In 1986, after starring in “Ice Capades” for two years, reigning Olympic champ Scott Hamilton was informed that male skaters don’t sell tickets and was shown the door. Scott, a born entertainer, loved performing but found that the standard ice show grind of up to twelve shows in a different town every week destroyed an athlete’s body and soul. Freed from that treadmill, he dreamed of heading an all-star troupe of his peers who could also skate together in various combinations and in innovative productions—and with a less destructive performance schedule. A year later he led a small company of elite athlete entertainers on a barnstorming test tour of well-received one-night stands. Thus encouraged, his dream fully came true in 1987. Directed and choreographed by Karen Kresge and with corporate sponsorship, the “Discover Card Stars On Ice” show took to the road for a 30-city tour. With each succeeding year, audiences grew and the itinerary expanded.
Meanwhile, aware of the growing audience being educated in the fine points of skating by television, Canadian skater / producer / choreographer Sandra Bezic was also thinking “less is more.” In 1990 she created “Skating” a showcase for Olympic superstars Brian Boitano and Katarina Witt with an elite supporting cast. As with Hamilton’s show, out went the elaborate set, the high-kicking chorus girls, Smurfs, and slapstick skating comics. The new “spectacle” was superb skating presented as theatre by a handful of certified champions. Boitano and Witt toured in new Bezic productions in 1991 and ’92.
In 1992 IMG (International Management Group), the underwriters of “Stars On Ice,” wanted to snag new Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi for the show. They bought out the rival Boitano-Witt tour to bring Bezic aboard as director / choreographer (later, also producer). It also brought them Ms. Yamaguchi, for whom Bezic was choreographer. Kristi reigned as Scott Hamilton’s co-star for ten years while also becoming a popular model and spokesperson off the ice. After leaving “Stars” she and pro dance partner Mark Ballas vanquished the other competing couples week after week in 2008 to win television’s enormously popular Dancing With The Stars.
The stellar casts of “Stars On Ice” have included such great talents as Paul Wylie, Katarina Witt, Torvill & Dean, Yuka Sato, Kurt Browning, Tara Lipinski, Ilya Kulik, Berezhnaya & Sikharulidze, Todd Eldridge, Alexei Yagudin, Sale & Pelletier, and Michael Weiss. Fans emotionally followed cast members Meno & Sand’s love story and wedding, wept over Sergei Grinkov’s untimely death and ached for his widowed partner Katia Gordeeva and tiny daughter Daria. They cheered in 1997 when Scott Hamilton triumphantly returned to “Stars On Ice” after successfully battling cancer, and expressed great concern in 2004 as he received treatment for a brain tumor. Founding father Scott retired from regularly performing in 2001 but continues as producer of the show and lively commentator at skating competitions. Together with his creative team including designer / director Jeff Billings and choreographers Cindy Stewart and Renee Roca, he is guiding “Stars On Ice” into the future.