Cruise Ship Production Shows Close in on Broadway
Photo by Jason Leppert
Entertainment has always been a hallmark of cruise travel, but there once was a time when revues, essentially musical clip shows, were most common. The Broadway-style description has been thrown around ever since then. However, only now are cruise ship production shows actually approaching and matching the quality of such New York City performances.
Even back in the 1990s, I remember how great Crystal Cruises shows were. They too were mainly samplers of Broadway hits, but the production quality was outstanding. “The Phantom of the Opera” would be brought to life complete with a Pepper’s ghost-like special effect that astounded my childhood eyes. Back then, this was pretty elaborate staging, and the luxury line continues to push technological boundaries with electroluminescent pantomime shows by iluminate.
To this day, revues live on, but their presentation is far more dramatic. Carnival Cruise Line is a master at bringing a mixture of musical genres to the stage with high energy vocals, dancing and video technology. Even its Towel Animal Theater puppet show geared towards kids is a hoot for all ages, and it tells more of a story than most of the line’s other performances.
In fact, a narrative quality is really what is bringing cruise ship shows up to a true Broadway level, from original productions to revivals at sea. From its very start, the Disney Cruise Line has recreated its films and unique stories on its stage, employing seemingly every theatrical technique imaginable from pyrotechnics to puppetry. And the line, of course, has one of the most talented companies of singers and dancers in the entire industry.
Competitors have since taken note and are starting to nip at Disney’s lead. Princess Cruises has recently teamed up with none other than Oscar, Grammy and Tony award-winning composer Stephen Schwartz of “Wicked” fame to develop shows for the line including its unique “Magic to Do” (pictured above) performance of his hits and an original number woven together by live magic acts and a loose fantastical narrative – the effect of which is the best the line has ever produced.
Meanwhile, both Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International are hosting authentic full-length Broadway revivals on their newest ships. A complete production of “Rock of Ages” is on the Norwegian Breakaway, appropriately sailing year-round from New York, and “After Midnight” is on the new Norwegian Escape. Both shows are wonderfully presented even if the theaters themselves are lackluster.
Royal Caribbean has an even larger lineup of shows housed in far grander theaters including “Saturday Night Fever” on the Liberty of the Seas, “We Will Rock You” on the Anthem of the Seas from New Jersey, “Cats” on the Oasis of the Seas, “Mamma Mia!” on the Allure of the Seas snd, most recently, “Grease” on the new Harmony of the Seas and Independence of the Seas.
Fresh from watching a live performance of “Something Rotten!” in New York days ago, I can honestly say that Royal Caribbean’s production of “Grease” is the closest I have ever seen to an actual Broadway show on a cruise ship, and it just may very well surpass it as a unique hybrid between the stage and film versions.
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