And today a bout of word play broke out at the office.

It was a game of riddles.What do they call the Ice Capades when they visit Disneyland?

Mice Capades.

When they visit Las Vegas?

Dice Capades.

And the knock-out blow; when they visit Miami?

Vice Capades.

The truth is, however, the show is really the Nice Capades. Clean, nostalgic, a bit sentimental, strong on tradition and ceremony, the Ice Capades could be an American religion.

And in Wednesday's opening performance, the Capades showed they've learned to bend, but not break, with the times.

This year's version - the Golden Anniversary Tour - features everything from tributes to the '30s to the rowdy presence of The Simpsons.

And the show knows its audience: Middle America. It also knows Middle America likes to get a lot of bang for its buck.

There's a lot of bang this year, ranging from magic acts with disappearing tigers, ultraviolet trapeze acts and solos to strobe-light knock-offs of Charley Chaplin's "Little Tramp."

There's even a sendup of professional wrestling.

Barbie stars, Richard Dwyer ("Mr. Debonair" to me and you) stars, as do Sweden's Catarina Lindgren and her all-American hubby, Tom Dickson.

It's the type of show that schools would call a "multimedia presentation" - Russian Cossacks doing their Russian thing, futuristic skaters doing their futuristic thing while films of Ice Capades gone by play on the big screen.

For my money, the highlight this year is the tribute to Ice Capades gone by. The music from Gershwin and Porter hasn't dated at all. The costumes - from cigarette girl outfits to poofy-skirts and snowball head-dresses - have.

As for the Simpsons, they played comic relief, showing up in seats all around the arena and displaying their special gift for being loutish.

HOMER: "I thought we were going to a hockey game!"

MARGE: "I said we were going to see some professional skaters."

HOMER: "Well I'm not leaving here until I see a brawl!"

Enter Bart.

Bart and Homer brawl.

In the end, the Ice Capades exist just beyond the grasp of critics and reviewers. The truth is, they would probably serve best as an occasion to write an extended essay on America, its values and its popular culture.

But that's another story.