PHOTO: 'Grease' onboard Royal Caribbean International's Harmony of the Seas. (photo by Jason Leppert)
Cruise ship production shows have greatly matured in recent years, elevating live performances once almost exclusively predominated by revues. Many medleys of popular songs remain, but the best are even making those better. Meanwhile, Broadway-caliber narratives and boundary-pushing spectacles raise the bar higher still.
“Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic,” Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line
The Disney Cruise Line is remarkable for its company of singers, dancers and technicians employing seemingly every known theatrical technique in order to pull at the audience’s heartstrings. Disney knows story, and it knows how to present it musically with an unmatched in-house songbook. “Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic” specifically follows the journey of a girl as she rediscovers her ability to believe as her bedroom is magically transformed with the help of some visitors with great character. Sequences featuring numbers from “The Little Mermaid” are particularly powerful.
“Flick,” Carnival Vista, Carnival Cruise Line
The high energy performances of Carnival Cruise Line’s casts have always stood out, but the Carnival Vista is on another level with shows like “Flick.” The tribute to motion pictures is not just a dime-a-dozen rehash of pop songs from movies. It very cleverly follows a miming character as he effectively inserts himself into each film and number from the dramatic to the whimsical. It’s a fantastic concept as we can surely all relate to the notion of being enveloped by our favorite movies. This performance just does it wonderfully through song and dance.
READ MORE: Disney Cruise Line Will Soon Have One Animated Film Stage Show Per Ship
“Frozen, A Musical Spectacular,” Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line
Continuing Disney’s aforementioned tradition of excellence is “Frozen, A Musical Spectacular.” The corporate film studio had a hit on its hands with the animated film, and seeing it interpreted live is a magical experience. New projection mapping technologies allow the house to be engulfed in the scenery as much as the stage, and the transformation of Queen Elsa’s costume is expertly rendered as well. All, of course, including ace puppetry is in service of the timeless story.
“Grease,” Harmony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean International is astounding in so many ways with the Harmony of the Seas, and its production of “Grease” is definitely one of the ship’s highlights. In fact, it’s as close to perfect as a traditional Broadway show can be. The cast is incredibly good, and the backing band that plays live in studio adds an amazing energy to the total effort. The acting, singing, dancing and playing are all top notch. Classic numbers are reinvigorated with the modern cast that leaves guests tapping their toes all the way to the onboard Johnny Rockets.
READ MORE: Behind the Scenes: Royal Caribbean International's New Two70º
“Rock of Ages,” Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Cruise Line
While it may celebrate a different era and attitude of rock and roll than “Grease,” Norwegian Cruise Line’s “Rock of Ages” is just as fun in a playfully irreverent fashion. I honestly didn't care much for the recent film adaptation of this musical, but the shipboard version is a standout that will leave you laughing and singing along. The rock back that is featured front and center plays straight all the way through, and the energy is unbelievably non-stop. But don’t stop believing as Journey reminds us.
“Spectra’s Cabaret,” Anthem of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International
The most unique show of the bunch is “Spectra’s Cabaret” for fully taking advantage of the multipurpose Two70 venue on Royal Caribbean International’s Anthem of the Seas. Live singers, dancers, instrumentalists and aerial acrobatics perform amid six kinetic Roboscreens and in front of the 12K-resolution Vistarama screen. Depending on where you sit, the action quite literally happens all around you. It’s a breathtaking overall display that visually brings to life music like you’ve never seen or heard before.