By Budweiser Gardens Reviewer (#BGReviewer: @PostSochiFeels)
London, ON - What a pleasure to be able to spend a Sunday afternoon/early evening in the beautiful Budweiser Gardens watching my favourite sport performed by some of the world's best skaters.
The show started off with a fun video of the skaters lip-syncing to The Buggles "Video Killed the Radio Star" playing on the video screens. This led right into the skaters appearing on the ice and starting the show off with a bang to Lady Gaga's "Born This Way."
New cast member Nam Nguyen, who regained his Canadian title this year, performed wonderfully and is a very welcome addition to the cast. He seemed to have a fan club sitting near me, they whooped and cheered loudly whenever he appeared. His first routine was fast-paced and designed for fun, while his second was slower and more emotional.
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirer, Canadian silver ice dance medallists and also new cast members were outstanding. Their show version of their “Starry, Starry Night” free dance from this year was breathtaking. They showed their versatility throughout the night, performing swing to Duke Ellington earlier in the show. Tessa and Scott were sadly not in this show, but Piper and Paul showed us that Canadian ice dance is in good hands.
The 2018 Ladies World Champion, Kaetlyn Osmond had a couple of bobbles in her beautiful second routine to "Million Reasons" by Lady Gaga, but she more than made up for those in her upbeat "Proud Mary" routine in the first half. Great jumps and gorgeous spins showed why she is the most highly decorated ladies skater in Canada.
Patrick Chan. A skater I admittedly wasn't too fond of in his competitive career, just gets better and better in his professional career. His first routine was stunning, brilliant footwork spins that just blurred they were so fast and just two perfect effortless jumps. His second number to a Justin Timberlake mashup was also spot on with his musicality and showmanship.
Longtime Stars on Ice favourites Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje (from nearby Kitchener) were enchanting with "Uninvited" by Alanis Morissette showing off exquisite and unique lifts, followed by the energetic "Land of 1000 Dances". Some lucky audience members got up close and personal with Kaitlyn during this number!
Elvis Stojko seems to be having a resurgence in popularity lately - he's appeared on TV in CBC's “Murdoch Mysteries” and in the Family Channel movie “Ice Girls” - but he's also been touring with Stars on Ice. He's always a favourite, rebelling by performing to hard rock music that is definitely not the norm for skating shows, and skating like no one else out there. Jumps, super-fast spins, quick footwork and a few body spins across the ice. Elvis still has it.
Another new addition to the cast this year is Russian World Champion and Olympic silver medallist, Evgenia Medvedeva. Following a seeming trend of one fast-paced/popular number - Ariana Grande - and one slow/emotional routine, Evgenia showed off her beautiful lines and graceful skating. She too had a spill in the second half but was warmly received by the knowledgeable audience.
Olympic bronze medallist and members of the Olympic gold medal-winning team, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were actually performing as a trio - Meagan is pregnant! So, if you were wondering why they didn't perform their usual high flying tricks, that is why. They still showed off beautiful lifts and spins and took some risks with Meagan being flipped up in the air and upside down. Gutsy lady.
Kurt Browning is a forever favourite of mine. I have been following his career since 1987 and have been fortunate enough to see him perform many times. He only did one routine here after appearing throughout the show in his famous clown persona, which he has actually studied to make sure he is honouring their craft while he skates. His rendition of "If You Could Read My Mind" by Gordon Lightfoot brought me to tears. Kurt puts such emotion into his skating you can feel it to the very top of the arena. There was no need for jumps, but they were there, his stunning footwork and edges said it all. Beautiful.
There were two group numbers that included all or most of the cast, the first closed out the first half of the show and was titled "Pump up the 90's" that was, as the title suggests, a fun medley of 90's hits including the Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, Salt and Pepa, etc. The cast seemed to be having a blast and this audience member loved the tunes! Sad to think that only two of the skaters are actually old enough to remember most of those songs! The second group routine opened the second half and was the only routine to bring to life the tour theme of Unity. The skaters appeared dressed in day to day wear - a business suit (Kurt), mechanics overalls (Elvis), student (Kaetlyn) in similar shades of greys and white - and seemed to present a program that highlighted (to me) the more we are different, the more we are the same, and that we need to come together to become the best we can be. A thoughtful program that could be interpreted in many ways.
The audience was on its feet for the finale, spurred on by Kurt Browning's soaring backflip. All in all, this was a great show and the skaters really gave it their all. It's so great to see people enjoying this fantastic sport and supporting these amazing athletes.
Thank you to Budweiser Gardens for giving this long time skating fan the opportunity to take in this show and for the downtown dollars that I will have no trouble using in the coming days - lots of great shops and restaurants that are supporting this program!