Gateway's Holiday Spectacular on Ice Is Long Island's New Christmas Classic
It’s that magical season when families flock to performances and screenings of their favorite holiday classics — The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol, The Grinch and so on — and while stories this nostalgic never go fully stale, there’s a fresher fruitcake on offer at the Gateway Playhouse. Through January 1, The Gateway presents their Holiday Spectacular on Ice starring two-time Olympic medalist Nancy Kerrigan.
Any holiday production worth its weight in tinsel can be described as a magical, heartwarming experience but not usually an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride (Die Hard notwithstanding). Miraculously, The Gateway’s Holiday Spectacular, directed by Keith Andrews, checks all these boxes on its premise alone. The production pairs the spectacle of a Rockettes-esque stage show with moving renditions of the holiday songs that generations have grown up with and caps it all off with daring skating choreography atop the ice-covered stage.
There is an inherent dissonance witnessing ice skating jumps, spins and intricate choreography performed on a stage raised above the audience rather than on a rink below. It’s as if the stakes are equally raised, leaving very little room onstage for slip-ups, and that makes the entire experience all the more thrilling. At certain points in the spectacular, bladed skates seemingly extend over onlookers’ heads, ice shavings are flung into the audience, fire is juggled effortlessly. It’s strange to recommend this as a holiday show for thrill seekers, but here we are.
Rest assured, however, that any sense of danger remains solely in the mind of those seeking that suspense (and those perpetually anxious few who consider high school dodgeball a near-death experience). The Gateway has assembled an all-star ensemble of talented skaters, led by choreographer Tara Eve Modlin-Maurizi, with the skills to pull off difficult stunts one after another, most of all Kerrigan. She serves as the show’s charming host and one of its most prominently featured skaters.
The Holiday Spectacular offers a balanced mix of graceful ice dancing and powerful displays of athleticism, with much of the cast leaning into one strength or the other, but Kerrigan’s spotlights prove her mastery in both poise and stamina.
The numerous numbers featuring the female ensemble skaters — Viktoria Chiappa, Stephanie Chin, Ariela Masarsky, Madison Patrell, Violet Presley-Wolff, Lacie Tew, Naomi Wong and Kayleigh Linkous — are a marvel to behold. With a layer of fog covering the stage, they glide across the stage like winged angels in a soul-stirring instrumental rendition of “Silent Night,” and they inspire glee with delightfully fun takes on “Sleigh Ride,” “Chanukah, O Chanukah” and “Run, Run Rudolph.”
As if the poodle skirts and ’50s rock sound of “Run, Run Rudolph” aren’t enough of a surprise following a buttery-smooth performance of Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” sung by the show’s quartet of singers, this is also the moment when Ryan Dunk steps out of the skating ensemble and steals the scene with a jaw-dropping routine of tight spins, fast flips and, somehow, a cartwheel on skates.
Following Dunk’s breakout performance, all the male ensemble skaters get a moment to shine. Act two of the two-hour production opens with an elegant routine by Alain Sandrez, in which he perfectly times his spins to the music of “Christmas Eve/Sarejevo.” Dayron Tondike shows off his incredible prowess as a skating aerial acrobat during “Hangin’ Round the Mistletoe.”
And Kevin Lee, along with Sandrez and Tondike, assists Linkous in her showstopping fire dance for “Code Name Vivaldi.” The male skaters’ choreographed “Carol of the Bells” dance with long sheets blowing away the onstage fog was another high point of the spectacular.
Additionally, different showtimes include alternate skating pairs, Daniela Ivanitskiy and Jonathan Rogers or Grace Hanns and Danny Neudecker, as well as alternate young skaters, Conalie Julia King and Gabrielle Freeman or Charlotte Gilroy and Reese Wustenhoff, so those considering a second viewing have something new to look forward to. The youth singers alternate as well, but you can expect the same level of adorable enthusiasm no matter which group of kids is singing “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”
Thus far, this review has touched on many of the musical numbers conducted by Music Director Hosun Moon but hasn’t given proper praise to the Holiday Spectacular singers: Jennifer Brett, José Contreras, Tyler Shore and Bellport’s own American Idol contestant Shannon Gibbons.
As a quartet, they harmonize wonderfully, but when they go solo, their uniquely gifted voices and onstage personas are at their peak. Brett is able to channel her inner pop sensation with fabulous renditions of “Santa Baby” and “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” while Contreras fills the role of charismatic crooner in “I’ve Got Love to Keep Me Warm” equally as well as his life-of-the-party persona in the “Feliz Navidad” audience sing-along.
Likewise, Shore is able to flip the switch from an authentic country twang in “A Holly Jolly Christmas” to a deeply moving operatic tenor in “O Holy Night.” Each time Gibbons takes center stage, Kerrigan reminds the audience what a treat it is to have her in the show, and she’s not wrong.
The tonal quality of Gibbons’ voice is a thing to behold, and with each song she sings, such as “Like It’s Christmas,” it’s as if she signs her name claiming the rendition as uniquely hers.
From the talented vocalists singing holiday hits to the masterful skaters gliding across the frozen stage, The Gateway’s Holiday Spectacular on Ice is a truly wonderful way for the whole family to celebrate the Christmas season. Long Island now has a holiday classic all its own.
For tickets and more info about The Gateway’s Holiday Spectacular on Ice at Gateway Playhouse in Bellport, visit thegateway.org.