Originally published in the Grid.
The bad boy of ’90s figure skating talks about musical theatre, his gung-ho approach to retirement, and filling the shoes of Billy Ray Cyrus.
The transition from triple axels to tap shoes was a natural one.
With his aggressive skating style and matching hockey hair, Elvis Stojko built a reputation as one of figure skating’s most powerful athletes. So it might come as a surprise that he’ll be gliding into the role of smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn in Broad touring production of Chicago. But for this three-time world champion and two-time Olympic silver medallist, dancing is a natural extension of his previous career. “Learning steps is very straightforward for me, because that’s something that I’ve done most of my life,” he explains. “But when you try to put it together with the lines and the music, well, that’s the trick. It’s like walking and chewing gum at the same time.” It’s a challenge, to be sure, but one that Stojko—a guy who can do a backflip on figure skates—can easily overcome.
He dug deep to create his own spin on Billy Flynn.
As the longest-running show on Broadway, Chicago has seen dozens of Billy Flynns give it the ol’ razzle dazzle, including Billy Zane, Usher, Alan Thicke, and, uh, Billy Ray Cyrus. Though Stojko agrees that such an iconic character comes with a lot of baggage, he avoided the pressure by choosing to focus his attention inwards. “I didn’t want to be Richard Gere playing Billy Flynn. I wanted to pull him out from myself, from my own personality.” Stojko’s introspective approach is in line with the original musical, which he feels is a little grittier than the 2002 film adaptation. “We all have a dark side,” he says, “and there is definitely a dark side to Billy Flynn.”
Once you’ve competed at Nagano, Broadway’s a breeze.
Performing on the Great White Way may be the dream of many wide-eyed young actors, but for this Newmarket native, conquering King Street is a more daunting challenge. “Actually, I’m glad we’re starting out on Broadway before coming to Toronto, because my friends and family will be here,” Stojko admits. “I want to have a few shows under my belt before they see it.” When pressed about how he’s dealing with the pre-performance nerves, Stojko is pragmatic: “Well, nothing is as intense as competing at the Olympics.”
Mexico may be home, but this iceman still loves the nomadic lifestyle.
Stojko moved to rural Mexico in 2001, but don’t assume he’s playing shuffleboard with grey-haired snowbirds while guzzling cervezas. In the past year alone, he’s competed in the Super Nationals go-karting tournament in Las Vegas, joined fellow world champion Kurt Browning in a skating exhibition in the Maritimes, and even ventured to Sochi to cover the Olympics for Yahoo. All this travel comes naturally to Stojko and his wife, Gladys Orozco (also a former figure-skating champion). The pair aren’t even fazed by having arrived in northern climes in the middle of the Polar Vortex. Says Stojko, “It’s a shock to the system, but it’s nice for a period of time to remember what the snow is like…. Then it’s really nice to head back to Mexico.”
Chicago runs at the Princess of Wales Theatre to March 30. 300 King St. W., 416-872-1212, mirvish.com.