Yagudin getting top billing.
"Born to be Wild": Alexei Yagudin had a lot of fans in the audience, including several intrepid ones on the end with day glow signs. One nice sign was in Russian. Alexei does not lack for charisma live, though his "Born to be Wild" unfortunately reminded me a little too much of Elvis' exhibitions at their worst -- lots of pointing and mugging and some skating. It seemed very thrown together, not his best program by any stretch.
"Bed of Roses": Kyoka Ina & John Zimmerman performed quite well to this Bon Jovi rock piece. John seemed to be used quite heavily as a utility player in the group numbers.
"Come Fly with Me": Jamie Sale & David Pelletier do not disappoint in person. Wow. I had never seen this program before. It wasn't the Sinatra version. Interesting, a lot of the choreography reminded me a lot of ice dance. Jamie went a little wild with the side-by-side flying sitspin.
"Channel One Suite": What can I say? I absolutely love this jazzy number on Todd Eldredge. It's so nice to see him skate to something upbeat and show that why, yes, he can do footwork. He doubled the triple salchow. If he had tripled it, he would have fallen, it was that crooked.
"I'm Your Man": Jenni Meno and Todd Sand had some fun with Gary Beacom's old standard. Todd Sand really comes alive in these fun numbers. Jenni had a hard fall forward on the throw double axel. They were using a rose as a prop and they caught a little bit of the rose when they were doing the death spiral. I was a little worried they'd forget where the rose had moved when they were doing the rest of their tricks.
"Blues in the Night": Group number with Katarina Witt still playing the provocative vamp after all these years with Gorsha Sur and John Zimmerman.
"How do you keep the music playing": Kurt Browning does clown acts very well indeed, but I prefer when he's in somber introspective mode like this lovely and very bittersweet program.
Alexei Yagudin was listed to also perform "Overcome" in the program, but he didn't during this performance. I'm not sure if this is directly related to his injury and how well he was feeling that night or if it was make space for Katia's special performance.
"Power Play": One of the irritating things about last year was SOI's insistence on trying to "talk" to audience. This year the only time they brought out the microphone was when Todd in black played beatnik poet/announcer over jazz music while the Russian & Canadian pairs teams traded lifts and tricks. Todd did skate somewhat though with microphone in hand so all was forgiven, lots of nifty footwork and even a double axel. They included the lyrics in the program book but it was something similar to "Who can judge me?" Very pointed commentary on the judging situation, like "I'm not hiding anything out there, why should you?"
"A Little less conversation": Big group number missing Todd Eldredge and Katarina Witt, I think. The girls all were in the audience in regular shoes dancing up a storm. Jamie Sale was on our side. She even made Michael Weiss get up to dance briefly. The guys came out dressed in jeans and rolled up shirtsleeves. They strutted and skated quite nicely. Some of them were better hams than others.
"The rest of my life": Katarina Witt performed to this generic Barbra Streisand number. She stepped out of her double axel. Nice program, but not one that stays with you.
"Misere": After seeing jazzy upbeat Todd Eldredge in the first act, it was a bit of a shock going back to his maudlin guise, skating to another Boccelli ballad. "Misere" was still extremely well skated with another gorgeous triple axel. Todd was competing with Alexei for catcalling fans that night, lots of "We love you Todd" shouted after the program. It was amusing to see his reaction.
"The Prayer": Roca & Sur skated to the version by Charlotte Church and Josh Groban. This received a big response from the crowd.
"Something Stupid": Yet another group number where Sandra Bezic plays around with her favorite couples, this time John & Kyoka, Jenni & Todd, and Gorsha & Renee.
"Mme T. After Hours": I willingly admit that I remain unconvinced at Anton & Elena trying to do Elvis and Marilyn. However, it's kinda interesting seeing them try something a little off the wall.
"Slippery Side Up": Kurt Browning did his clown act, which was fun, to a point. He did some wonderful footwork and in between stuff, probably extremely difficult actually, but maybe I want to see Kurt show his humor in other ways.
"Loving Touching Squeezing": I absolutely love this program of Jamie & David. Even though I've seen it before several times now, I really loved watching their chemistry and interactions on the ice. They seem like the perfect team for a show environment.
"Racing": Alexei Yagudin did a watered down version of his racing car short program. I really liked the competitive version, so it's a little disappointing seeing how he performs it for shows. But he still had great footwork and exuded "Look at me" appeal.
FINALE: "I can't stop". Choreography is choreography, but you could clearly see which skaters "got it" with skating to Will Smith. Lots of attempts at precision formations.
Three extra treats:
People watching: The entire Washington figure skating community must have had tickets that night, seated in the rows directly behind us. Early on, I spotted a gentleman who I swore was Michael Weiss' father. I was already on the lookout for Christine Brennan after seeing her last year. Finally I did spot her wearing glasses, chatting away with Michael Weiss and his wife! At the intermission, one of the people near me was brave enough to ask him for an autograph when Michael was passing back to his seat. So I stuck out my program book for an autograph and wished Michael luck at Nationals. I think I also spotted Derrick Delmore on my way out.
Special guest: Katia Gordeeva made a guest appearance at our show, skating to her Russian folk dance program. She had a hard fall on her triple toe loop, but still she had an amazing command of the ice, speed and coverage wise.
Handshakes: When the show was over, the skaters peeled off to shake hands with some of the fans at our seating level. As a consequence, I was able to shake hands with Jamie Sale and Katarina Witt! Totally flabbergasted at that moment.
All in all, an extremely satisfying experience.