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Thursday, October 23, 2014

SKATE AMERICA 2014: Pairs Preview

Pairs is going to be an interesting discipline this cycle because the top two teams aren't competing at the moment. This will give those mid-level teams a chance to move up the ranks and will give the junior teams a fair shake.

Podium Predictions:
Gold: Kavaguti & Smirnov (RUS)
Silver: Peng & Zhang (CHN)
Bronze: Scimeca & Knierem (USA)

Kavaguti & Smirnov (RUS) have had a career plagued by a series of unfortunate events. They missed last season due to an injury and with it, their home Olympics. I'm pretty surprised they are still competing, but it should be a good year for them to grab another world medal with the depleted field. Lady Moskvina is still going strong and they won Nebelhorn this season, so they should be the favorites here.

Peng & Zhang (CHN) are not personally my cup of tea, but they have the big tricks. I am hoping that they spent the summer working on their components to create a better look on the ice. They shouldn't have much competition for the silver or even the gold here.

Scimeca & Knierem (USA) seem like the top US hope in pairs these days. They've struggled greatly with injury, but they had a breakout season in 2012-2013 and made the world team. They have beautiful lines and a great connection on the ice. If they can stay healthy, I expect them to really grow over the next Olympic cycle. This will be a great opportunity to win a Grand Prix medal.

The Rest of the Field
Ziegler & Kiefer (AUT)-12th at 2014 Europeans, 17th at 2014 Olympics, 22nd at 2014 Worlds, 5th at 2014 Coup de Nice
Grenier & Deschamps (CAN)-5th at 2014 Nebelhorn, 5th at 2014 Autumn Classic
Prolss & Blommaert (GER)-7th at 2013 Junior Worlds, 2nd at 2014 Ice Challenge
Aaron & Settlage (USA)-5th at 2014 World Juniors, 3rd at 2014 US International Trophy, 6th at 2014 Nebelhorn Trophy, 6th at 2014 Nebelhorn
Denney & Frazier (USA)-1st at 2014 Lombardia Trophy, 2nd at 2014 Autumn Classic

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

SKATE AMERICA 2014: Ice Dance Preview

Ice Dance is my favorite of all the disciplines, but this year we will be without the two teams that ran the table for the past five years. There are about 5 teams that seem poised to be perennial world medalists throughout the next cycle, and one happens to be here at Skate America.

Podium Predictions:
Gold: Chock & Bates (USA)
Silver: Shibutani & Shibutani (USA)
Bronze: Stepanova & Bukin (RUS)

Madison Chock & Evan Bates emerged as the solid number two team in the US last season and just barely missed a world medal. With Davis & White temporarily retired, they are the top team in the US. Madison Chock was anointed by Tara Lipinski as one of the next great divas in ice dance, and we all know Evan Bates has some of the best technique in the sport, so they should have a nice run over the next four year.

Maia & Alex Shibutani are a classic example of what happens when you fall out of favor with ice dance judges. They were the young phenoms in the post-Vancouver season and have been dropping steadily ever since. This year is key for them. I personally think they should've left Marina, but that's neither here nor there. That Michael Jackson program was a hot mess last year, but the Strauss should be a move back toward the classics that helped them start off so strong on the senior circuit four years ago.

Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin are one of those throwback Russian teams. They bring the drama, the pain, and anguish, and the garish costumes. I can only hope she will grow into one of those grand Russian divas who conveniently forgets to take her mood stabilizers. They won junior worlds last year and with the recent split of Ilinykh and Katasalapov, the top Russian spots are up for grabs.

The Rest of the Field:
Orford & Williams (CAN)-5th at 2014 Four Continents, 2nd at 2014 US International Classic, 6th at 2014 Autumn Classic
Paradis & Oullette (CAN)-5th at 2014 Nebelhorn Trophy
Guignard & Fabbri (FRA)-8th at 2014 Europeans, 14th at 2014 Olympics, 2014 at 2014 Worlds, 2nd at 2014 O. Nepela Trophy
Testa & Csolley (SVK)-12th at 2014 Europeans, 23rd at 2014 Worlds, 3rd at 2014 O. Nepela
Cannuscio & McManus (USA)-3rd at 2014 US International Classic, 3rd at 2014 Finlandia Trophy

Monday, October 20, 2014

SKATE AMERICA 2014: Mens Preview

The Skate America Mens event is shaping up to be a great battle. We have an interesting mix of veteran skaters like Ten and Abbott, skaters approaching their prime in Brown and Machida, and last year's junior world medalists Nguyen, and Pitkeev. I'm having a really hard time trying to predict the results, but I will do my best!

Podium Predictions:
Gold: Tatsuki Machida (JPN)
Silver: Jason Brown (USA)
Bronze: Nam Nguyen (CAN)

Tatsuki Machida (JPN) has been gradually improving in recent years, but last year he really stepped it up. He won Skate America and Rostelecom Cup. He finished an impressive 5th at the Olympics and won silver at worlds. He is a skater that starts off the season strong. He has all the goods and most importantly, is entertaining to watch. I look for him to defend his Skate America title.

Jason Brown (USA) is America's sweetheart and last year about this time was when he began his steady climb to Sochi. He is still working on the advanced jump content, but he has everything else, plus that X-factor that can't be quantified. I don't look for him to be perfect here, but I think he will lay down the ground work for a strong season. He will be well trained, having already won Nebelhorn, while others may not be quite tuned up in competitive shape yet.

Nam Nguyen (CAN) could be the next big thing. He was the junior world champ in 2014 and finished a respectable 12th on the senior level. With Patrick Chan's skating future uncertain, Nam will be Canada's best hope in the mens event moving forward. The past few years we have seen the young ladies make much stronger senior Grand Prix debuts, but I think Nam will be ready to go. Skate America tends to be a messy event, particularly in the mens event with the early season quad and triple axel attempts, so the most prepared will make the podium.

The Rest of the Field:
Jorik Hendrickx (BEL)-9th at 2014 Europeans, 16th at 2014 Olympics, 17th at 2014 Worlds
Chafik Besseghier (FRA)-12th at 2014 Europeans, 9th at 2014 Olympics, 3rd at 2014 Challenge Cup
Alexei Bychenko (ISR)-10th at 2014 Europeans, 21st at 2014 Olympics, 15th at 2014 Worlds, 7th at 2014 Nebelhorn, 5th at 2014 Finlandia
Denis Ten (KAZ)-4th at 2014 Four Continents, 3rd at 2014 Olympics
Michael Christian Martinez (PHI)-19th at 2014 Olympics, 1st at 2014 Triglav Trophy, 6th at 2014 Lombardia Trophy
Artur Gachinski (RUS)-8th at 2013 Skate America, 6th at 2013 Cup of Russia
Adian Pitkeev (RUS)-2nd at 2014 World Juniors, 3rd at 2014 Trophy Lombardia
Jeremy Abbott (USA)-12th at 2014 Olympics, 5th at 2014 Worlds
Douglas Razzano (USA)-2nd at 2014 International Challenge Cup, 4th at 2014 US International Challenge

Sunday, October 19, 2014

SKATE AMERICA 2014: Ladies Preview

We are about to kick off the 2014-2015 figure skating season and I couldn't be more excited! I'm still feeling a little bit of the post-Olympic hangover, of course, but I love the fresh feeling of starting a new Olympic cycle. These skaters have a blank canvas ahead of them and the youngsters will start emerging as the favorites. Many of our favorites are returning and a handful of the great juniors have moved up, so here we go! Skate America kick off on Friday October 24th from Chicago, IL.

Podium Predictions:
Gold: Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS)
Silver: Gracie Gold (USA)
Bronze: Elena Radionova (RUS)

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) was a phenom on the senior ISU circuit a few years ago, but the growing pains hit her hard last season. Missing out on the Sochi team was certainly devastating for her, but she appears locked and loaded to make a comeback. She swept the senior B events earlier this season, winning Nebelhorn, Finlandia, and Coup de Nice. This could be her year to go for a world title.

Gracie Gold (USA) has everything needed to be a perennial world medalist, and certainly the drive, but we question whether she can put everything together in the same competition. Her Phantom of the Opera program choice is a red flag for me, because I question if she has the musicality to really sell that grandiose music. If she tells us one time that she "watched the movie" for inspiration, I'm going to vomit. She generally peaks later in the season, so while I think she will have a strong competition, I think she will make one more mistake than Liza and take the silver. She finished a strong 4th at the Sochi games and is poised to remain at the top of the field for the next Olympic cycle.

Elena Radionova (RUS) was the surprise of the senior ISU circuit, but was not eligible for the Olympics. She's been known for her technical work, not her artistry, and I think that will hurt her against Gold and Tuktamysheva. Don't be surprised if you see a drop off from last season, as we did with Liza last year, but she will still be competitive.

The Rest of the Field
Brooklee Han (AUS)-14th at 2014 Four Continents, 20th at 2014 Olympics, 19th at 2014 Worlds, 6th at 2014 US Classic, 4th at 2014 Nebelhorn Trophy
Mae Beranice Meite (FRA)-5th at 2014 Europeans, 10th at 2014 Olympics, 15th at 2014 Worlds
Elene Gedevanishvili (GEO)-10th at 2014 Europeans, 19th at 2014 Olympics
Haruka Imai-4th at 2014 Four Continents
So Youn Park (KOR)-9th at 2014 Four Continents, 21st at 2014 Olympics, 9th at 2014 Worlds, 3rd at 2014 Asian Open
Natalia Popova (UKR)-23rd at 2014 Europeans, 28th at 2014 Olympics, 21st at 2014 Worlds, 4th at 2014 Coup de Nice
Samantha Cesario (USA)- 8th at 2014 Four Continents, 2nd at 2014 Finlandia Trophy
Mirai Nagasu (USA)-4th at 2010 Olympics, 10th at 2014 Four Continents, 5th at 2014 US Classic

Sunday, September 21, 2014

LOVE LETTERS on Broadway

Love Letters by A.R. Gurney premiered on Broadway in 1989 and the current revival, directed by Gregory Mosher, allows an entirely new generation to be exposed to this intimate work. This play about the ever-changing relationship between two friends over the course of fifty years has a sense of nostalgia without feeling dated. 

The stage is bare, aside from a table, two chairs, and a lighting fixture or two. The actors read their letters aloud side-by-side, yet they never interact. It is as if an invisible brick wall separates the two, just as states or countries often did. Though it is performed in one act, the play can be divided into four distinct phases in the characters lives: grade school, prep school, college, and adulthood. Since Ms. Farrow and Mr. Dennehy are actors of a certain age, it is difficult to sense a difference between their grade school selves and their prep school selves. Ms. Farrow's Melissa does have a youthful flippancy about her that comes across in her letters as she verbally signs her name with a "Valley Girl" flair. One hopes that during the run, she will find different colors and inflections to differentiate her very young self from her less young self. Ditto for Mr. Dennehy's Andy. 

When the characters reach their college years, that is when the magic starts to happen. The characters come alive as if reincarnated from their letter-bound state. Andy becomes more focused on his future; meanwhile, Melissa flirts with an artistic lifestyle and remains ever the free spirit. We can feel the magnetism between them, but distance and other obstacles keep getting in the way. As an audience, we want them to stop writing so many damn letters and become a real couple already, but time has other plans. 

Eventually Andy meets a lover in Japan and out of jealousy, Melissa quickly marries. When each couple eventually separates, we hope that Melissa and Andy will finally realize how they feel about one another, but it is not to be. Andy marries a much classier woman and Melissa immerses herself first in her art, and then in her drinking. Late in life, Andy and Melissa finally have an affair, but being a Senator, he can never leave his wife. This ultimate realization that she will never have Andy sends Melissa into a tailspin and he struggles to pick up the pieces. 

As an audience member, this is a difficult piece to wrestle with. Should we feel happy for Andy and Melissa and celebrate their 50 years of friendship? After all, it is rare for any relationship to last that long. Or, do we mourn the marriage that was never to be? Their love seemed so palpable in the letters. It was so real on paper that in the flesh it could never measure up. Since seeing the play last week, I've had the nagging feeling that this seemingly antiquated letter relationship is not so different from the "relationships" we have over email and text. You will have to judge for yourself. 

See Mia Farrow & Brian Dennehy in Love Letters at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre through October 10th. Carol Burnett replaces Ms. Farrow through November 8th. Alan Alda & Candice Bergen take over until December 5th. Stacy Keach & Diana Rigg helm the production through January 9th and finally, Martin Sheen & Anjelica Huston finish the run on February 15th. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Exclusive Offer Code for DISGRACED on Broadway

DISGRACED begins Broadway previews on September 27 and opens on October 23 and we are offering an exclusive discount code!

The discount code is DIMAIL811 and can be utilized through or at the Lyceum Theatre box office.  The offer gives users access to discounts up to 36% off, with tickets ranging from $48 - $87.  The discount is valid through 11/9/14 and some blackout dates may apply.

Enjoy a sneak preview from our cast!

The winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Price, DISGRACED is an explosive tale of the stories we tell our friends, the secrets we tell our lovers, and the lies we tell ourselves to find our place in the American Dream.

Following sold-out engagements in Chicago, London and New York, this “rollicking play that bristles with wit and intelligence” (The New York Times) makes its Broadway premiere this September.

Starring Josh Radnor (“How I Met Your Mother”), Gretchen Mol (“Boardwalk Empire”), Karen Pittman (Domesticated), and Hari Dhillon (star of the acclaimed London’s Bush Theatre production), and written by Ayad Akhtar, one of the most astonishing new voices in American theatre, this proactive tale of big city aspiration and cultural assimilation dares to face the truth hiding just below the deception.

Visit the show’s website for more information:

Connect with DISGRACED on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Google+ at @DisgracedBway.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

PHANTOM: The Art of the Mask

Submissions to be accepted starting July 28; 26 winners selected the First Week in September; 5 Grand Prize winners Announced in early October

PHANTOM Art Gallery and Pop-Up Shop to open at
The Paramount Hotel in October

For full details, please see our Facebook page and click on "THE ART OF THE MASK CONTEST"

Winning masks to be auctioned to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS

Producers Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Group announced today an extensive multi-tiered art contest in connection with the longest-running show in Broadway history, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, directed by Harold Prince. 

PHANTOM: THE ART OF THE MASK invites the musical’s “Phans” and all artists across the country to submit original artwork on a template of the legendary Phantom’s mask.  Designed by the late Tony Award-winning designer Maria Bj√∂rnson, the mask has become one of the most iconic images in Broadway history.  The contest will culminate in an exhibit at the PHANTOM Art Gallery and Pop-Up Shop, which will open on the ground floor of The Paramount Hotel (235 West 46th Street), just one block from the musical’s stage door at The Majestic Theatre.

The first phase of the contest will feature artists registering on the PHANTOM Facebook page ( and submitting a two-dimensional design on the template of the mask provided by the production.  Artists are encouraged to design whatever inspires them and aren’t limited to designs based on the show itself.  26 winners (in honor of the New York production’s record-breaking 26 Years) will then each have the chance to recreate their designs on a three-dimensional replica mask that will be sent out to them by the production. 

Once submitted, all 26 masks will be displayed at the special PHANTOM Art Gallery and Pop-Up Shop at the Paramount Hotel at the end of October.  Of the initial 26 winners, five will be selected as Grand Prize winners by members of the cast and creative team in early October. 

The initial 26 winners will be awarded a souvenir brochure of the musical and a winner’s certificate. In addition to the brochure and certificate, the five Grand Prize winners will also receive a voucher for a pair of tickets to the show and a photo of their mask with cast members.

Representing the production’s ongoing commitment to the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, all 26 masks will be auctioned off to benefit the non-profit fundraising organization.  Since the musical’s opening, the New York Company of PHANTOM has proudly raised $5.5 million for BCEFA.