When one thinks about Wynonna Judd, ice skating probably isn't the first image that comes to mind.
Yet, when the country-pop icon performs at Hoffman Estates' Sears Centre on Tuesday, she'll do so while top figure skaters show off their skills on the ice. It's an odd combination, to be sure, but it's hardly unprecedented.
In 2000, Steve Disson of Disson Skating began staging tributes to musical stars, which are recorded for television broadcast and are only performed once, rather than touring like many skating exhibitions. To date, he's paid tribute to Barry Manilow, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Burt Bacharach, Andrea Bocelli, the band Earth, Wind and Fire and Michael Bolton.
Disson says he puts together about ten shows a year for broadcast on NBC. Wynonna is only his latest subject, and her show marks the first time he's produced one in the Chicago area.
"It's the only one of its kind," says Disson, "where all the music is from one artist. This year, it's Wynonna. She performs her greatest hits with her band live, and her mother, Naomi, is coming out of retirement for the first time since 2000 to appear in two of the numbers as Wynonna's special guest, kind of a Judds reunion."
Wynonna is in the midst of a holiday concert tour, which does not have a Chicago stop. This is therefore the only chance area Wynonna fans have to see her perform locally this year. According to Disson, her set will not be holiday-centered so much as a career overview.
Skating fans have the chance to see talent including the legendary Brian Boitano, who films his own Disson-produced special with Barry Manilow in December, recent Skate America winner Kimmie Meissner and Naperville native Evan Lysacek, the current U.S. National Men's Champion.
"We picked the cast based on skaters that we thought would do well with Wynonna and her music," Disson says. "Our choreographer, Malia Miller, has been working on this for months with Wynonna and her manager. Wynonna personally picked all 20 songs in the show, and the skaters have been working on their individual numbers. But all the group numbers with Wynonna come together in the three days prior to the show. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday it will all come together. It's amazing what they can do in three days' time."
The idea to pair musical salutes with skating dates back to what Disson calls "the Nancy/Tonya days" of the 1990s, when skating exploded as a televised spectator sport. Back then, a lot of the televised events were fake competitions for which the skaters never won any titles nor updated their routines.
"Sometimes there were two shows at the same time on two different networks using the same skaters," Disson says. "People like to see the skaters doing unique programs, not the same thing they see them doing over and over again in competitions. One way of doing that is by bringing in these theme shows and having live artists.
"The skaters love it because they love having a chance to skate with a celebrity guest artist, and the artists love it, too. It makes for a very unique show."
Wynonna stepped up as a tribute subject after the vocalist appeared in last year's Michael Bolton tribute. Disson says that the experience made her enthusiastic to put together her own show.
"She's got an incredible voice and she's really excited to do the show," he says. "I think that will come out when people see her. She's got a lot of good things happening. She was recently on the cover of Good Housekeeping. Right after she does this show, she'll be on NBC twice, on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and then on 'Today' to promote our telecast."
Disson also praises Wynonna on a personal level. "She recently had some personal things where she had to separate from her husband because of things he was doing," he says. "She's a tough, strong woman who has overcome a lot of obstacles and has a long, terrific career with a lot of great music."
According to Disson, Sears Centre approached him last year about bringing the tribute show here, but at that point it was already set to take place at its previous home in Bridgeport, Conn., Thus, Disson and Sears Centre started working early last year to put on the Wynonna tribute here.
"Tribute to Wynonna on Ice" airs on WMAQ Channel 5 at 3 p.m. Dec. 23, but the broadcast's behind-the scenes footage and professional editing will provide a different experience from what the live performance offers.
"We do this show annually, and hopefully with the support of the Chicago area public, we and the building will want to bring it back here," says Disson.
Wynonna Tribute on Ice
Where: Sears Centre, 5333 Prairie Stone Parkway, Hoffman Estates
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Phone: (888) 732-7784 or www.searscentre.com
A few other 'cool' ideas
The continuing success of ice shows means the crossover possibilities are endless. Some cultural phenomena, such as "Finding Nemo," make natural transitions to the rink, even if its protagonists are fish who would die if they actually lived in an ice realm. Others are not so obvious. Still, here are some things the Daily Herald would like to see on ice.
"The Phantom Menace on Ice" -- Adaptation of the slowest, most-hated "Star Wars" flick, set primarily on a desert planet.
"Iron Chef on Ice" -- The theme ingredient must be some sort of seafood.
"Marilyn Manson on Ice" -- Even Satan enjoys a deftly executed arabesque.
"An Inconvenient Truth on Ice" -- While Al Gore talks, the ice melts at an alarming rate.
"Black Eyed Peas on Ice" -- OK, we just wanted to make light of Fergie's old meth habit.
"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on Ice" -- Introducing the fearsome new cannibal villain Pleatherface.
"The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill on Ice" -- Nothing says '80s retro like environmental catastrophe.
"The Iliad on Ice" -- This updated version of Homer's epic poem climaxes when Achilles drags Hector's body behind the Zamboni.
"Larry King Live on Ice" -- Hold on to those glasses, Larry!
"Martha Stewart on Ice" -- Decorative ice. It's a good thing.
"Silence of the Lambs on Ice" -- Enjoy it with a nice Chianti. Chilled.
"Star Trek on Ice" -- Go where no man has gone before.
"Hamlet on Ice" -- Murder, mayhem and man-tights!
"The Full Monty on Ice" -- We'll let your imagination handle this one.
"Dancing with the Stars on Ice" -- aka "So You Think You Can Balance?"
"The Ted Williams Story on Ice" -- The Boston Red Sox legend famously said hitting a baseball was "the hardest single feat in sports," but we bet he never tried it on skates.
"The Calgary Stampede Rodeo on Ice" -- The world's largest outdoor rodeo just got even more dangerous.
"NASCAR on Ice" -- More crashes for "fans" who really only tune in to see those.
"Einstein on the Beach on Ice" -- Philip Glass and Robert Wilson's intermissionless 5-hour abstract opera can only benefit from popcorn and cotton candy vendors in the aisles.
"Pollock on Ice" -- The drip and splatter canvases of abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock are a natural for the flat ice surface, although the Zamboni driver won't be too pleased.
"Roller Derby on Ice" -- What's better than wheels and elbows? Blades and elbows!
"Synchronized Swimming on Ice" -- If this is a hit, it could make both the Summer and Winter Olympics.
"Michael Jackson's Plastic Surgeons on Ice" -- The ice will be scarred beyond recognition when they're done with it.
"Anna Nicole Smith's Potential Heirs on Ice" -- Throw coins onto the rink and watch the melee ensue.
"National Spelling Bee on Ice" -- Spell W-I-P-E-O-U-T, nerd!
"Vanilla Ice and Ice-T on Ice" -- It's like a root beer float, only not as good.
"Brian Urlacher on Ice" -- No words, just big people skating backward and then crashing together.
"Mike Ditka on Ice" -- A cavalcade of dancing pork chops, cigars and mustaches.
"Dictators on Ice" -- From Stalin to Kim Jong-il, all your favorite historic dictators come together for this once in a lifetime holiday spectacular.
"Stanley Kubrick on Ice" -- This homage to the great film director includes numbers such as "Full Metal Jacket: Born to Kill, Born to Triple Lutz" and "The Shining: This Mountaintop Hotel Ain't So Bad If You Know How to Skate."
"Illinois Politics on Ice" -- Blagojevich, Madigan, Daley and gang in tulle… nothing is too slippery for these slick souls.
"The Sopranos on Ice" -- How funny would it be to see James Gandolfini on skates?
"World of Warcraft on Ice" -- The lighting crew would have so much fun with the disco ball, colored lights and smoke machines for spells. Plus, the elves already look like dancers.
"Saw V on Ice" -- Jigsaw takes his deadly mind games to a slippery new level.
"Waterworld on Ice" -- The adaptation of this notorious bomb of a movie might be further hindered by the lack of water in its liquid state.
"Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's Circus on Ice" -- As neat as seeing real live elephants and tigers on skates would be, is there anything more terrifying than clowns with blades strapped to them?
"Law & Order on Ice" (aka "Ice Capades: Special Victims Unit") -- The only thing more festive than brutal crimes on ice? The ensuing legal drama!
"The Exorcist on Ice" -- Hell freezes over when Linda Blair returns to the role that made her famous.
"This is Spinal Tap on Ice" -- Easily adapted, as no costume modifications are required.
"Jim Beam on Ice" -- The fall-down-funny story of a Kentucky bourbon who dared to dream big.
"American Chopper on Ice" - The motorcycle-building reality show family slips and slides its way to even more dysfunction.
"The 'Fridge' on Ice" -- Hey, Willam Perry's cool with it, but watch how his shuffle has changed since '86.
"The Chicago Olympic Committee on Ice" -- If you don't want us for Summer 2016, we'll show you our Winter talent.
"The Democratic/Republican Presidential Debates on Ice" -- Like they'll be any less ridiculous without Dennis Kucinich and Mike Huckabee trying to pirouette.
-- Jeff Pizek