"Let's face the music and skate!" That idea is the perennial heart of the Ice Capades, which opened its annual run at the Capital Centre last night. What we're talking here is camp spectacle, chills without the spills, slap-skate buffoonery, Busby Berkeley ballet on frozen water -- family entertainment directed at the innocent and naive in all of us. What we're talking is Nice Capades.

This year's edition is not radically different from its predecessors. Like the avant-garde, ice spectaculars don't really change, but they do provide a superficial barometer of popular tastes and fashion. In a year without obvious inspirations, the salutes are to Broadway, Las Vegas and, tenuously, to the fantasies of "Kismet" and "The Wizard of Oz." The ensemble numbers are, as usual, expertly packaged, wonderfully costumed and tightly choreographed.

The star turns belong to the current crop of skate champions: Charles Tickner defying gravity and leaping, twisting, spinning and splitting the air; Randy Gardner and Tai Babilonia confirming their mastery of the subtle lyricism of virtuoso pair skating. Contrasted with Lisa Marie Allen in "Lady Skates the Blues," Gardner and Babilonia skated elegant ballads.

In true variety-show tradition, there was also precocious 12-year-old David Lee, juggling and balancing everything but the budget, and the consistently hilarious (and crowd-pleasing) comedy of Mike Course and David Sadleir. Spectacle, athletic zeal, illusion and the ecstasy of pure family entertainment -- it's all on ice at the Capital Centre, where the Ice Capades will perform through Feb. 21.