The Forsythes and their principal investor, Alaskan businessman Ben Tisdale, signed on the dotted line last June 24. But buying the Ice Capades was only the beginning. "Straight off they spent about $6 million in new equipment," says Art Jones, who stayed on as manager of the East Tour. In August all the prospective skaters were assembled in Toronto for eight weeks of auditions and rehearsals.
"When I saw these 60 skaters out there trying to impress me, doing all these great jumps and triples," says Hamill, "I thought, Oh, my god, they actually showed up for work. What have I done? What am I going to do?"
It's a few hours before opening night at the Hartford Civic Center, and time for class. Before most performances, the skaters dress in black warmups and go through intricate series of moves and exercises, and Hamill is just one of 30, testing herself to see if she'll be able to perform with this, her first professional injury. Her heart says yes, but her ribs say no. Ribs win. When Hamill leaves the ice, she is accosted by TV reporters. There has been a break in the Nancy Kerrigan case, and they would like her comments. She doesn't quite know what to say.
It's now showtime, and there is an audible sigh of disappointment when Hamill walks to the microphone, along with her husband and daughter, to explain why she won't be able to perform in front of the home folks. But soon the mist is rising over the rink, and out come the heralds, then the Lord Chamberlain and the Prince, the exotic princesses, Cinderella and Buttons, the wicked stepsisters.... By the snowfall at the end of the first act, the audience is entranced. Hamill is no longer missed. The lights come on, and there's the murmuring that tells you a show is working.
To the untrained eye, the first act went just fine, but actually the skating was not to Hamill's or Murphy's liking—it seldom is the first night out on new ice—and one of the snow hoses didn't work. During intermission, a crewman on a cherry picker fixes the hose, and Murphy talks to the skaters. Their performance is much sharper in the second act, and at the end, half the Hartford crowd gives Cinderella a standing ovation. Minutes later, down in the office, Forsythe reports that the West Tour did even better, getting a full standing O in Fargo, where it's 32 below.
Forsythe, who handles much of the business of the Ice Capades, is an engaging, athletic, Renaissance kind of guy. He speaks several languages, including Spanish and Swedish, yet he's not above saying, "That Dorothy's something, isn't she?" to patrons as they leave the show.
The morning after opening night in Hartford, Ken and Dot and Packy are having breakfast in the hotel of the 19-year-old Civic Center, one of those once-popular urban biospheres. "I remember skating here when this place first opened," says Dorothy. "In fact, everywhere I go, I'm skating in arenas that seem old but were actually brand-new when I first skated in them. It makes me feel like an old lady."
Ken reassures her, "The mortality of mortar is nothing compared to the Hamill camel." Dorothy rolls her eyes and smiles. She is reading the review of the show in The Hartford Courant. The paper's dance critic has written, "This innovative version of the familiar Cinderella story must be counted among the finest stagings ever."
Dorothy finishes reading the review and says, "This is great for the kids."
"Mommy, I have a question," says Packy.