a q&a with 20-year stars on ice producer, byron allen
WHO STARTED STARS ON ICE?
IMG started production in the fall of 1986 in Morristown, NJ, and Philadelphia, PA. After initial success, we decided to add shows.
WHEN DID STARS ON ICE BEGIN IN LAKE PLACID?
The first Stars on Ice show in Lake Placid was in November, 1992, shortly after the Albertville Olympics. Lori Harkness invited me to Lake Placid to see the facilities in the summer of 1992. I visited the Olympic Center, the Mirror Lake Inn and had lunch at The Cottage. The experience made a wonderful impression and we started rehearsals in Lake Placid in October.
WHO PERFORMED IN THE FIRST STARS ON ICE IN LAKE PLACID?
The inaugural show featured Kristi Yamaguchi, who had won an Olympic gold medal, Paul Wylie, who had landed the silver medal, Scott Hamilton, Rosalynn Sumners, Kitty & Peter Carruthers, Brian Orser, Ekaterina Gordeeva & Sergei Grinkov, Christine Hough & Doug Ladret, and Gary Beacom. The first show in Lake Placid was in 1992 but we had already toured for four years. That year, the magnitude of the show changed when we added Kristi and Paul to the cast, as well as Sandra Bezic as the new director.
WHAT DOES LAKE PLACID AND THE OLYMPIC CENTER MEAN TO THE CAST AND CREW?
There are three things that stand out about the Olympic Center in relation to Stars on Ice. The first is the history. We have always strived to honor the history of figure skating by bringing together the world’s top talent to produce a performance that truly showcases their exceptional abilities. There are no gimmicks, no characters, just pure skating. Number two is the people. The Olympic Center team are now our friends. It’s been a pleasure to work with these great people over the years. The third reason is the fans in Lake Placid. They are warm and show such appreciation. They embrace the skaters, especially Scott and Katia Gordeeva, which makes the group feel completely at home, both on the ice and in the community.
HOW HAS THE SHOW EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS?
As with any ongoing production, the quality of entertainment has improved over the years, particularly the sound and lights. We also added a video component on the ice.
WHAT MAKES THIS SHOW DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SKATING PERFORMANCES?
More than anything, we’ve been consistent in delivering ensemble numbers which feature the skaters performing together, a format not seen in other skating shows. Quite simply, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The group strives to skate at their best not only for the audience, but for their fellow cast mates. They take great pride in bringing a quality show to the ice every night.
WHAT IS SCOTT HAMILTON’S IMPACT THROUGH THE YEARS?
Scott is still, 36 year after carrying the flag in the 1980 Olympics and 32 years after his gold medal in Sarajevo, the biggest name in figure skating. He is a consummate performer, an exceptional leader and a wonderful ambassador for the sport of figure skating. His personality appeals to everyone because he entertains and makes people smile. He also overcame many obstacles to achieve his dream of winning a gold medal, and then battled cancer later in life. He not only survives but prevails.
WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP LIKE BETWEEN THE CAST MEMBERS?
After years of touring together, the cast members are a family. Each year, the group changes a bit but they always understand the tradition and quality which Stars on Ice has come to represent through the years. They work together to honor that tradition with each performance.
IS THERE A SINGLE PERFORMANCE THAT STANDS OUT?
It’s impossible to single out an individual performance as the best. I’m often asked to list the top five or 10 performances in the 30-year history of Stars on Ice and it’s simply impossible. There are so, so many amazing shows.
FAVORITE OFF-ICE TRADITIONS IN LAKE PLACID?
Group gatherings at the Cottage are always special, as are the post-show toasts when we welcome new members to the cast. This is particularly meaningful since the show at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid is usually the first of the season.
Byron Allen is the Senior Vice President at IMG. He has produced “Stars on Ice” for IMG for twenty years, and been involved in all of the 1500+ performances around the globe in the 30-year tour. In that time, the tour has won three Emmy Awards for Choreography and Costume Design and an ACE Cable Award for Best Sports Special. Byron has also produced the “Holiday Festival on Ice” Tour in North America for 22 years, and countless other figure skating specials. This summer, he made his first venture into theatre, working with long-time “Stars on Ice” cast members Kristi Yamaguchi, Meryl Davis, Charlie White, and IMG client Cheryl Burke to bring Cheryl’s “Love on the Floor” to the stage in Japan. His work with the top figure skating talent and an extraordinary creative team continues to create the world’s premier figure skating tour.