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Star gazing: Ice show will satisfy star gazers

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Date: January 27, 2005
Author: Jamila Robinson

Scott Hamilton calls Kurt Browning "skate god for life."

Browning insists it is the other way around.

Nonetheless, skate god is an appropriate nickname for Browning, a four-time world champion and the first skater to land a quadruple jump. His repertoire includes such memorable skates as "Brick House" and "Antares," and his portrayal of Humphrey Bogart at the 1994 Olympic Games.

There won't be any quads when Browning performs as the guest star of Smucker's Stars on Ice on Friday at Savvis Center, but there will be Browning's trademark comedic routines with quick steps, fast spins and some "Imagination." That's the theme of Stars, which fits in with Browning's preference for "funny programs" that, over the years, have included skating in a clown suit and sitting in the audience for most of the skate.

Browning says this year's routine is "all him." Choreographed by Lori Nichol, who worked with Michelle Kwan for years, it takes place at Browning's house. He's supposed to be fixing a leaky pipe while his wife runs errands, but instead he decides to play in his son's toy trunk. Browning skates around in a cape, triple-toes in boxing gloves, jumps over the trunk and skips rope. Whatever Browning finds in the trunk, he skates with.

"The program has gone through a lot of changes as I tried to figure what props worked and what didn't," he says. "It has a part one and a part two, but it is essentially me being a big kid on the ice and learning to skate with toys."

Browning's guest spot at Savvis will include more ice time than is typically expected from a guest star. He will skate in the introduction and closing in addition to his two toy-trunk programs. Browning likes to use the emphasis in Stars on ensemble skating as preparation for his solo efforts.

Skating in the ensembles also gives Browning the opportunity to reacquaint himself with the production choreography. Designed by another skate god, Christopher Dean - the 1984 Olympic ice-dancing champion with Jayne Torvill - the innovative programs and creative movement on ice featured in Stars have garnered critical acclaim and an Emmy for last year's TV broadcast.

"Quirky and definitely a challenge" says Browning of the difficult Dean choreography. "(Dean) is viciously strong and he makes you a better skater. And he doesn't give up on you if you can't do the moves. I mean, these are world and Olympic champions having trouble with his steps. But he doesn't give up because he loves the challenge of teaching."

This 2005 production of Stars highlights the male and pairs skaters, who make up the majority of its cast. Browning says the skaters "not to miss" are former three-time U.S. pairs champions Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman.

Browning, 39, who hails from Alberta, Canada, has been a headliner of Stars for nine years, but he's scaled back his participation on the U.S. tour to guest-star appearances in 17 legs of the 60-city tour.

"It's their show now," Browning says of the new generation of skaters joining the cast in the past few seasons, including six-time U.S. champion Todd Eldredge and 2002 Olympic champion Alexei Yagudin. The newbie on the tour is Sarah Hughes, the 2002 Olympic champion.

Browning finds the newer skaters exceptionally talented and expects to see each of them make their mark. But he would prefer to wait before he deifies another skater.

"I certainly have a great respect for longevity," he says. "(Kristi) Yamaguchi, (Brian) Boitano, (Brian) Orser - all those guys have been around for a very, very long time. There is something to be said for that. But I don't know who exactly is going to lead the sport into the future.

"The next skate god? We'll see."

Smucker's Stars on Ice
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Savvis Center, 1401 Clark Avenue
How much: $45-58
More info: 314-421-4400, 618-222-2900 or www.ticketmaster.com