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Nicole

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Jul 22, 2013
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Last Sunday Zachary and I went to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, because apparently I needed to be hazed, as a new staff member. Tony joined us to provide me moral support. Alpenghost came along for (no doubt) twisted reasons of his own.

Zach felt the best way to make me suffer without leaving any (obvious) scars was to make me sit through every formally-scheduled show in the park in one day. Sadly, this is not as impossible as it should be. Here is his evil plan:

11:30 Entwined
1:00 Mix it Up
2:00 Sunny Days Celebration
3:00 Pet Shenanigans
3:30 Secret Life of Predators
5:00 This is Oktoberfest
6:00 London Rocks
7:00 Celtic Fyre

The rules were simple: I had to watch all of the shows in their entirety. I was not allowed to distract (or protect) myself with an iPAD, phone, book, etc. I was allowed to go on transport rides, but not my beloved roller coasters. Happily, Alpen helped me out a bit on that last restriction.

So, we spent the day enduring the park’s various theatrical offerings, sampling food and drink, and wandering through shops. I can say with certainty that I have never had a similar park experience, and I hope never to repeat it.

We decided that I should take notes during the shows and provide my opinions of each in a trip report. Keep in mind that I had seen none of these extravaganzas with two exceptions: I watched the wolf show once last year, and I saw TIO as a child. So, I came to all of this year’s shows with no expectations or preconceptions. The same is true for my husband.

I should also explain my personal biases. I am a dancer. Without question the choreography and technique are the most important things to me. I care about the singing, but not nearly as much. I also loathe cheesy dialogue. I wrote “Please shut up!” over and over in my notebook. I would honestly prefer a show with no spoken parts, to the wacky scripts I sat through yesterday.

I should start with my rankings from best to worst. I expect this assessment will confuse and/or infuriate many of you:
1. Celtic Fyre
2. Sunny Days Celebration
3. Mix it Up
4. Secret Life of Predators
5. This is Oktoberfest
6. London Rocks
7. Entwined
8. Pet Shenanigans

So, based on my impressions and notes, here is a brief review of each of the shows and an explanation of its ranking.

Celtic Fyre
I admit to being surprised. The dancing was phenomenal. The singing was, in my opinion, the best I heard all day. I enjoyed the bodhrán, as well. There were some negatives, however. Tony had an allergic reaction to the theater; it did smell musty to me, as well. Also, I could tell that the choreography for the tap dancers had not been tailored to their strengths. Of course, there was some (thankfully limited) cheesy dialogue.

Sunny Days Celebration
How can the Elmo show possibly be number two on the list? First, it was short. Very short. Five minutes short. I didn’t have time to get bored. Honestly, however, I thought the choreography suited the show and music much better than several other shows. Additionally, the show understood itself and its audience and wasn’t trying to be anything more that it was: a fun, brief diversion for little kids. Most importantly, I got to try the new Sour Patch Kids flavors.

Mix it Up
I enjoyed the music, although the percussion didn’t quite work for me. There was one poor guy, who is clearly an amazing dancer. I do not understand why he was forced to pretend to be a majorette. It was a total waste of his obvious talents. I think I would have enjoyed this show more, if I hadn’t looked; if I had only listened. It generally sounded good, but the choreography was clearly developed in band camp. Not ever having attended a school with a marching band, I fear that their shuffling and squatting was completely lost on me. Once again, I wish they had skipped the script and stuck with the music.

Secret Life of Predators
While the “funny” script was really annoying, there was a lot of interesting information about the wolves, foxes, and owls. I am probably biased about this show, because I love animals. I do wish they would cut out the cheese, however.

This is Oktoberfest
I know this is where I may get slammed, but I left the Festhaus angry. This show has the potential to be great. In fact, it is my understanding that is used to be fantastic. I know that dancers used to fight for slots in this show. My hope is that there used to be legitimate choreography. I know what they should have been doing; I could visualize the steps, as the music played. Sadly, the “dance” component has been watered down to a bunch of skipping and shuffling in circles. They couldn’t even polka or waltz. If you are going to hire singers who have no training or technique, don’t try to fake it. I felt as if I was watching a bunch of cheer leaders in German folk costumes, with all of the shrieking and idiot audience participation.

London Rocks
LR wasn’t bad; it was just very, very annoying. The sets and projection were really cool. The overall feel of the show was well done. I generally like the soundtrack, although some of the arrangements could have been better, in my opinion. The dancing was fine. That said, I really, passionately hated the “effects.” Having stuff blown at and dumped on me in no way enhanced my experience of the musical. In fact, the fake strawberry smell gave me a headache. But it wasn’t just the pointless “4D” ad-ons that bothered me. In no particular order, here are the other aspects of the show that soured the experience for me:
• The process of seating was chaotic and quite frankly rude. We had to stand on the side, until we were allowed to fill in a row a little bit further back, even though the house was half empty. I have no issues with their insisting that we move to the middle, but why did we have to move as far forward as possible? The usher was fairly rude, as well.
• The singing was a bit weak. Zach tells me the other cast is stronger. In addition, I didn’t enjoy all of the arrangements.
• My impression overall of the show was that there were too many ideas, and someone needed to edit and pare them down. Instead, everything seemed to be crammed in, creating a show that simply didn’t hold together. The underwater scene, the puppets, the LSD trip at the end, the faux Monty Python bits, etc. It is as if they incorporated every idea from a massive brainstorming session.
• Finally. The Queen. Alpen and I debated this some. I am still firmly of the opinion that the cheap Monty Python rip-off was just inappropriate. We are not British. It is not our place to insult foreign heads of state. It is simply rude. I think we agreed, however, that putting Queen Elizabeth II in white, sparkly spandex was just completely beyond the pale.

Entwined
I was prepared for the worst, and honestly, the park did not let me down. The singing was weak (and sometimes off-key). The choreography was terrible (seriously, jazz hands to disco music????). The costumes were inexplicable (fishnets, spandex, and a jester outfit?). The plotline was idiotic (a monster jar of hotsauce?). It honestly looked as if the show had been designed and developed by Mrs. Johnson’s Fifth Grade Class. I actually felt bad for the performers. I think the worse moment for me was when the girls straddled the guys, who were lying on the floor. Maybe they accidentally inserted some of the choreography from Fiends? I thought maybe I was just being a snob, but looking around, everyone, including the children, looked bored.

Pet Shenanigans
Really the only good things I can say about this show are that the animals were cute and I appreciated the pitch the park made for rescuing pets. That said, if you are going to rescue Fluffy, for goodness sakes, don’t put her in this show! The horrible, cheesy dialogue was really only the tip of this dirty, dark iceberg. I found the concept behind the show simply offensive. The purpose in training animals is to help them: so that they can assist in their own medical care and to ensure their safety. Not only were the tricks good for nothing but entertaining gawking humans, but also in some cases they were obviously uncomfortable and dangerous for the animals. I actually watched a cat almost fall. Setting aside my moral issues with the show, the quality of the “tricks” themselves was breathtakingly low. They looked like things that people teach their own pets in the backyard. It was amateurish and boring. How many times can you watch a dog run out one door and into another, before falling asleep? I seriously expected much more from a SEAS park. I have been on countless behind the scenes tours at BGT, SW, and even BGW. I know that the company has much higher standards. This production is simply an affront to taste and decency.

I must add that despite the unmitigated horror of spending eight hours enduring a BGW theatrical marathon, I had a really good time, because I had such fantastic people with me all day.

I seem to have escaped the experience relatively sane. I also believe that I never need to sit through another show at BGW ever again. Bring on the hate…
 

MAZ

Jan 30, 2014
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I absolutely LOVE your review. I couldn't find one thing that I disagree with. I'm serious. I'm now thinking that maybe I got the 'weak' cast in my LR visit too, because I thought the same thing about the lead vocals.
 
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I have not seen TIO or Entwined in person, but judging by the videos, I have to agree with you. TIO was, frankly, boring. However, I have to disagree with you on MIU. The choreography in that show was absolutely fantastic. I could not find anything about that show that I did not like.
 
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Truthfully I don't disagree with most of the things you said about TIO. We all know the show used to be 5x better when it had it's own stage. Today, the duration of the show is barely 20 minutes, back when the rising stage was around, it used to be 30+ minutes long. It was always packed to the brim with just traditional dances, to the point where the parts that had crowd participation were only a small fraction of the show.

Although, I don't think TIO should be that low on the list, I do agree with a lot of what you said. This year's cast seems to be a little over-bearing of the show. It's getting to the point where they alone are re-doing the choreography of the show. There's one girl who feels the need to shriek her lungs out, anytime she get's a chance throughout the show. However, compared to last year the dancing calls of the girls are a lot more toned down. Then there's another girl who is constantly forgetting her two lines in the show. Really, similar to Celtic Fyre's problems this year, its stage managers/directors need to make sure the cast is keeping up, and not letting them run free everywhere, changing the show in cheesy ways.

The crowd participation tid-bits in the show, are mostly legitimate. Beer halls in Oktoberfest always have similar activities, such as toasts, clapping, and all that good stuff. Plus, the Chicken-dance did originate in Germany.

I still enjoy TIO though, because I just think it's a fun show, that really lifts my spirits and makes me happy. I still don't believe it should be ranked that low on the list. It's sad, because if this were 4 years ago, you would be experiencing an entirely different show. However, even this version is 10x better than the 2011 version. Take Entwined's cheesiness, multiply it by two, mix it in with TIO, ruin all the traditional songs and dances, and you have yourself TIO 2011.
 

Nicole

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Oh, I pretty much did drink every time someone did something annoying in Entwined. I bought a pear cider for just that purpose.
 
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There was one time when I caught the end of TIO in person. I don't know when it was, but I was much younger. Back then, audience members were actually invited onto the stage. It was much more fun (and embarrassing when your mom made you go up so that she could videotape you).
 
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I haven't seen Entwined since earlier this spring, but when I did see it, I remember laughing hysterically(in my mind) at three girls whose dresses at the beginning of the show, were showing a little too much, and didn't have much support, if you know what I mean. I felt sorry for the guys they had to sit on. The amount of sexual innuendo, and suggestive things in that show is absolutely astounding for it to be considered a children's show.
 
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Pretzel Kaiser

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Really the only good things I can say about this show are that the animals were cute and I appreciated the pitch the park made for rescuing pets. That said, if you are going to rescue Fluffy, for goodness sakes, don’t put her in this show! The horrible, cheesy dialogue was really only the tip of this dirty, dark iceberg. I found the concept behind the show simply offensive. The purpose in training animals is to help them: so that they can assist in their own medical care and to ensure their safety. Not only were the tricks good for nothing but entertaining gawking humans, but also in some cases they were obviously uncomfortable and dangerous for the animals. I actually watched a cat almost fall. Setting aside my moral issues with the show, the quality of the “tricks” themselves was breathtakingly low. They looked like things that people teach their own pets in the backyard. It was amateurish and boring. How many times can you watch a dog run out one door and into another, before falling asleep? I seriously expected much more from a SEAS park. I have been on countless behind the scenes tours at BGT, SW, and even BGW. I know that the company has much higher standards. This production is simply an affront to taste and decency.

I'm sorry, I disagree with some of the statements here. A lot of the arguments you made here are ones that one would use against Ocra in captivity (and they are valid ones). However, there is one huge difference between the whales and the animals here. The animals here are domesticated, and the fuggin' love to do that kind of stuff. Dogs have centuries of breeding that has resulted in their brain being hard-wired to please Master Human and cats have given us the honor of gracing us with their presence for just as long. Considering that these are shelter animals, they most likely would have been dead by now. Doing some tricks in exchange for love and food doesn't seem like that bad of a trade off. Also, the family dog does a lot of "tricks" as well. Not pooping inside? A trick. Scratching at a door to go out? Another trick. "Tricks" are just behaviors that an animal has learned to perform in order to get the desired result, whether it's a piece of food or not disappointing Master Human.

I'm also curious, what parts were "dangerous"? The part with the cats almost falling? Cats can land from heights a few stories tall and not think anything of it. They're built for that since a lot of them originated hunting prey from trees.

As far as the tricks, I tend to agree. Some of them are pretty complex, but most are simple. The script is also painful at times I'll agree with this. However, this show is meant for kids and the message to kids is supposed to be "pets do amazing things, and you should adopt from a shelter." Pretty good message to be giving to kids at the end of the day.
 

Nicole

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Those animals did not look happy at all. One of the cats looked seriously pissed off, in fact. I can accept that they could enjoy it, but not in this case. In fact, they were having a hard time getting a lot of cooperation out of several of the animal stars.

I understand how far cats can fall. That is no reason to demonstrate that skill for our entertainment.
 
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Zachary

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I may say more later, but I'll throw this in now: The showing of Pet Shenanigans we saw was ABYSMAL and I left not only disappointed but somewhat disgusted. The number of tricks they actually pulled off successfully could be counted on my fingers and many of the animals clearly did not want to be in that performance.
 
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Pretzel Kaiser

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I'm not sure what's happening then, because not once have I seen that show and thought that the animals were in any state of unwillingness.

As far as the cat goes, I'm not sure cats are capable of joy. Regardless, the cat was never in any real danger.

edit: I'll talk with Zach about it then. If this is true, this is somewhat disturbing.
 
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Zachary

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Same story here Pretzel- I had never left the show with that impression before yesterday. It very well may have been an (incredibly) off performance, but what I saw yesterday didn't reflect well on the show or even the park in general.
 
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Nicole

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Two of my cats are expressing a lot of joy right at the very minute. Of course, I don't make them do stupid tricks. They are mostly in charge.
 
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I don't think we should start making extreme conclusions about anything. It's more likely than anything just a bad show. It can happen for any number of reasons. I say this because, two weeks ago I saw this and it was performing very well, it still had its 2 or 3 bumps in the show, but other than that it was performing better than ever. Go see it another day, if the same things happen again, than we can have something to worry about.
 

Nicole

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It wasn't just a bad performance. The choreography was virtually nonexistent. Skipping in circles is NOT traditional character dancing. It is what 5 year olds do on a playground. I believe that at one time there was real dancing. Clearly that has been expunged in favor of shrieking and cheering.
 
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