Toronto Star

Blades on Stage ice show fails to impress


Blades on Stage

(out of 4) Directed & Choreograp­hed by Steven Cousins. Until Jan. 4 at the Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King St. W. 416872-1212.

The idea of putting an ice show into a legitimate theatre has real potential, but Blades on Stage, which officially opened Saturday afternoon at the Princess of Wales Theatre, shows that there are still a lot of problems to be tackled if this kind of show were to return on an annual basis.

Earlier this year, on a trip to Great Britain, I saw a Robin Cousins production called, simply enough, Ice, which turned an evening’s worth of ice dancing on stage into a fairly satisfying event by just letting the numbers flow into each other with a kind of inner emotional logic, rather than any strict plot or structure.

But Steven Cousins, who directs and choreograp­hs Blades on Stage, had a different kind of experience in mind, one which I can only guess was inspired by too many visits to the Mandarin Buffet.

To reduce this show to its simplest form, Act I is Broadway, Act II is Holiday. Those two elements can certainly work together and the most recent tenants of the same theatre, Donny and Marie, showed how you could segue from “Any Dream Will Do” into “Silent Night,” without too much trouble.

But here, we’re lost in space from the beginning. An opening number called “Winter Games” serves no real purpose except to introduce the company, badly. When your two big stars (Elvis Stojko and Shae-Lynn Bourne) don’t get entrance applause, you’re doing something wrong.

But not as wrong as what follows next. There’s a six-song medley from Les Misérables, most of it performed to a deafening playback of the cast recording. And when it starts out with two couples in blue spangles sashaying about to “At the End of the Day,” you know you’re in trouble.

When someone finally brought a chair onstage, I thought “Oh good, it’s ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,’ ” but I was wrong. It was simply Bourne’s husband, Bohdan Turok, bringing on the drum he would use to accompany her number. It was called “Firedance,” it was performed with artistry and flair by Bourne, but had nothing to do with Broadway.

The rest went from West Side Story to Chicago with a brief detour into Victor/Victoria, but nothing really registered until Stojko took the stage for “Don’t Stop Believin” from Rock of Ages, which grabbed us all with star power.

Act II, the “Holiday” section, moved less clunkily, because it really was just a series of novelty numbers that allowed everyone to do their own thing, in that pleasant, vaguely cheesy way of middle-of-the-road ice shows anywhere. But what it was doing in a theatre, it’s hard to guess.

If it had been a real stage show, it would certainly have had a lot more visual finesse than the sole piece of scenery: a metallic shower curtain hanging upstage which kind of caught the lighting flung on it.

Stojko and Bourne each only have one solo in each half, apart from a few negligible appearance­s in ensemble sequences.

I’d love to see the flash and glamour of ice dancing joined convincing­ly to the world of live theatre and Stojko is just the kind of person who could star in such a show. But it needs to be more than the shotgun wedding that Blades on Stage now represents.

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