WHAT “Holiday Spectacular on Ice”
WHEN | WHERE Through Jan. 1. Upcoming: 2 and 7 p.m. Wednesday; 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 28, The Gateway at Patchogue Theatre, 71 E. Main St.
TICKETS $59-$89 ($29.50-$44.50 children ages 5-9); 631-286-1133, thegateway.org
In the holiday season, tradition counts. And no Long Island theater company has more tradition than Gateway Playhouse, now calling itself The Gateway Performing Arts Center of Suffolk County.
Gateway — which opened in the summer of 1950 with “The Taming of the Shrew” in a barn on its Bellport property — ends its 66th year with “Holiday Spectacular on Ice” at the Patchogue Theatre. Performing on the company’s 40-by-40-foot rink, Rohene Ward, current U.S. Open professional champion, and Ricky Dornbush, two-time U.S. collegiate champ, head a cast also featuring four lead singers, trained dogs — and we don’t merely mean that they’re housebroken — and fire juggling on skates.
It’s Gateway’s first ice show since 2009, presented at the Patchogue venue that the company opened in 1999 with the musical “Titanic.” (Inauspiciously, the ship refused to sink on opening night.) Individual skating by this year’s headliners is unsurpassed in Gateway’s rink history, though 2007’s “Cold as Ice” world premiere starred 1994 Olympic gold medalist Oksana Baiul — past her prime after knee surgery.
Opening-night oohs and ahhs accompanied each two-rotation leap by the charismatic Ward and a flawless back flip by the athletic Dornbush. The high-kicking female chorus line brings to mind the Rockettes in “Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” though understandably more tentative on ice.
But adorableness stole the show as kid skaters as young as 4 years old upstaged the teen-and-up skating ensemble and occasionally the stars. It’s that kind of show. Dogs trained by Big Apple Circus’ Jenny Vidbel drew appreciative laughter and applause jumping through hoops, while Zach Michael Thomas’ fire-on-ice provided a jolt of intensity to all the holiday cheer.
Caroling highlights, religious and secular, included Christopher Williams’ stirring “O Holy Night” to Ward’s solo (ice choreography by Tara Modlin) and Zuri Washington’s sexy “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” plus a “White Christmas” quartet also featuring Glenn Devar and Leanne Smith.
Director Keith Andrews keeps the flow going to a recorded score, with skaters missing a beat only here and there. Marianne Dominy’s costumes appropriately accented each number, especially the angelic “Silent Night.” Scenic designer Brittany Loesh framed myriad scenes, from a barn-house hoedown to the pedestrian bridge overlooking an iced-over “pond” and the lone “Hanukkah, O Hanukkah” acknowledgment.
Corny and mostly reverent in a style that brings to mind bygone Andy Williams TV specials, this “Spectacular” may not be for you — or me. But sentiment gets a needed pass this time of year.