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Stepping Out: Smucker's Stars on Ice glides into Nassau Coliseum

Skating champions celebrate ice shows's 25th anniversary

Source: Long Island Herald
Date: March 31, 2011
Author: Karen Bloom
For 25 years, the world's top figure skaters have enthralled fans of the sport as they travel throughout the U.S. and Canada, with Scott Hamilton's Stars On Ice tour. Now the stars of the skating world celebrate a milestone when the 25th edition of the Smucker's Stars on Ice tour glides onto the ice at Nassau Coliseum on Friday. Skating stars past and present join headliners 2010 Men's Olympic Gold Medalist Evan Lysacek and 2006 National Champion and Olympic Silver Medalist Sasha Cohen, and four time World and Canadian National Champion Kurt Browning, for an evening of all-star skating, with a video introduction by its founder, Hamilton, the 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist.

Conceived in 1986 as a vehicle for Hamilton, who had been released from his contract with the Ice Capades (after being told that male skaters do not sell tickets), Hamilton created a "home" for his fellow skaters to enable them to continue their skating careers after their competitive days were over.

Hamilton, who is now retired from regular touring with the show, remains actively involved as a producer.

A gathering of legends - past, present and future - honors Hamilton in this anniversary show that showcases figure skating at its best. Smucker's Stars on Ice continues to be a pioneer in figure skating by offering fans the rare opportunity to witness some of the world's most creative and cherished champions performing together in individual and ensemble routines. In addition to Lysacek, Cohen and Browning, the stellar cast of world-renowned skaters includes Olympic Gold Medalists Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, of Canada; two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Ekaterina Gordeeva, of Russia; World Champion and six-time U.S. National Champion Todd Eldredge; Olympic Silver Medalists Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto; 2010 Olympic Bronze Medalist, Joannie Rochette, also of Canada; and two-time World Bronze Medalist and three-time U.S. National Champion Michael Weiss.

It's a reunion with the skating "family" for Browning, who returns after a lengthy absence. "The 25th anniversary was a good excuse for me to rejoin the cast," Browning said. "I'd been invited to do some guesting in the past, but not as a full cast member. This was a chance to be part of the full cast again, part of the family."

"It was because of that I was curious about doing it. At first I had the wish that maybe Scott or Kristi (Yamaguchi) could be on the ice with me, I kind of thought that might happen, but they are at different places in their lives. I seem to be the one pulled out of retirement. I'm extremely honored to get one more kick at the big tour; I had thought I said goodbye forever. But I had knee surgery a couple years ago to help me get around the racetrack, and now I get one more shot at being the horse going around the racetrack."

Browning is considered to be one of the most popular skaters on the tour. Fans, and fellow skaters, have responded enthusiastically to his return to the U.S. shows.

"I've been doing Stars on Ice in Canada for 20 years straight," Browning said. " So I have been performing and touring and doing shows all over the world. But it's really something special to get back on the U.S. cast of Stars on Ice. It's something I let go because of family commitments. Seven years ago, my son was born. So I said that'll be it for the U.S. tour, I'll just do guesting."

From triple jumps to those backflips not permitted in competition, this show has all the tricks that audiences love. "The show is a balance of amazing talent, lighting, and costumes," said Browning. "I've been in 21 casts of Stars on Ice. This is a great mix of talents and a great show. It's fun to perform and fun to watch."

This year's production is an opportunity for the cast to demonstrate the evolution of the sport. From the younger group of skaters to those of Browning's generation, every athlete brings something special to the performance. "It's a great group," said Browning. "They're good people, good skaters and good friends. It's truly an honor to be a part of this."

Browning, who has stepped in as "host" of the show, opens the program with a conversation with Hamilton through a video link. That sets the tone for an evening of pure skating, as each star wows the audiences with the trademark moves that delight their fans.

"Basically it's good old-fashioned stars on ice, with great group numbers where the friendships of the skaters get to come through," Browning said. "We showcase Sasha Cohen and Evan Lysacek, who, of course, just got us a shiny new gold medal at the Olympics in Vancouver in 2010. We're just going to really have a great time. We've got wonderful individual efforts from Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, and we do a really fun group number with Todd Eldredge and myself and Sasha Cohen — just the three of us, but it's really charming."

"I think we've got one of the best casts we've had in a very long time. We have an amazingly talented cast, and a cast that likes each other. We're very proud of the show and the tour sponsor. We have a wonderful relationship with charity. A portion of the proceeds goes to Boys and Girls Clubs of America."

Smucker's Stars on Ice
Friday, April 1, 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $25 and may be purchased at the Coliseum Box Office, Ticketmaster locations, (631) 888-9000 or www.ticketmaster.com.
Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale.