To no one’s surprise, exec producer Gary Smith and director Dwight Hemion have turned in a holiday-period special that’s a pleasantry, and have also resurrected that by-the-wayside novelty, a smart-looking hour with original tunes, talented entertainers and a pro look. The storyline’s simplistic, but the sweet flavor saves the day.
Skaters Ekaterina Gordeeva and Kurt Browning are involved in a whimsical tale about encouraging Snowden, snowman spirit of the late, beloved Grandpa Albert, town’s long-gone you-can-do-it resident. Blessed with an unchallenging adaptation of Nancy Carlson’s story, “Snowden” family fare cuts the ice.
Host and narrator for the bright goings-on is the pond’s aging caretaker, Scootch (Scott Hamilton), who clears the ice, skates effectively and merrily hokes up his routine.
Kate (Ekaterina Gordeeva) and petite daughter Lizzie (4-year-old Dana Grinkov, Gordeeva’s delightful real-life daughter) live a train-ride away from skatesville known as Albert’s Pond. Kate lived there until, almost falling on her Henie, she lost a competish to ambitious young Shana (Josee Chouinard). Kate, ashamed to skate again, ankled the burg.
Now she’s brought Lizzie to gingerbread-like Albert’s Pond for the winter festival. Albert’s spirit, smiling on Kate. gives her a much-needed boost in magical ways. Old friends hail her — well, everyone but blonde looker Shana, who, now armed with a bunch of trophy wins, seems to have a lock on handsome hockey instructor Brett (Kurt Browning, who’s also Grandpa Albert reincarnated).
The outcome of the figure-skating competition between Shana and Kate — Shana is ablaze in hot red, Kate’s a cool breeze in pale blue outfit — isn’t exactly a surprise, but it’s an optical treat. Canadian champion Chouinard’s Shana solo is a rouser, and Kate’s elegant turn is a delight.
Browning’s hockey routine with kids is a winner, and Browning’s Snowman’s careful ice dueting with young Grinkov is a pleaser.
Olympic gold medalists such as Gordeeva and Hamilton and four-time world champ figure skater Browning give the icer an eye-opening sense of accomplishment and professionalism. “Snowden’s” a prime example of Smith-Hemion showmanship.
Randy Goodrum’s penned suitable original music for the winter spec, and the topflight solo singers are of enormous help. Michael Seibert’s choreography keeps the spirits up.
Rene Lagler’s designs for the production, created in a hangar at Santa Monica Airport, are handsome and imaginative.