- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 1, 2002

This wasn't the Olympics. The technical side of this figure-skating event didn't include quadruple jumps or triple-triple combinations.

"Stars on Ice," performed Saturday at Landover's Capital Centre with an earlier performance Friday at the Baltimore Arena was exciting nevertheless. The audience applauded the limited technical skill, but the pure emotion coming from the skaters was what made this show a success.

Case in point: During Saturday's performance, Kristi Yamaguchi fell on jumps in both of her solo programs but still smiled and had fans screaming, "I love you, Kristi" when she finished.

Miss Yamaguchi joined fellow Olympic gold medalists Tara Lipinski, Katarina Witt and Ilia Kulik and four-time world champion Kurt Browning for a night full of quality entertainment. The show had something for everyone: group numbers, solo performances and musical variety throughout.

At the Capital Centre, a small arena, the show felt intimate. The skaters were all decorated athletes, yet it felt as if they were your best friends and had breezed into town to perform for you. The arena was less than half-filled which was hard to believe considering the amount of talent in the building but that made it even better for those who attended.

Mr. Browning in particular is a master of communicating with the audience. His two solo programs were the best of the evening and showed off his amazing ability to time intricate staccato footwork perfectly with the beat of the music. You don't have to be a figure-skating fan to appreciate his extraordinary stage presence.

Miss Lipinski, who turned professional after winning Olympic gold at Nagano, Japan, in 1998, has turned into a brilliant skater, even better than when she was crowned Olympic champion. She puts her heart into everything she does on the ice. Some wonder why she gave up her Olympic eligibility so early, but she is still doing what she loves and appeared to be genuinely happy with where her career has taken her.

Miss Lipinski's highlight was her second solo performance, a tribute to America, which was simply beautiful and moved the audience. The program was a perfect blend of somberness and joy that ended with Miss Lipinski reaching her arms out toward a U.S. flag.

Miss Yamaguchi, despite her falls, won over the audience as well with a hard-edged number skated to music by Janet Jackson. The usually soft and balletic side of Miss Yamaguchi was nowhere to be found, but the new style worked well for her and proved she is still growing as a skater almost 10 years after winning Olympic gold.

It has been even longer for gold medalist Witt, who returned to the show after a four-year hiatus. She is still a seductress on the ice and made it easy to see why men are always falling for her.

Mr. Kulik dazzled the audience with his jumping ability and had the best technical skill of the evening.

Although the loudest applause came for the big-name skaters at the show's start, the entire cast performed at a high level.

Three-time U.S. pairs champions Jenni Meno and Todd Sand were gorgeous and still have magic between them. Two-time ice-dancing world champions Anjelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsiannikov performed an American Indian-themed program that was extremely expressive and included a variety of unusual positions and movements.

The show turned corny at times. Miss Lipinski, Miss Yamaguchi and Miss Witt performed a rap about being gold medalists that included more bragging than skating, and some of the dialogue leading into the numbers was a little silly.

Still, night after night of skating and touring must leave these champions exhausted, and the in-between sets offered a nice break.

The "Stars on Ice" skaters care about their skating and care about pleasing the audience. Their energy made this show a treat, and the arena should be packed the next time they are in town.


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