If you go by audience reaction, there is no doubt that Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton is the star of "Hooray for Ice," the new Ice Capades spectacular that has settled in at the Capital Centre through Feb. 24.
Hamilton, buttressed by four American and four world titles, skated onto the ice as if he owned it, and after performing two elegant programs full of muscular splits and spins, he did. A genuine virtuoso on blades, the diminutive but powerfully built Hamilton is also a genial showman, transforming Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" into a witty personal statement.
That seemingly effortless assurance also came through in the pairs segments by Peter and Kitty Carruthers, who copped the silver at Sarajevo. This brother-sister team achieves a single-mindedness that characterizes the best pairs skating.
Of course, solo and pairs skating are but one part of an Ice Capades extravaganza. The frequent show numbers are still sequin city (courtesy Paul Lopez and Cheryl Daniels), and the bows to the younger demographic still depressingly sophomoric. Those underwater denizens, the Snorks, who look like Smile Buttons come to life, have replaced the Smurfs, but it seems that only the costumes have changed, while the routines and the music remain generic, i.e., telly-conscious. And "Chiller" suggests an awareness of MTV, Michael Jackson and Cyndi Lauper, but not an understanding. Maybe the producers should note that the kids in the opening night crowd responded most fervently to the Sennett-style slapstick of Tommy Miller and the vaudeville-on-ice routines of Mike Course and Titch Stock.
Ted Shuffle has provided some intriguing choreography for Ravel's "Bolero," though the piece itself is just too long.
Overall, there's enough precision skating and passionate performance to make "Hooray for Ice" the best Ice Capades show in years. Scott Hamilton's presence simply bathes it in a golden Olympic glow.