“Small Stories of a Big City“

Ilia Averbukh’s Enchanting Ice Musical

Ilila Averbukh

A spectacular figure skating show took place during the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Though it got off to a slow start during its run (July 29 to August 7), the musical became very popular with the international audiences in the British capital.

The show featured the best of Russian skating with 18 Olympic and World Champions.

Skaters had not taken to the ice at a Summer Games since London hosted the event in 1906. In those days, the Winter Olympic Games did not exist and were not introduced until 1924.

But figure skating was already so popular in 1906 that the International Olympic Committee included it in those Summer Games. While the figure skaters competed at that time, in 2012 they were there partly for fun and also to promote the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, which will be held in Sochi, Russia.

And nobody could advertise the Sochi Games better than some of that nation’s historic figure skating greats.

Sochi.Park was a pavilion erected in Kensington Park. It offered interactive computer games, a very expensive souvenir store and a small ice rink.

It was on that ice that producer Ilia Averbukh presented “Small Stories of a Big City.” Some of Russia's greatest skating stars, imaginative choreography, wonderful music, elaborate decoration and beautiful costumes all made for an entertainment spectacle at the highest level.

The show was a musical based on Charlie Chaplin motives with short episodes, connected by a Charlie Chaplin angel-like figure portrayed by Alexei Tikhonov. He played the role to perfection. As the good natured, slightly melancholic lead character his goal was to steer people toward happiness.

A love story was the theme of the musical. Tatiana Navka, the girlfriend of a mafia-type casino owner (Alexei Yagudin) falls in love with a stranger (Roman Kostomarov). Obviously, the casino owner was not amused. He and his men (among others Maxim Staviski and Maxim Shabalin) fight against the romance and stab the lover of Navka. Tikhonov brings him back to life.

Meanwhile, Navka, the desperate gangster bride plans to plunge to her death from a bridge. Tikhonov saves her as well and she finds her true love again.

There were several other sub-plots within this story. Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas played a family with a young daughter. Vanagas was a constructor of robots who were portrayed by Elena Leonova and Andrei Khvalko who shone in their robotic roles.

Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin told the story of a coincidental encounter at a railway station. Irina Slutskaia appeared in a dream scene of the little girl.

Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski, Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov, Yagudin, acrobats Vladimir Besedin and Alexei Politchuk as well as other, lesser known skaters appeared in different solo and group numbers.

The show concluded in a spectacular finale with rain showering down on the ice.

It was high quality on the technical side as well. Totmianina and Marinin impressed with their throw triple loop, as beautiful as ever. Petrova and Tikhonov included the throw triple Salchow and Leonova and Khvalko landed a throw double Axel. Slutskaia executed a triple loop and Yagudin a triple toe. The ice dancers showed interesting acrobatic lifts.

“The show in Moscow was even more elaborate. We had a second ice sheet above the main rink and air acrobats,” Averbukh said.

But even the “light” version was impressive. Averbukh is hoping to stage the show in other cities outside Russia.

With at least one show every night and sometimes two, the skaters did not have many opportunities to catch the Olympic competitions or do much sightseeing.

Marinin brought his family to London. His wife Natalia, a ballet dancer, watched from the sidelines as their son Artemi, 4, skillfully darted around the ice during practices.

But all happily shared pictures of their children who stayed behind at home in Russia with their grandparents.

Tatiana Totmianina and Alexei Yagudin said their daughter Elizaveta has not started skating yet.

Petrova and Tikhonov have a daughter (Polina) and Denkova and Staviski have a son Daniil.