Improv-Ice - Anaheim, CA - Oct. 6, 2009

Concert ReviewOctober 7, 2009Unknown source

written by Tina

These are my "quick" impressions written the night of the show, but a few hours later. It's a bit blunter and less polished than I'd usually do, since I'm tired and sick, but I know I won't have time to write a better one, so I'm putting this one up now... Disclaimer that I photograph the show and consequently don't always pay as close attention as I should or retain good memories of the programs. That isn't always a reflection on the quality of the program. Having said that, here's the review:

Goo Goo Dolls opening - "Sweetest Lie" - no skaters

Kristi and Brian hosted, and did the intro. The goofy Brian of his cooking show was very much in evidence. They tell us that the skaters drew their numbers and run orders randomly, and then only had an hour to choreograph both programs. My suspicion is that the guys and girls had different sets of songs and run orders, because the guys all skated to male singers, and the girls to female singers, and the run order was girl-guy-girl-guy-girl-guy-girl-guy. After each program, Kristi or Brian would come out to briefly chat with the skater and then introduce the next skater.

First program - Joannie Rochette to "Clumsy" by Fergie. Joannie working the sass. Pretty together looking program, good ice coverage, some fan flirtage. Pretty much none of the skaters had solid jumps in this show, Joannie's were, for the most part, better than most. She likes Fergie, enjoyed skating the program.

"Come On Get Higher" by Matt Nathanson - Jeff Buttle. Great fit of a song for Jeff, let him really use his swooping edges and body movements to embody the emotion and kind of lighthearted soaring feeling of the song. Great connection with the audience. Jeff liked the song when he got it, thinks he really connected to it.

"You Belong To Me" by Taylor Swift - Sasha Cohen. Honestly do not remember this program very well at all. I think Sasha performed it well, kept it moving. She did admit afterwards that she originally had an entirely different program planned, but then that happened. So she was definitely making things up on the spot.

"Sweet Thing" by Keith Urban - Evan Lysacek. Evan's definitely a performer - connects with the audience, uses his long limbs to full effect in dramatic movements, and put together quite a dynamic program. I know he impressed Brit. Whoever interviewed him - Kristi or Brian - said that he didn't seem too happy when he got the number. Evan said it's not his usual but he had so much fun performing it that he almost forgot he was in a show for a bit out there.

"Halo" by Beyonce - Nancy Kerrigan. Not the best fit of music to skater... I thought Nancy seemed to get a little lost in the middle, but she tried to bring the sass and the dance and for the most part succeeded. She said that the music/improv was a challenge, but also she just doesn't skate or perform much anymore so just getting back in the costume is scary.

"You Make It Real" by James Morrison - Michael Weiss. Nice, slower, emotional song that Michael performed really well. Not sure why Kristi said that he usually does upbeat stuff and this was a change for him, since it kind of reminded me a bit of the slow program he did for his kids a few years back, but he performed the hell out of it. He said that he liked James Morrison but didn't know this song, but he likes it so much he might actually use it again.

"Casanova Cowboy" by Carrie Underwood - Shae-Lynn Bourne. As soon as I saw Shae come out in her cowboy hat, I knew this was going to be a great program. There's no one who can quite bring that spark of energy and sexiness and strength like Shae, or who dances over the ice like she does. The only hiccup to this program was that the music seemed to end really abruptly, before Shae was remotely ready for it, and she seemed really surprised it was done. Brian came out saying his question was actually going to be, how did she know when the song was going to end, and then sent her out to do the ending she had planned. which more or less involved retrieving the cowboy hat she'd deposited on the head of a man in the end on-ice seats, who kept leaning back so she couldn't reach the hat =).

"Say Hey" by Michael Franti and Spearhead - Kurt Browning. I was not the least bit familiar with this song before the program started, but the moment the first few notes played, I knew this was a perfect fit for Kurt. Upbeat, fast, a bit quirky, it really let Kurt show off his footwork (of course) as he drew the audience into his performance (the audience seemed to love him), and inserted little bits of humor (of course) among some seriously good skating. He also pulled off some gorgeous easy double axels (all the other skaters seemed to be having jump problems, not sure if it was the ice). He ended the program skipping across the stage (on his skates) and then striking a rock pose at the microphone. This is a great program for Kurt, one that I'm really looking forward to seeing again. Kristi said that an improv event seemed right up his alley, and asked how he came up with the programs. Kurt said "I close my mind...and then I open my toes..and out it flows". Kristi laughed and said he was even a poet, and he of course said "and I didn't even know it".


Act II was all about the Goo Goo Dolls. They came out first to perform a song from their new album, "Take Me As I Am" (no skating). There were definitely a set of Goo Goo Dolls fans in the stands closest to the stage who treated the show as a concert - standing and dancing through all the Goo Goo Dolls numbers and very noticeably not watching the skaters. And I mean the entire section. Ah well. They help ticket sales and getting the show on TV. All the songs in the second act were Goo Goo Dolls songs, so I won't bother to list the artist.

"Stay With You" - Evan Lysacek. Evan didn't come on the ice until a good way into the song. He put on a dynamic performance, even (I think), winning some audience members away from drooling over the Goo Goo Dolls.

"Slide" - Shae-Lynn Bourne. Her first number was definitely a lot better. In this number, she mostly seemed to do various low to the ice moves each time they said "why don't you slide", including one pretty neat move where she basically held herself in a reclined position and slid down the ice on her hands under her back (hard to describe) which must have required some serious abs and arm muscles. I felt like she got a bit lost during the number, though, and at some points was just doing crossovers around to the music. Though it was amusing because she did open the number on stage, and sidled up to the lead singer, caressing his face on a corresponding bit of lyric, making him sort of laugh a bit mid-singing.

"Black Balloon" - Jeff Buttle. Jeff brought the emoting and the extensive ice coverage, and did one of the better programs, IMO, to the Goo Goo Dolls' music (for the most part, I thought the band and live music kind of overpowered the skaters, who seemed almost tired and a little lost with half the attention of the audience firmly focused on the band).

"Here is Gone" - Nancy Kerrigan. Sorry to Nancy, but definitely this was a program where I thought the Goo Goo Dolls completely overpowered the skater, who didn't seem to have a very well worked out program to skate to it. It occurs to me that with 2 programs to choreograph in an hour, many of the skaters probably focused on the first one, knowing that the band was going to dominate the second one, and it must be hard trying to remember two newly choreographed programs.

"Feel the Silence" - Michael Weiss. Michael knows how to play to the audience with his backflips and the thing he does with the freedom blades whose name escapes me now, and the fast spins. I think he might hvae gotten the attention of the audience back a little with his program.

"Broadway" - Joannie Rochette. Joannie was emoting for all she was worth, skating around with an agonized look on her face, and pulling off some pretty choreography. It kind of felt a bit like the song went on a bit too long though, to be honest. Still, a pretty decent program.

"Let Love In" - Kurt Browning. I don't even remember the music for this program because I was completely focused on Kurt, not just b/c I'm completely Kurt-centric, but because he was IN HOCKEY SKATES. The moment I realized that, I had to pay attention everything he was doing even closer, b/c it was just so cool he was doing it. And by it, I mean single and double jumps, spins, spread eagles, footwork, the same spreadeagle move Michael does on the freedom blades, only on his hockey skates (and coming to a dead stop in that position and just standing there for a bit, just b/c he could, before moving on). The jumps were a little tentative but he almost did more of them than pretty much any other skater. The footwork and other figure skating moves he pulled off were really cool. It was a great showcase of just how much a skilled skater can do in hockey skates, and a fun program on top of that. He ended it by jumping onto the stage with the Goo Goo Dolls who seemed amused, if a little nonplussed. In general,the Goo Goo Dolls really didn't seem to do much to interact with or acknowledge the skaters, which I found a bit annoying, except when the skaters kind of forced it on them by getting right up there on the stage. But then, I wasn't watching them - maybe on TV we'll see they actually were paying attention to the skaters?

"Iris" - Sasha Cohen. The crowd went wild when the opening notes of this song came on. Sasha did a lovely job with her typical hyper flexible moves to this song, and it seemed like a good way to end things, for both skating fans and Goo Goo Dolls fans. Though, it's hard to top Kurt and his hockey skates.

Kristi and Brian came out to thank everyone and tell them to go to to vote for who they thought improv-ed the best. They then invited the cast back out on the ice for the finale.

The finale was kind of interesting in that I had watched it get choreographed so I had a better idea of what to expect from it than any other part of the show. There were parts that were definitely choreographed - the opening, when all eight skaters had to move from one end to the other end, when the skaters were paired off and spinning around each other, the ending - while others were left to the skaters to improvise (when the four guys go out and skate for a verse, when the four girls go out and skate for a verse), or the skaters were given loose guidelines which they then took and worked out bits together (all the parts where two skaters went out to do some spotlight bit together). It was definitely in the spirit of an improv event in that it was very loose and ad hoc, but actually worked decently well. Oh, and it was to "Better Days" by the Goo Goo Dolls.

After the final bows, Brian came out and said something about convincing the Goo Goo Dolls to do an encore, which they promptly did, with a new song off their new album (don't know the title)...and then they played it again because apparently they messed it up and they wanted to do it right (lead singer was like, pretend you didn't see the last one). And that was a wrap - no retakes because it's improv, after all!

Overall I thought the show was really fun and enjoyable, and for the most part, you would never have guessed, if you didn't know the premise of the show, that the programs were improvised. These skaters are real pros and they know how to put an audience-pleasing program together. My issues with the Goo Goo Dolls act aside (where I thought the band overdominated the skaters - though I do like their music), I thought it was a good night of skating, and a really fun show. I don't think the live band and the improv concept work that particularly well together, but on the other hand, they can cut to the band when someone screws up or obviously has forgotten some large part of their choreography... I would definitely tune in on Christmas Day - especially if you're a Kurt fan. Loved his programs.