Isabelle & Lloyd - The Farewell ShowThe Review
On October 7, 2004, I was fortunate enough to attend the first of Isabelle Brasseur & Lloyd Eisler’s Farewell Shows at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium in Kitchener, Ontario. Since I am from Chicago, the show was a bit of a drive for me – about nine hours, in fact, but I knew that I had to be there for this. I have been a fan of Isabelle and Lloyd for as long as I have loved figure skating and their farewell, while bittersweet, was a fitting end to a beautiful career.
Before the show began, Tracy Wilson announced that the show would feature some dear friends in the skating world, performing programs that Isabelle & Lloyd had personally chosen. In return, the cast would skate to some of Isabelle & Lloyd’s music from throughout their career during the opening.
In an era where opening numbers are so often simply skaters performing tricks in the centre of the ice while their names are announced, it is so refreshing to see an opening number that is not only well-done, but also well-choreographed. Doug Ladret did a fantastic job with the opening here, even using props rather successfully. The props were some of Isabelle & Lloyd’s costumes from over the years, displayed on mannequins and the skaters weaved in and around them, moving them around the ice. Despite getting in the way of a few photographs because I was sitting at ice level, I really enjoyed the way that they were used. The music included excerpts from old competitive programs, as well as some of their professional trademarks. Unfortunately, I cannot recall the specific selections used, but it was all music that I recognized. The opening closed with “I’ll Be There For You,” (aka the theme song from Friends), which fit perfectly – I was glad to have my friends sitting with me, since I was already getting a bit misty-eyed!
Brasseur & Eisler began the individual numbers of the first act themselves with the most emotional performance of the night, “Remember Me This Way.” The music was provided by Ashley Alexander, a 14-year-old Kingston native and friend of the Eislers with a powerful set of pipes! She did a beautiful job of singing the song well, but not distracting from Brasseur & Eisler’s performance. I became a huge fan of this program when I saw it on the Canadian Stars on Ice tour last April and it’s the perfect program to close out their career.
Jozef Sabovcik was next with his only solo of the night to “Say Goodbye” by Gotthard. He really got the crowd going with his impressive tuck axel and a high-flying laid out back flip.
When Jennifer Robinson took the ice, I was unbelievably relieved to hear some music other than “Teach Me Tiger.” Yes, that’s right folks, Jen has a new program to “Murder She Said” by Tori Amos, off of the Mona Lisa Smile soundtrack. It’s a cute number with a lot of posing and a 1950s feel to it.
Ironically enough, it was not Jozef Sabovcik who skated to Springsteen this time, but Steven Cousins, who gave a beautiful performance to “Streets of Philadelphia.” So often we see the entertaining party side of Steven that it is easy to forget that he can be a most elegant skater as well. “Streets of Philadelphia” shows off his lovely positions and creates a tranquil mood for the audience to enjoy.
I was ridiculously excited for the next number – Kurt Browning resurrected “Antares” for this show. I’d never seen it skated live before, and it was incredible. The highlight of the number, for those unfamiliar with it, is a gigantic opening spread eagle that goes down the length of the ice, turns the corner, and goes across the width as well. He displays such control in the extension and positions during this program and for him to perform it with the same intensity, after so many years, is just incredible. He put his hand down on a triple salchow, but it made little impact on the rest of the program.
One of the biggest treats of the night was next. Jamie Salé & David Pelletier debuted their new program to “Radar Love!” The program, choreographed by Hough & Ladret, is virtually perfect from an interpretive standpoint. I was floored by how convincingly the choreography came across, especially for a first run. Already, I believe that this will be remembered as one of their trademarks. Besides the fantastic interpretation, the program is also packed with technical elements, including a beautiful triple twist, a throw triple loop, and a handstand lift. Instead of their variation of the handstand lift that they have used in the past two seasons, in this program, they stick with Tuffy & Doug’s original technique to get into the handstand. Overall, this was one of the highlights of the whole show for me, and I look forward to seeing them tour with this throughout the season!
Elvis Stojko had a tough act to follow, but the Canadian crowd does love its Elvis and he did a great job with “Here Without You” by Three Doors Down. Unfortunately, I am neither too familiar with this program nor do I remember much about it – I think I was still excited about “Radar Love” at that point. He did skate solidly and received a standing ovation.
What better to close the act than a couple of old friends? Isabelle and Lloyd introduced “Patricia the Stripper” from backstage with a humorous little dialogue and the crowd cheered them on to bring back Patricia. They had all the old tricks of the original, including Isabelle throwing Lloyd for a single axel, and all of the other daring lifts and highlights. The crowd was completely involved with the number, laughing all the while. I truly appreciated what a treat it was to see their trademark live at their retirement show and am thankful that I had this opportunity.
Act Two began with a presentation of flowers to the mothers and we caught our first glimpses of the cute kids. From all the way at the other end of the ice, we managed to see that Gabriella is really growing up beautifully and that Ethan was wearing some sort of animal costume. It was adorable!
After that, Steven Cousins opened the act with “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?” This is such a fun number and I was glad to see it again. Ever the entertainer, he was the perfect choice to get the crowd going again after intermission.
Joannie Rochette was next. She wasn’t originally on the Kitchener cast list, but when I spoke to her at the reception, she said that she’d known she would be skating her for a week or two. I never get tired of seeing her “Paint It Black” program, especially when she skates like she did that night! She hit all of her jumps, including a gorgeous triple flip, and carried off the choreography perfectly. My friends and I gave her a well-deserved standing ovation.
Following Joannie was Brian Orser. I sort of expected him to skate to “Story of My Life,” but instead, he performed a lyrical program to “Il Postino” by Josh Groban. I’m not sure if it was new, but at least I did not recall seeing it before. His artistry is still so beautiful, even after skating for so many years, and you can easily tell that he still enjoys it. I’m so glad that he was in the cast.
Salé & Pelletier were back on the ice next with “Who Wants to Live Forever.” Although they used this program for a few events last fall, they will be touring with it this year and I am looking forward to that. I was fortunate enough to see its debut last year and I love how it has developed. There are a few small differences from last year’s choreography, but overall, it is just more secure than last year and it’s obvious that they have been working hard all summer – they seem to be in wonderful shape.
Skating to “The Middle,” Elvis entertained the crowd next, keeping the energy high. I was not really a fan of this program – it seemed to be a lot more posing and pointing at the crowd than actual skating. I liked his first one better, however, the audience certainly enjoyed it and he got a great response.
I was simply beside myself about seeing Kristi Yamaguchi, especially skating to Céline Dion! Although I have been a fan of hers since I was seven years old, I had never seen her live before. She was captivating, mesmerizing, and simply beautiful. Her quality of skating is so graceful and her artistry is simply timeless.
Kurt Browning followed up Kristi’s ballad performance with one of his classic humourous numbers – “Slippery Side Up.” He toured with this two seasons ago, and it’s the one where he actually skates on the ice with his skate guards on for a time. Although this is a fun number, it’s clear to see how difficult all of his footwork really is and it just reaffirms that Kurt is indeed the master of the fast feet.
Finally, Isabelle and Lloyd returned to the ice for one last solo. They chose to end with “Skater Boi,” and while it surprised me that they picked a comedic number, it does reflect the character that they have had over their career. Playing their roles to a T, they once again dazzled the audience with high-flying lifts and gasp-worthy tricks, all the while keeping up with the energetic music and giving no indication of their ages.
Bobby Lambert, a friend of Brasseur & Eisler’s, performed “I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together” as the finale and I wish I could comment more about it, but I think I was numb just about the whole time. I just remember shaking in my seat as I was painfully aware that this would in fact be the last time that I saw two of my heroes skate. The lyrics of the song pierced my heart and I couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks.
After the finale was over, Isabelle and Lloyd skated over to the side and carried their children while they helped their spouses scoot over to centre ice to stand with the cast and once again acknowledge an appreciative audience. I embraced my friends that accompanied me and we all blinked back tears as we watched the curtain fall on a seventeen-year career. On the screen above them, a photo from the medal ceremony at the 1994 Olympics – Lloyd carrying Isabelle on his shoulder, waving to the crowd – a symbol of their past. On the ice below, two families, joined forever by the accomplishments of one unlikely pairs team, and the legacy of skaters that they left behind – a symbol of their future.
My pictures from the show are available for viewing here. I have them on my Imagestation account in order to conserve bandwidth on this domain. To view the website, you must register with Sony Imagestation, but it is free and a quick process. Plus, Imagestation is a great service.
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