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Stars align for Lake Placid performance

Stars on Ice performers finish Monday’s holiday show in style at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid. (Provided photo — Christie Sausa)

LAKE PLACID — “I feel back at home.”

That’s how Kurt Browning described his return to Lake Placid for a special holiday performance of Stars on Ice on Monday at the Olympic Center.

For the three-time Olympian, four-time world champion and four-time Canadian national champion who was a Stars on Ice legend much like tour founder Scott Hamilton, coming back to Lake Placid was a welcome opportunity.

“It’s kind of like seeing old friends that you don’t expect to bump into, and you go out and have dinner,” Browning said. “I walk up Main Street, and I say, ‘Hey, I bought a hat there,’ or ‘I bought socks there.’ There’s just so many memories here. And of course the show. But what makes Lake Placid so special for us is the first two hours on the ice of friendship and laughing and feeling the show come together.”

The show opened in a style characteristic of past Stars on Ice shows, with an energetic group number to “Born this Way” by Lady Gaga, and blended holiday music selections with traditional skating show numbers.

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier skate to a swing medley Monday during the Stars on Ice holiday performance in Lake Placid. (Provided photo — Christie Sausa)

Joining Browning were three-time Olympic ice dance medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White, 2018 U.S. Olympic team bronze medalist and 2018 U.S. national champion Bradie Tennell, and 2018 U.S. Olympic team bronze medalist and seven-time national championship medalist Mirai Nagasu.

The impressive cast also featured 2018 U.S. Olympic team bronze medalist and four-time national champion Jeremy Abbott, two-time and reigning men’s Canadian national champion Nam Nguyen, seven-time Canadian national championship medalists Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, two-time U.S. women’s national champion Alissa Czisny, and 2011 U.S. men’s national champion Ryan Bradley. Most of the skaters in the show had at one point or another performed in the Lake Placid Saturday Night Ice Shows, so local skating fans were excited to see them return.

The crowd responded especially warmly to Browning though, who skated energetically to “Ding Dong Daddy” by the Cherry Poppin Daddies, and the plaintive Joni Mitchell “River” covered by Browning’s creative partner Geoffrey Tyler. This show was his return to performing after over a year off.

“Ding Dong Daddy is just about high-energy, dancing, fun and being really physical on the ice,” explained Browning. “And so I thought okay, that’s a challenge, let’s see if we can bring that baby back, I’ve had to do a few modifications to it to adapt to it.”

“River” was especially captivating, and included a segment in which Browning skated school figures, a discipline in which patterns are skated on the surface and which is rapidly becoming popular again.

ORDA Director of Sport Paul Wylie addresses the crowd during the special holiday performance of Stars on Ice on Monday, Dec. 30 in Lake Placid. (Provided photo — Christie Sausa)

“We accentuated the Christmas element just a little bit so that it could be used during the holiday season, it’s a beautiful song,” he said.

Making his debut in Lake Placid was reigning men’s Canadian national champion Nam Nguyen, skating to a medley of Queen songs and “Piano Man” by Billy Joel, thrilling the crowd with big jumps and charisma. For Nguyen, the show was a good opportunity to perform in the midst of his competitive season, with the Canadian national championships only a few weeks away.

“These programs are a lot of fun, and I hope the audience will enjoy it,” said Nguyen. “As a Canadian athlete it is a huge honor to be skating for Canada, and my goal for this season is to make it to the World Championships this year.”

Four-time national champion Jeremy Abbott, who skated in Lake Placid’s Saturday Night Ice Shows during his competitive career, dazzled with two smooth performances to “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole, choreographed by Abbott and Benoit Richaud, and “Treat” by Santana, choreographed by Browning.

“Treat was an old competitive short program that we recently turned into more of a show program,” Abbott said. “It’s been fun to kind of tackle this program again because the last time I did it was 12 years ago. So I have much more maturity to my skating now. It’s been kind of cool to just see the skating quality improve.”

Other highlights included the timeless performance to “White Christmas” by Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Bradie Tennell’s sassy skate to Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” and a surprise appearance by Alissa Czisny, who skated flawlessly to “Oh Holy Night.”

As if the show was not exciting enough, new ORDA Director of Sport Paul Wylie addressed the crowd during the intermission, bringing to mind the days of Scott Hamilton’s emceeing at Stars on Ice. Wylie spoke about two new Lake Placid skating initiatives: the 40th Anniversary Ice Show Celebration and the Skate to Elimin8 Cancer fundraising event on the Olympic Oval, which both take placid on Feb. 18.

“We would like to invite you back for the 40th anniversary of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games, which happened right here, and we are going to invite back the entire United States figure skating team for a very special Gala,” said Wylie.

About the fundraiser, he explained, “It’s going to be fun, it’s a frozen 5K, and it’s about 10 laps around the oval. It’s really going to be good for you, it’s going to be good for the community and you’re going to get to see Scott Hamilton on the ice again here in Lake Placid.”

Browning popped up at one point during the address to greet Wylie, and was happy to see his old cast-mate living and working in Lake Placid.

“Paul works here now, so I’m looking forward to having a drink with him tonight just to tell stories and reminisce,” Browning said.

In perhaps one of the best final group numbers in recent memory, the cast danced, jumped, and spun through a mix of ’90s songs, which was refreshing and fun in its simplicity, and brought the energy and entertainment value that Stars on Ice has made its trademark. The audience, some of whom braved icy weather to attend, gave that energy right back to the skaters.

Abbott no doubt spoke for the whole cast in his enthusiasm for skating in Lake Placid.

“I always love coming to Lake Placid. It’s such a big part of the sporting history and skating history, and there’s always great energy performing here.”

Stars on Ice will return in Spring 2020 with their legendary cast, during a 14-city tour throughout Canada and the U.S. west coast.

For more information, including tickets, visit www.starsonice.com.

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