Greatest ‘Phan’: Attending 18 performances of The Phantom of the Opera is just the beginning for skater Amy LaReau

18 Sep

By Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz     

Amy LaReau saw her first performance of The Phantom of the Opera in San Francisco in 1995. For this adult skater, who makes London her home, it marked the beginning of an almost 10-year love affair with the timeless musical.

“I had heard so much about the musical, that it was a must-see,” LaReau said. “I had heard ‘The Music of the Night’ many times and liked it, so I was curious and took my mom. Franc D’Ambrosio starred in the title role and he is the longest-running Phantom in the world, having performed the role 2,600 times.”

LaReau, who was skating at Sharks Ice at San Jose in Calif. at the time, was hooked. She loved the extraordinary special effects, from the chandelier bursting from the stage above the audience, to the New Year’s Eve party, to the final return to The Phantom’s lair.

“It was just all so exciting to me,” LaReau said. “I really didn’t know what to expect. At the very end of the show when Meg Giry enters The Phantom’s lair and removes his black cape only to find his mask remaining, I cried because I thought The Phantom died of a broken heart when Christine chose Raoul over him. I enjoyed it so much I went back a few weeks later to see it again.”

And again. And again.

When LaReau’s husband Brian was transferred to London, LaReau settled into skating at Queens Ice and Bowl, just 20 minutes from her London home. She also began attending more performances of The Phantom and to this day has seen the production 18 times in just about every venue imaginable.

“I took my husband Brian to see the performance when we were first dating,” LaReau said. “It returned to San Francisco and I had gone on and on about how it’s my favorite musical so he was curious. He loves nearly all genres of music and enjoyed the performance, I think. At that time it was probably my fifth or sixth time seeing the production.”

La Reau and her husband Brian stand in front of The Phantom at Her Majesty's Theatre in London.

La Reau and her husband Brian stand in front of The Phantom at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London.

Other memorable productions include attending her former high school’s version of the famed musical (Presentation High in San Jose) and two performances at The Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.

“It was an abbreviated performance but I still enjoyed it,” LaReau said. “In typical Las Vegas style there were many special effects that other productions did not have, such as The Phantom hanging from the chandelier.”

The LaReaus also saw the Broadway production.

“I was so excited we got seats in the second row,” she said. “That particular night, however, The Phantom was played by an understudy. I think it’s tougher to be the understudy, especially for a theater role of that magnitude, but he forgot some of the words to ‘The Music of the Night.’ I knew the words myself and I was kind of mouthing them. The orchestra kept playing and Christine Daaé gave him kind of a funny look, but the poor actor was dumbfounded and didn’t even try to fake knowing the words. He just stood here with Christine Daaé in his arms. I felt sorry for him.”

Since moving to London, the LaReaus have had the luxury of experiencing The Phantom at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End, where it permanently plays.

“It’s easy to get there from our flat. How convenient,” LaReau said. “I have seen six of the various actors who have portrayed The Phantom over here. I have had the honor of meeting Peter Joback, who is a Swedish platinum recording artist and Marcus Lovett, who is from the United States. They are both really nice. Both Peter and

LaReau, wearing her skating jacket, meets up with Phantom Peter Joback in London.

LaReau, wearing her skating jacket, meets up with Phantom Peter Joback in London.

Marcus have had the opportunity to perform as The Phantom on Broadway.”

LaReau also met many of the actresses who have portrayed Christine.

“My very favorite is Sofia Escobar,” she said. “She is from Portugal and recently left the role to start a family. Sofia is a wonderful singer, a very strong soprano.”

The LaReaus have even made The Phantom part of their annual holiday tradition.

“We have seen the performance at Her Majesty’s Theatre the past two Christmas Eves,” LaReau said. “We already have tickets for the Christmas 2014 matinee. It’s really cool because once the entire cast is on stage for the curtain call they sing ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas.’”

Although LaReau loves the music, she still has not included any of the soundtracks in a skating program.

“I would love to someday,” LaReau said. “I came very close to using ‘Wishing You Were Here Again’ for my camp program this year.”

LaReau attends the Dorothy Hamill Figure Skating Fantasy Camp for adult skaters each year.

“That’s the song that Christine Daaé sings at her father’s tomb,” LaReau said. “This year marked the 50th anniversary of my father’s passing so I was going to do it as a tribute to him since he passed away when I was a toddler and I hardly got a chance to know him. I love the song. It’s quite lovely, but I really get emotional every time I hear it and I don’t think it would be possible for me to skate it.”

She also has a secret dream of maybe one day taking part in an actual performance.

“There is something magical about all the performances I’ve seen and I am always thinking about how fun it would be to be on stage as a cast member, even a small part,” LaReau said.

In the meantime, she enjoys traveling with her husband and attending matinee performances if the show happens to be playing in their destination city.

“I would love to see it in another country, especially another European country, or Japan,” LaReau said. “Whenever we travel I always check online to see if The Phantom of the Opera is playing. I guess one might say I am a true ‘phan.’”

“Amy is a bit obsessed with it, but she always has a lot of fun and is thrilled with each performance,” added her husband Brian.

LaReau already has ticket number 19 ready for December.

LaReau already has ticket number 19 ready for December.

Carroll to share vast knowledge, wisdom with fellow coaches in mentor role

17 Sep

By Amy Rosewater

Frank Carroll decided about six months ago that he wasn’t going to take on any more new skaters, but he has signed up for a new role that might have him working with more skaters than ever.

U.S. Figure Skating recently announced that Carroll, who in his decades of coaching has guided the likes of Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek, will figure into a mentorship role with the organization.

“Basically,” Carroll said, “if you have free time and want me to help you, I will help you. I don’t want to be responsible anymore and take more skaters to competitions and pick out music, deal with the politics and scheme for them. I’m really done with travel, but if you want me to help you, I will help.”

Carroll, 75, will continue to coach U.S. champion Gracie Gold, Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten, of Kazakhstan, Japan’s Daisuke Murakami and Cheyenne Taylor, who placed seventh at the novice level at the 2014 U.S. Championships.

Although details as to how Carroll’s role as a mentor remain to be ironed out, Carroll plans to free up his schedule so he can assist other skaters and coaches one day a week. On that day, his regular skaters will work with other coaches at the rink in stroking or drama classes.2010 Skate America

The key to making this mentorship program work, Carroll said, was that he will not take on new students so coaches do not have to worry that they will lose skaters.

“What I’ve been through with skaters — I have nothing left to prove,” Carroll said. “If I have another World champion, what’s that going to do for me? My career is basically set in stone for me. There is nothing more to add or diminish. I am excited to try a new venture in skating. The real purpose is how to push the coaches to get the skaters to take things up a notch.”

Carroll, who has been to every Olympic Winter Games since they were held in Sapporo, Japan, in 1972, will be 79 at the next Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, in 2018. He also has been coping with polymyalgia rheumatica, an inflammatory disorder that has resulted in extraordinary pain in his muscles. He has been so besieged by the ailment that he said he has lost 18 pounds.

“I really don’t have any answer for what I’ll be doing for the next Olympics,” he said.

One thing is certain, he will continue to be one of the hardest-working coaches around. Carroll, who only teaches while wearing skates, works every day, arriving at the rink at 8:15 a.m., and often he does not leave until 5 p.m. “And I bring my lunch bag with me,” he said.

U.S. coaches at Champs Camp were excited about the opportunity to work with Carroll. Some of the coaches there were Carroll’s former pupils.

“I took from Frank from 1996 to 1998 and he was such a wonderful asset to my career,” said Jere Michael, who with Alex Chang works with Courtney Hicks. “I watch him all the time at competitions. He’s calm, he’s smart and he treats everyone with respect. So often when I am coaching, I think, ‘What would Frank do in this situation?’ ”

Tom Zakrajsek, who coaches Max Aaron in Colorado Springs, said Carroll has been an informal mentor for years.

“I think it’s great that U.S. Figure Skating is supporting him in this way, and I think it’s only going to make Team USA and all of our coaches better, because he will share his wisdom with us,” Zakrajsek said. “His record is so extraordinary, and I think he will give a lot of coaches more confidence. I think it’s awesome.”

US Olympians at the USA House


U.S. Figure Skating Fantasy Football – Week 2 Recap

16 Sep

The second week of the inaugural U.S. Figure Skating Fantasy Football League is complete.  Here’s what happened:

Snowplow Sam def. Coach Coughlin (John Coughlin | @JohnCoughlinUSA), 96-88

Snowplow Sam got his first win of the season, knocking off John Coughlin who now falls to 0-2. Both teams scored relatively few points, with each of their defense’s being their highest scorers. Trailing coming into Monday night, Coughlin needed just eight more points from LeSean McCoy to force a tie, but couldn’t quite get there.

Team Aaron (Max Aaron | @MaxTAaron) def. Team Thah ‘D’ (Ricky Dornbush | @RichardDornbush), 73-39

Max didn’t just win #SLC2014 this weekend, he also won his fantasy match-up, beating Ricky Dornbush’s Team Tha ‘D’, 73-39. Aaron’s team, which had a dismal performance in week one, won by nearly 40 points—the league’s largest margin of victory in the week. Only one player on Dornbush’s squad scored in double figures (Drew Brees, 15), the other eight combined for just 24 total points. Ouch.

Team Knierim (Chris Knierim | @ChrisKnierim) def. Team White (Charlie White | @CharlieaWhite), 102-81

Chris Knierim, too, added to his #SLC2014 pairs title with a fantasy win over Team White. Aaron Rodgers (27 points) and Giovani Bernard (22 points) were two of five double-digit scoring performances for Knierim’s squad. Darren Sproles’ 23 points in the NFL’s final game on Monday night weren’t enough for White’s team to pull off the comeback.

Team Bradley (Ryan Bradley | @RyanSBradley) def. Miner Problem (Ross Miner | @rossminer), 111-92

Like Knierim, Ryan Bradley’s team moved to 2-0 after win over Ross Miner’s team, miner problem. This game followed the trend in the rest of the league in that it was a roughly 20 point margin of vivtory that was really never in question. Though Miner got a couple of strong performances, they were over shadowed by Jordy Nelson (26 points) and Peyton Manning (21 points) en route to a Team Bradley win.

Team A-Wags (Ashley Wagner | @AshWagner2010) def. Team Bates (Evan Bates | @Evan_Bates), 89-77

Ashley Wagner moved to 2-0 and into a tie for first place with her win over fellow Olympian Evan Bates. Wagner was pushed over the top with an 18-point performance from Andrew Luck on Monday Night Football. She also was helped by 20-point performances from Arian Foster and Alfred Morris. Bates had just one player score more than 11 points (Jimmy Graham, 23 points)

Ice Theatre of New York performance scheduled before Pacific Northwest Regionals

16 Sep

By Jennifer Bushong,
Director of Communications, Town Toyota Center

World-class performers, including Ryan Bradley, Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre, will be a part of the cast in the Ice Dance 2014 tour on Friday, Oct. 3, in Wenatchee, Wash.

The show, to be held at the Town Toyota Center, will feature new works by ballet great Edward Villela, modern dance choreographer Jacqulyn Buglisi and include repertory by Emmy Award winner Charles “Chucky” Klapow and artistic director Douglas Webster.

Also part of this all-star cast is former Wenatchee Figure Skating Club (WFSC) member Ty Cockrum. Cockrum is a tenure veteran with Ice Theatre of New York. He trained in Wenatchee until he was 14 before moving to the Seattle area.

The WFSC and the Town Toyota Center are also hosting the 2015 Pacific Northwest Regional Figure Skating Championships October 5–8.

More than 300 skaters will vie for medals.

“The regional competition is where I started and I want to wish all the skaters luck in pursuing something that I love and have done my whole life,” Cockrum said.

The show was scheduled due to the timing of the regional competition.

“I am proud and honored that we are hosting the Northwest Regionals in Wenatchee,” Town Toyota Skating Director Louise Kapeikis said. “The high caliber of skating that this competition, along with the Ice Theatre of New York, will bring to our area will inspire local skaters to strive for greater heights in the sport. The Northwest skating community has shown overwhelming support for hosting this headlining event in a premier facility”

Ice Theatre AD


Events conclude today at #SLC2014

14 Sep

With the 2014 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in the books, all eyes will be on the 2014 U.S. Novice and Junior Challenge Skate as events wrap up today in Salt Lake City. Here’s today’s schedule:

Sunday, Sept. 14

8:55 AM: Novice Free Dance

9:57 AM: Junior Free Dance

10:35 AM: Junior Ladies Free Skate

1:20 PM: Novice Dance and Junior Ladies Award Ceremonies

1:55 PM: Junior Men’s Free Skate

3:20 PM: Junior Pairs Free Skate

4:30 PM: Junior Men’s and Pairs Award Ceremonies

For the event’s full schedule, click here.


The leaders following yesterday’s short program and pattern dance competitions:

Novice Dance:

1. Elizabeth Addas and Jonathan Schultz (17.07)

2. Caroline Green and Gordon Green (16.95)

3. Eleanor Babaev and Scott Wenner (15.81)

Junior Dance:

1. Karina Manta and Joseph Johnson (34.42)

2. Maeve Pascoe and Micah Jaffe (32.63)

Junior Ladies:

1. Vivian Le (49.58)

2. Paige Rydberg (49.33)

3. Rebecca Peng (47.90)

Junior Men:

1. Daniel Kulenkamp (57.29)

2. Evan Bender (73.72)

3. Timothy Boore (48.88)

Junior Pairs:

1. Ai Setoyama and David Botero (46.10)

2. Olivia Allan and Austin Hale (38.67)

3. Gabrielle Marvaldi and Cody Dolkiewicz (38.24)


Important Links:

2014 U.S. Challenge Skate – Live Results/Starting Order

Icenetwork will provide complete event coverage of today’s Challenge Skate action. Recaps, news and photos will be accessible to all users. For more information, please visit

To follow the action live, follow @USFigureSkating on Twitter, “Like” U.S. Figure Skating on Facebook and check back here for exclusive content and behind-the-scenes coverage.

Want to catch up on everything U.S. International Figure Skating Classic? Complete coverage, including recaps, photos, and video, is available on icenetwork,, the SKATING Magazine Blog, and YouTube.

Successful Saturday for the Americans at #SLC2014

13 Sep

The 2014 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic came to an end on Saturday, with Polina Edmunds winning the ladies title and Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton taking home the ice dance crown. Edmunds’ and Aldridge and Eaton’s gold medals were coupled with a silver for Courtney Hicks in the ladies competition and a bronze medal finish by Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus in the dance event. The 2014 Novice and Junior Challenge Skate will wrap up on Sunday with novice and junior free dances, followed by the junior ladies, men’s and pairs free skates.

Results from the third day of competition:

Novice Pattern Dance – Full Results

  1. Elizabeth Addas/Jonathan Schultz – 17.07
  2. Caroline Green/Gordon Green – 16.95
  3. Eleanor Babaev/Scott Wenner – 15.81


Junior Dance (Short Dance) – Full Results

  1. Karina Manta/Joseph Johnson – 34.42
  2. Maeve Pascoe/Micah Jaffe – 32.63


Junior Ladies (Short Program) – Full Results

  1. Vivian Le – 49.58
  2. Paige Rydberg – 49.33
  3. Rebecca Peng – 47.90


Junior Men (Short Program) – Full Results

  1. Daniel Kulenkamp – 57.29
  2. Evan Bender – 53.72
  3. Timothy Boore – 48.88


Junior Pairs (Short Program) – Full Results

  1. Ai Setoyama/David Botero – 46.10
  2. Olivia Allan/Austin Hale – 38.55
  3. Gabriella Marvaldi/Cody Dolkiewicz – 38.24


Senior Ladies (Free Skate) – Full Results

  1. Polina Edmunds – 113.08 (176.35)
  2. Courtney Hicks – 115.24 (174.14)
  3. Riona Kato (JPN) – 100.14 (161.69)
  4. Alaine Chartrand (CAN) – 103.30 (161.65)
  5. Mirai Nagasu – 104.03 (159.49)
  6. Brooklee Han – 89.90 (132.64)
  7. Ashley Shin – 75.59 (125.42)



Senior Dance (Free Dance) – Full Results

  1. Alexandra Aldridge/Daniel Eaton – 87.62 (141.70)
  2. Nicole Orford/Thomas Williams (CAN) – 87.28 (141.02)
  3. Anastasia Cannuscio/Colin McManus – 80.10 (126.44)


*Above senior results listed through American skater finishes in each event

Lights, Camera, Action!

Instant reactions from Team USA…

Polina Edmunds – 113.08 (176.35) (1st place)


Courtney Hicks – 115.24 (174.14) (2nd place)


Mirai Nagasu – 104.03 (159.49) (5th place)


Ashley Shin – 75.59 (125.42) (7th place)


BONUS: See what bronze medalist Riona Kato of Japan said after her free skate.

Alexandra Aldridge/Daniel Eaton – 87.62 (141.70) (1st place)


Anastasia Cannuscio/Colin McManus – 80.10 (126.44) (3rd place)


BONUS: See what silver medalists Nicole Orford and Thomas Williams of Canada said after their free dance.

What Else They’re Saying….


Polina Edmunds on her performance: “I fought for pretty much everything, so I’m happy that I pushed through the performance. The loop got a little to the left, so I couldn’t quite save that, but for the most part, I think it was pretty good. I definitely want to work on a lot of things.”

Courtney Hicks on her performance: “I thought it was good. I did what I came here to do. I did the triple-triple. It wasn’t perfect, but I hit it, and I hit the Lutz. I also hit my last flip, which I popped last year, so I’m happy I landed it today.”

Mirai Nagasu on her goals before Skate America: “Tonight I’m flying out to perform in Michael Weiss’ show, so I’m looking forward to skating with no nerves or pressure. I’m just going to have fun and hopefully I won’t stress out, which will be good. I want to relax and enjoy before I have to start training again.”

Ashley Shin on her preparations for the regional championships: “I definitely need to make my presentation more like a senior lady. I should enjoy this more. I want to skate with confidence and joy.”



Alexandra Aldridge on winning their first senior international title: “It feels great. We weren’t even thinking about that coming in, we just wanted competition to get a feel for the season. I think a U.S. skater has always won this event, so we’re happy we could come in and keep that going.”
Daniel Eaton on their performance: “We’re really working on showing the characters, because last season, that’s where we struggled the most. I think we’re making huge strides. This is our first competition this season and the PCS scores are already higher than last year.”

Anastasia Cannuscio on their performance: “I thought it went really well. We just wanted to perform. We changed a lot of the program and we wanted it to be solid and perform it, not just think about the elements. I think we did that. It felt comfortable.”
Colin McManus on the event this week: “I think we’ve learned a lot about ourselves. This is the most we’ve ever altered and changed programs before a competition and I think we handled all of those changes and now have a lot of confidence.”

Sunday’s Schedule

With the International Classic in the books, Sunday is the final day of the 2014 U.S. Novice and Junior Challenge Skate. The full schedule for tomorrow is below:

8:55 AM: Novice Free Dance

10:00 AM: Junior Free Dance

10:35 AM: Junior Ladies Free Skate

1:25 AM: Novice Dance and Junior Ladies and Dance Award Ceremonies

1:55 PM: Junior Men’s Free Skate

3:20 PM: Junior Pairs Free Skate

4:30 PM: Junior Men’s and Pairs Award Ceremonies

Saturday Storylines from #SLC2014

13 Sep

It’s Saturday here at the Salt Lake City Sports Complex as we ready for day three of the 2014 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic and the 2014 U.S. Challenge Skate. Here’s today’s schedule:

Saturday, Sept. 13

10:15 AM: Novice Pattern Dance

11:05 AM: Junior Short Dance

11:40 AM: Junior Ladies Short Program

2:30 PM: Junior Men’s Short Program

3:45 PM: Junior Pairs Short Program

5:00 PM: Senior Ladies Free Skate

7:50 PM: Senior Free Dance

9:20 PM: Senior Dance and Ladies Awards Ceremonies

For the event’s full schedule, click here.


Saturday’s Storylines to follow:


Important Links:

2014 U.S. Challenge Skate – Live Results/Starting Order

2014 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic – Live Results/Starting Order

Icenetwork will provide complete event coverage of the U.S. International Classic and Challenge Skate. Exclusive streaming video of all U.S. International Classic competition will be available to subscribers, while free recaps, news and photos will be accessible to all users. U.S. Challenge Skate video will be available on-demand at a later date. For more information, please visit

For more information, fans should also check back here for some exclusive behind-the-scenes coverage. Fans should also follow @USFigureSkating on Twitter and ‘Like’ U.S. Figure Skating on Facebook.



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