DwtS Tour Recap

The Dancing with the Stars Tour made a stop in Chicago last week, and MOIB was in attendance.

The event got off to a rocky start, thanks to tour sponsor Slim-Fast. Christian Perry — Tysonia’s dance instructor for Season 3’s heartwarmingly
boring Slim-Fast Challenge clips — walked onto the dance floor and
introduced himself as the emcee of a special, local version of the
Challenge.

Audience members had come to the arena expecting a
glitzy, glamorous Hollywood show, but instead, the first performances
were by ten competent — but neither professional nor celebrity —
dancing couples.

Ten pairs of students from Arthur Murray’s
Chicago studio competed in two rounds of dances, during which celebrity
guest judge Alec Mazo
chose two couples to move on to a final round later in the show. Alec
confessed that his selections were based simply on which couple’s
numbers he could read as they twirled in front of him.

Apparently,
the studio had only been given three days notice to find twenty
students brave enough to dance in front of thousands of people. The
dancers gave their all, but unfortunately for them, the the Challenge
had zero production value. The arena lights (including giant banner
advertisements for Budweiser) were left on, and the sound quality
would’ve embarrassed a bad wedding DJ. Though Perry and Mazo had some amateurish charm when speaking to the audience, they were still out of their element.

Many audience members spent the duration of the Challenge scanning the arena with confused expressions, wondering, Are we in for a whole night of this?
I worried that I’d made a huge mistake in buying tickets as Christmas
presents for my parents and in-laws. I wasn’t too scared about the
quality of the dancing to come, but I didn’t want the lights and sound
to give the whole evening a college basketball atmosphere. (The arena
in which the event was held also plays host to the DePaul Blue Demons.)

I breathed a little easier when the Pee Wee Herman-esque Perry announced that the Challenge was only “the pre-show,” and the real show wouldn’t begin for a few minutes.

After
a five-minute long Slim-Fast commercial aired on three giant screens
hovering over the dance floor, the PA announcer (the same faceless
British voice from the TV show) said that the show would actually begin
following another brief break.

Finally, 30 minutes after the
scheduled start time, the lights dimmed (Phew!), and it was time for
the show. Harry Hamlin limped out to announce that he’d tweaked his
back in Vegas a few days earlier, so he wouldn’t be performing.

(So
that Harry’s partner, Karina Smirnoff, wasn’t completely left to fend
for herself, she was paired with one of the tour’s company dancers, of
which there were eight — including Christian Perry and Alec Mazo. Karina sported a bob-style wig, and some of the audience members near me went most of the show without recognizing her.)

One couple at a time, each of the tour’s remaining celebrities (Lisa Rinna, Joey McIntyre, Joey Lawrence, and Drew Lachey) came out with their respective professional partners (Louis van Amstel, Kym Johnson, Edyta Sliwinska, and Cheryl Burke) to perform one of their best routines from the the television show.

The
dancing was great, and the music sounded top-notch. To me, it looked
like all the celebs had improved the routines since being on Dancing with the Stars. And the band — a guitar/bass/keyboards/drums outfit (not Harold Wheeler’s show orchestra) — sounded spot-on.

After
each performance, each dancing couple spoke a bit about their time on
the show, how excited they were to be touring, and who was coming up
next. Since he was there, I think they should have had Harry Hamlin
host the evening, introducing each dance. It’s not that I didn’t
appreciate Lisa’s manic energy and Drew’s constant “Woo!”-ing. But Harry seemed very comfortable speaking to the audience, and it would’ve been nice to see more of him.

The
celebrities and their partners danced a few new numbers with the rest
of the company dancers, but the most exciting routines were the ones
that didn’t include the celebrities. Alec & Edyta
and Louis & Karina danced a Rumba that was more romantic and
beautiful than anything seen on any season of the television show to
date. (The song they danced to, however, Enrique Iglesias’s “Hero,” just makes me think of this Scrubs clip, which I could only find dubbed into Spanish.)

All
of the pro dancers were extremely talented, and it was great to see
Alec dance again. After watching Christian Perry, I couldn’t help but
feel that Slim-Fast did him a great disservice by having him host the pre-show. He’s amazing to watch when he’s allowed to just shut up and dance.

Speaking of the pre-show, it was then time to award the Slim-Fast Challenge trophy to one of the amateur couples who’d danced during the pre-show,
Drew and the two Joeys emceed, referring to this final dance-off as
“the best part of the show.” This statement prompted my dad, Jim, to
turn to me and whisper in mock horror, “This is the best part of the
show? Oh, shit!”

One of the male competitors was 6’7″ and
dwarfed Drew and both Joeys. Drew compensated for the height
differential by jumping on Joey L’s back.

Their three celebs’ corny shtick fit in perfectly with the thrown together style of the pre-show.
Both of the competing couples danced at similar levels to one another, but,
ultimately, victory went to the couple whose female half wore the
shiniest dress.

Drew & Cheryl were far and away the most popular couple, and their reprises of the “Thriller” Paso Doble and “Save a Horse” freestyle garnered the evening’s loudest applause.

They
were nearly eclipsed by a special appearance from Jerry Springer. He
joined Kym Johnson for a reprise of their Mambo, complete with maracas.
He followed the dance with a bit of stand-up comedy.

Jerry
rehashed a joke he made during the season about the disadvantage he
faced because all of his fans were prison inmates, who were allowed
only one phone call to vote for him. He added, “Do you think people on
my TV show watch ballroom dancing? You think they do Paso Doble in a double wide?”

Jerry
had another suggestion for the TV show: “They should have a senior
season. Everyone else is 30 years old. They can all walk without
getting dizzy.”

Overall, the show (as opposed to the pre-show)
was orchestrated well. It was high energy, although part of that had to
do with an over-reliance on Latin dances and a paucity of standard
ballroom. The staging and lighting were wonderful, except in the
professional group dances, when a spotlight would’ve made it easier to
see couples as they soloed.

The biggest surprise of the night
had to be the musicians. The band of six instrumentalists was tight and
produced a much larger and fuller sound than you’d expect from such a
small group.

But it was the singers who stole the show. And no,
I’m not talking about Joey McIntyre, who performed a couple of ditties
from his latest album. Performing some of Sinatra’s biggest hits, Joey
sounded like, well, a former boy bander
performing Sinatra’s greatest hits. I left the arena without buying a
copy of the CD, even though Joey was autographing them after the show.

The
singers I’m talking about are the same four singers from the television
series. They’re also providing the vocals for the tour, and they were
AMAZING. I’ve ragged on the quality of the singing on the show, but
their performance on the tour shows what these singers are capable of
when they’re given more than a couple of days to learn 15 songs.

During Season 4, I vow to be more forgiving of any vocal mishaps. Unless they’re really funny.

The
ticket price was well worth it to see quality ballroom dancing in
person. Chicago is not one of the hot spots in the world of competitive
ballroom, and $75 per ticket seems reasonable compared to the cost of
booking a flight to Ohio or Florida or California, and then paying for
hotel rooms, admission fees, and fancy clothes.

Ultimately, I
know that the show was a success, because my dad and father-in-law both
enjoyed themselves. It was a good bet that my mom, Sandy, and
mother-in-law, Joan, would like the show, so long as it was
well-executed. But Jim and Ron are guys who you’d think would rather
spend a night at a high school basketball game than at a ballroom
dancing exhibition.

Both guys had a great time (I’m sure seeing Edyta
and Kym in person didn’t hurt), and they said they’d happily go back
and see the show again. Looks like I’m set for next Christmas.

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