[Leigh's Year 2002 note: This review was written the night of the show. I can now spell everyone's name. :-) ]

I went to the TOC in Champaign, IL, on April 6, 1996. I had a blast! I got a last-minute upgrade on my ticket from a friend, and my seat was actually pretty good. Well, here's my take on things:

[Note: I'm not very good at identifying a jump if it's not an axel :-) , and I need slo-mo in most cases to tell how many rotations a person got, so there will be very little commentary on the jumps other than whether or not they landed them. :-) However, I can say here at the beginning that there were *no falls* (on jumps, that is). I guess they got all of that out of their system in Nashville. :-) Also any of the names may be mispelled at any time. I don't even think I can necessarily get the Americans' names right! :-( (How many times have I seen them written?)]

I think Assembly Hall is a lousy place to have an ice show (or at least a weird one). It's pretty round, so the normal seats didn't go all the way up to the ice on the long sides, or even close. They had three rows of on-ice seats, then a *huge* no-man's land before the "real" seats. Looking around from my perch high atop the short end of the ice (Assembly Hall is really steep), I started to think that maybe this was a pretty good place to be sitting, other than front row, on-ice.

During the little "Can You Feel It?" opening number, one of the male skaters was pumping his arm into the air with the music. However, it was too dark for me to tell which one it was. (I think it was probably one of the amateur pairs or dance men, and they all look pretty interchangable to me, especially in the dark.) Oh, and for everyone who wants to hear that "La Marcarena" (sp?) song that everyone's been talking about (the dance that they were doing at Worlds), according to my friend, that was the song that Oskana Baiul used in her intro number at the beginning. Todd was wearing one of his big, glittery shirts, so there was that disco ball effect when he did a scratch spin. I squealed with delight. :-)

1. Maria Butirskaya - She did her "Vogue" number. I don't think she should be skating first. I like her a lot, so it's nothing like that, but it's just that nobody seemed to know who she was, and it really seemed hard for her to get the crowd warmed up. She skated fine, though, and people seemed to enjoy it ok. I would have preferred to have seen her short program, however. I *really* like that one, but "Vogue" just seems so-so.

2. Punsalan & Swallow - They start out with him lying on the ice. A man behind me says, "I guess he's tired!" I was sitting in the middle of a tour group.

3. Nicole Bobek - The costume was pretty garish. I think the colors should have been toned down a bit, or something. There were a lot of bird sounds. I have no idea what the music was. I would have rather seen "Sacrifice" or the "Lion King" program, but she did skate well. I held my breath on every jump, though. She got the requisite applause for the requisite spiral, which was amazing, as usual. I really hope she can pull it all together.

4. Krylova & Ovsiannokov - I don't remember what they skated to. I think it was "Tosca". Her hair was down (mostly). At one point she was sitting on the ice and he was supposed to pick her up, but he seemed to have trouble, and they had to make a second try. I don't think that was planned. :-) I really do like them better than G&P (although I really wish that Bourne & Kraatz had been there).

5. Surya Bonaly - She skated to "Circle of Life". She actually did another nice spiral that she held for quite a while (for her, especially!), and then she didn't even clomp her foot down. :-) She did her backflip into a jump with no problem, but then she tripped and almost fell doing crossovers immediately afterwards. I don't think the audience really noticed, though, because everyone was still clapping for her jumps. Toward the end of her program, something in her hair flew off. A spotlight was on it immediately (as it was with *anything* that hit the ice for the entire show, until it was picked up; I think I read a review saying that there had been a lot of tripping over props at one show, so I guess they're being really careful about that), so she never tripped over it, and she retrieved it at the end or her program.

6. Eltsova & Bushkov - They skated to that Mariah Carey version of "Without You." Ick. (The song, not E&B, really. I *hate* it when Mariah Carey sings songs where I like the original-Nilsson's "Without You" and the Jackson Five's "I'll Be There". In the closing medley there was a remake of an old song from the early 80s (I couldn't remember what it was), and I think that might have even been Mariah Carey doing that one.) E&B were pretty uneventful.

7. Rudy - "Ave Maria" with the AIDS ribbon. It was beautiful and serious. So why was I laughing throughout the whole thing? Because I was sitting directly opposite the skaters' entrance and could see the next skater. The next skater was Slute, and she was practicing her jumps on the floor. She'd jump and then sometimes wouldn't land with balance, so she'd kind of stagger around a little. One time she did that while Rudy was skating by her and the spotlight was sort of on her. It was just so funny. :-) Rudy got a *great* crowd response. I was just so happy for him!

8. Irina Slutskaya - Go Slute! She didn't skate to "New York, New York", but I'm not sure what she skated to. She was wearing a white dress which could have been the dress from "NY,NY". Lots of spins, lots of jumps, pretty uneventful, but I just love her *attitude*. She seems like a little tomboy, but then she wears feathery dresses. She doesn't wear makeup (which I hope she doesn't change) and she says that her hobby is toys??? (They said that on something, right? Maybe the ESPN rebroadcast of Worlds? Was that just translated wrong, or did she really say that?) She skates with this whole attitude of "I'm in complete control" and seems to her nose a little in the air. I just *love* her!

9. Ilia Kulik - He skated to the Bon Jovi program, not the "Addams Family" short. He stepped out of a jump, but did well otherwise. Those rosey cheeks!

10. Meno & Sand - They skated to a remake of "You Made Me So Very Happy" (wasn't that originally Blood, Sweat, and Tears?). Just listening to the lyrics ("You made me so very happy/I'm so glad you/Came into my life.") made me want to barf. They're just *trying too hard* to convince us that they're in love. They shouldn't have to work at it. Oh, and there was a wedding photo in the program, along with one of Nancy (didn't skate) and Jerry.

11. Alexei Urmanov - He was awesome! Well, to me, anyone who skates to a Beatles medley is awesome (or at least they'd better be! :-) ), but he was anyway. :-) He was wearing a pale blue jacket with thin black stripes that crossed perpendicularly (I'm sure there's a name for this pattern!). He took the jacket off and his sleeves were sort of like Todd's in his short program--the multicolored stripes, although Alexei's were a much better color. Alexei was really selling the program, and the audience was eating it up. :-) He had the knee waggles (although I was at the wrong angle to get the full effect. :-) ) and was just generally very frantic. At one point he was playing to the audience on one side and he kicked over a flashlight that was on the border to the ice (I don't know why there were flashlights positioned all around the ice, but there were.) The flashlight fell onto the ice, and thus got a spotlight. I was thinking that certainly he wouldn't be skating *that* close to the side so that he'd actually come near it, but he did. He was skating backwards on one foot, directly at the flashlight, and swerved out of the way, then back to where he should have been. I was impressed! :-) He was just great.

Intermission. I actually made it through the bathroom line *and* the food line with about a minute to spare. :-) My friend said that while she was buying a shirt, the seller asked a woman who had skated so far, and she said nobody much. See the above list.

12. Gary Beacom & Gia Gudat - Just like the "Losing Your Marbles" program (skates on hands and feet) except with glowing costumes and different music, and the audience just loved it. I munched my popcorn.

13. Lu Chen - Very pretty. She had her hair down. I didn't think there was a lot to distinguish it, though. It was pretty, but it didn't have that special something that her programs had last year.

14. Elvis Stojko - He skated to Michael Jackson's "Jam". Right when I was thinking that there wasn't quite as much point and wave as some of his other exhibitions, he came over and pointed directly at my section. Oh well. The audience just *loved* him, though. I think he got the most applause when he was introduced. After he finished, some girls screamed, "We love you Elvis!" followed by, "We love you too!" from another group.

15. Usova & Zhulin - The new one with the mask and noose. I think Central Illinois was confused.

16. Todd Eldredge - He skated to "This is the Moment" and really started to remind me of Paul Wylie a little (not just the music). I always did think they looked a little alike, similar hair. Anyway, he just seemed so *happy* out there. He really went all out. Another glittery shirt, another disco ball. :-) People really cheered him when he was announced. I think everyone had been watching Worlds.

17. Grischuk & Platov - Here it was, the moment that skatefans around the world have been waiting for. Oksana Grischuk takes a header into the flowers around the ice! Wow. I wasn't really watching when it happened (they have that effect on me; I was watching Michelle on the opposite side of the ice, and she wasn't even doing anything), but I heard this big OOH and looked over, and she was sliding into the flowers. It interrupted the program for a few seconds, but then she got back up and they continued. (And the people sitting nearby replaced the plants.) My friend said she thought she might have seen blood, but she wasn't sure and she didn't think so since she kept skating. I'm pretty sure I saw Nicole standing at the entrance in a bathrobe after this happened, pointing and explaining what had happened to someone. Does anyone know if she and Yevgeny are still dating? G&P skated to "You'll See" by Madonna, and it was probably my favorite thing I've ever seen from them, not that that's saying much.

18. Michelle Kwan - She did her "East of Eden" program. It was nice. I can feel myself starting to like Michelle again since Adrian left the list. Flame or not, this is the absolute truth.

19. Brasseur & Eisler - Their Blues Brothers program. It wowed the crowd.

20. Victor Petrenko - His "Business of Love" lounge lizard thing. The audience loved him. He'd point to women in the audience and they'd practically swoon. I was pretty high up, and when he came over by us I had a nice view of the bald spot on his head. :-) He put his hand down on one jump, but did ok other than that.

21. Klimova & Ponomeranko - Their new bondage program. I didn't notice any chains. That doesn't mean they didn't have them, but I didn't notice them. They didn't have ropes. It was more like strips of fabric. They didn't seem to have any problems with the program.

22. Oksana Baiul - She did her Arabian program. I don't like it. At least she wasn't wearing the mask. She did a single Axel and a double Axel. Those were the only jumps I noticed (although I wasn't really watching for them until the single Axel). However, I talked to some people that I know who won backstage passes and dinner with the skaters, and they said that she was sick, so I guess that's why the jumping was *so* poor.

23. Brian Boitano - He did "Don't Cry", which now makes me think of Sergei. (You'll want to get a program, BTW. There's a little tribute to Sergei on the first two pages with two nice photos. It was $10 here. Three different shirts, $20 each. A poster of Brian Boitano for $5. Prices may vary. Visa and Mastercard accepted.) He skated cleanly. When it was over there were loud cheers for him as he'd acknowledge each part of the audience. Didn't happen with the other skaters. Before he started to skate, a woman screamed, "You're gorgeous!" While he was skating, at times he seemed to be singing to the music.

In the finale, four of the men come out and do jumps at the same time, two of them coming toward two others. I really couldn't tell you who 3 of the men were, though, because I was in shock from the one I did see. It was Todd Eldredge, wearing a bandana on his head!!! I broke into hysterical laughter and really couldn't tell you anything else about it. :-) It was just *too funny*! I wonder how much extra money they had to pay him to put that bandana on his head. I wonder if it'll last to the tv broadcast, or if the amount will be financially prohibitive to the tour for it to go that long. :-) He just looked so cute, but it was just so un-Todd. I was hoping to be able to get Todd's autograph last night, although I already have it, just because....

Also in the finale, when Lloyd and Isabelle came out, Lloyd was wearing this button-front sweater vest over a white t-shirt. The sweater had little multicolored thin stripes. You all know what I'm talking about. You've seen it in your local Gap or in your J. Crew catalog. I was shocked. It was just so...un-Lloyd. When he came signed autographs after the show, though, he was wearing a leather motorcycle jacket. Ahh, there's the Lloyd we all know and love. :-)

Elvis was wearing a Campbell's shirt.

After the show I was just going to leave. My friend had told me that last year they just loaded up the buses inside the arena and driven out past everyone, so I didn't think there was much point of looking for skaters/autographs. Boy, was I wrong! I was by myself, so I was just wandering around the outside trying to find where the buses would come out. I finally spotted it and ran over. They weren't loaded and were just sitting outside, which meant that we'd get to see the skaters come out! My friend soon arrived (stalker minds think alike? ;-) ) and we waited. The first one out was Brian Boitano. (It was really hard to figure out who some of them were, because it was dark and we were up a hill and behind a fence.) Everyone started yelling to him. My friend yelled that he'd done great, and he looked at her and smiled and waved. After reading that he missed the bus in Nashville, I wonder if he was first one out because he didn't want to miss it again. :-) Other skaters wandered out. It was hard to spot most of them. I mean, could you spot Ossianokov in the dark from 20 feet away? I think I did, but I'm not sure. Anyway, the interesting things. Lloyd came out pretty early on. We yelled to him, and finally he came up to sign autographs. He came prepared with his own marker. :-) I didn't get his autograph, but I didn't really fight for it because I already have it. I could barely see him through the crowd. My friend had decided to ask people for advice on waltz jumps. She asked him and he just kind of snickered and walked away. She felt snubbed. :-) We saw Rudy, Alexei, Ilia, Todd, Lu, and many others I wasn't sure of. They didn't really acknowledge us, at least not more than a wave. Then Elvis came out. He came up the hill and signed autographs. The cry went up: Does anyone have a marker? Of course, I did. I had my Emergency Celebrity Marker. So Elvis used it. (Elvis touched my marker!) I got his autograph on his page in the program. My friend asked her waltz jump question. He said he'd have to see it first. Then he said to stay vertical, keep your back straight. She asked him how he likes Chambana, and he said it was the first time he'd been here. He wasn't here last year. I think he said he had to be at home. He signed a bunch of autographs. He was really nice. It was pretty chilly (my hands were freezing!) and he had to be tired. Once I reclaimed my marker, I found that Surya had also come up the hill. I went over to get her autograph. (I think a French woman had lured her up the hill by screaming French to her.) She used my marker, too. She put the cap in her mouth. Little did she know that my Emergency Celebrity Marker has been in my purse for ages. (I don't have that many celebrity emergencies, unfortunately.) So, Surya's saliva touched my marker. A dubious distinction. She was also very gracious. Yeah, Surya. She even had postcards from her in Albertville. They were already signed, and she handed them out. My friend and I got different ones. She also signed her page in my program. I saw Surya's mother by the bus. With all the commotion I didn't get to do what I had wanted to do, yell "Go Slute!" to Slute. I didn't even see her come out. :-( Oh, also when Michelle came out (with both her parents, I think, and looking very young) everyone yelled to her to come up to us. She said that she couldn't because she was wearing sandels. My friend asked her waltz jump question, and Michelle did one, just sort of hopping in place. Then she said, "Just go for it!" and got on the bus.

When we'd gotten Surya's autograph and most of the people seemed to be on the bus, my friend said that we should go to her car to follow the bus. We wanted to see if they were staying in town. They'd said they were going to Indianopolis, but we didn't know if that was tonight. We ran to the car and got to the street just in time. The buses were coming so we got behind them. They went past my dorm! That's just so cool to think that these people went by my dorm. It's just so unlikely! I mean, have any of *you* gone by my dorm? Probably not, but Alexei Urmanov from Russia has. Ok, I'm just a sap. :-) Anyway, we followed the bus for a while, but it exited to go to Chicago, so we turned around and came back. I was kind of glad, because I would have hated to have really been stalking them like that. I looked it up, and Indianapolis wasn't until Tuesday (this was Saturday), so maybe they were heading to O'Hare to separate for Easter.

This was a *great* night! Great skating and lots of fun. It makes the evening so much bettter when you can add a great story to it by getting autographs. I really had more fun tonight than at SOI because I didn't get autographs there, and I thought SOI would be a lot more fun. (Although part of that had to do with Sergei.)

I had an extra ticket for the show because my friend had given me hers (7 rows in front of mine) when she got a better one, and I *couldn't find anyone to take it*! It was free, but no one wanted it. Half of the people were home for Easter (it was really only skating fans left :-) ), and the few people left that I could ask either had other plans or *had to study*! Yikes! Ihope I never pass up live world class skating to study. (Last year I had an exam, but that's different. :-) )

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