Review: Blades On Stage

BLADES ON STAGE developed by Steven Cousins, Stephen Disson and Gary Wilson (Mirvish). At the Princess of Wales Theatre (300.


BLADES ON STAGE developed by Steven Cousins, Stephen Disson and Gary Wilson (Mirvish). At the Princess of Wales Theatre (300 King West). Runs to January 4, 2 and 8 pm (no 8 pm on Wednesday and Sunday). $29-$130. 416-872-1212, mirvish.com. See listing. Rating: NN

The idea of a holiday-themed figure skating show performed in a theatre sounds promising. Why not sell skating as an intimate art form and not merely as a big stadium spectacle? But Blades On Stage, currently on at the prestigious Princess of Wales and featuring over a dozen former stars, skates on thin theatrical ice.

The ill-conceived show is split into two parts: Broadway and Holiday. The former features a series of solos, duets and ensemble numbers skated to often awkwardly-abridged recordings of songs from Les Miserables, West Side Story and Chicago.

The latter consists of routines performed to holiday tunes, which, since the show officially opened after Christmas, feel pretty anti-climactic. Weve put up with Let It Snow and Little Drummer Boy since mid-November cant we retire them for another 11 months?

Speaking of retirement, though these performers have left competing to take on projects like Stars On Ice and reality shows like Battle Of The Blades, theyve still got the mojo, even if theyre dancing on an ice surface thats a fraction of what theyre used to which obviously limits their speed.

Headliners Elvis Stojko and Shae-Lynn Bourne absolutely nail their individual numbers. Stojko is a charismatic pitbull in Dont Stop Believin and Northern Lights, while Bourne sparkles confidently in two numbers accompanied by her musician/filmmaker husband, Firedance (to music from the show Riverdance) and Little Drummer Boy. Backed up by a trio of men, Bourne captures the glitz and glamour of Roxie Hart in All That Jazz, using a sequined purse as a prop and a toy gun to cute effect.

Other standout numbers include Carly Donowicks soulful ice dance to I Dreamed A Dream, with choreography that captures her characters plight, Steven Cousinss noble and stoic Bring Him Home and Chris Bournes graceful, long-limbed, lyrical interpretation of O Holy Night.

Of the duets, I preferred the total ease and joy of Jodeyne Higgins and Sean Rice in the stirring Somewhere and the cute I Went Out With Santa to the cloying obviousness of Violetta Afanasieva and Pete Dack in Master Of The House and Elf The Musical.

If only the production design and direction were better. The Les Mis medley is performed in costumes (designed by Denis Pizzacalla) that have nothing to do with the Broadway musical, and the lighting (Errol Reinart) seems very basic throughout, especially with the reds and greens during the festive second half.

As for Steven Cousinss direction, not much thought has gone into the shows logic or tone. Programming back-to-back pairs numbers when there are lots of solos isnt the wisest move.

Canadians love their hockey and figure skating, and this show has potential to be a crowd-pleaser. But once you get past the fact that theres real ice onstage, the novelty soon wears off.

glenns@nowtoronto.com | @glennsumi

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