Last updated: 02:40 PM ET, Thu February 04 2016

Princess Cruises Unveils Fun ‘Come Back New’ Entertainment

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Princess Cruises | Jason Leppert | February 04, 2016

Princess Cruises Unveils Fun ‘Come Back New’ Entertainment

Photo by Jason Leppert

Sailing on the Ruby Princess last week, members of the media were presented Princess Cruises’ latest "Come Back New" marketing campaign. Several of its major components including new entertainment offerings like Stephen Schwartz’ “Magic to Do” and “The Voice of the Ocean” were previewed.

“Magic to Do”

Stephen Schwartz is the Oscar, Grammy and Tony Award-winning composer behind such hit musicals as “Wicked,” “Godspell” and “Pippin,” and his latest endeavor has partnered him with Princess to create “Magic to Do.” The production show – currently onboard the Crown Princess, Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess – elevates the line’s entertainment to a level it hasn't achieved in some time, appropriate given one of the featured numbers is “Defying Gravity,” set to wonderful vocals and a double levitation illusion.

At its core, the performance is a revue of Schwartz’ most popular songs, but tying it all together is a loose narrative about the so-called Magic Maker and his ensemble cast of fantastical assistants singing and dancing their way through timeless illusions, some staged better than others. For anyone who has seen a magic show or two, most of the tricks will be familiar but enjoyable standards.

READ MORE: 8 Things that Define Princess Cruises

Vocals started out a little rusty as the sound mix first struggled to adjust to the right levels, but soared by the time the production was over, and elements of live music were a particularly nice inclusion. The set design and theatrical techniques employed are fairly extensive for a shipboard presentation, and some of the highlights were unique air and cloth effects as well as both whimsical and dramatic puppetry.

“Colors of the Wind” is a kinetic delight of fabric and color, and “No Time at All,” sung by a chorus line of granny hippies, is an absolute hoot as the bodies of the performers are hidden behind half-height puppets that appear to prop up their effectively oversized heads. Similarly, although much darker in tone, the shadow puppets of “Prestidigitation” are expertly projected on screen with a mastery that often looks like it could be video.

“Magic to Do” is a great roundup of Stephen Schwartz’ musical career set to classic illusions and fanciful stagecraft that will certainly appeal to his fans as well as mainstream crowds.

“The Voice of the Ocean”

I must admit, I have never seen a single episode of “The Voice,” so Princess’ remounted version was my first taste of the television show. However, I do have lots of experience with shows-turned-cruise fare, having covered several of Holland America Line’s “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” theme sailings.

My first impression of “The Voice of the Ocean” was utter surprise at the ample turnout. The house was beyond full, genuinely leaving standing room-only. Clearly this is a popular franchise that speaks to a broad demographic. The signature “I Want You” rotating coach chairs are identically recreated onboard with three members of the ship’s company, entertainment team or officers, seated with their backs turned as eight vocalists complete for the judges' and audience's attention.

READ MORE: Princess@Sea Now Covers the Entire Fleet

Guests from onboard try out for the show at karaoke sessions, and the best are invited to practice a number backed by a live band leading up to the last night of the cruise and their chance to be crowned “The Voice of the Ocean.” As the coaches are impressed, they turn their chairs around to vie for them on their team. Later, each coach selects their favorite runner-up, and the audience then votes for their favorite using a tabulation remote, thus selecting the overall champion.

Even though I expected another round of singing prior to collecting the final scores, the show was a fun evening with a mix of decent and talented singers, amusing coaches and an excellent band; and although who I considered the clear winner was not selected by the audience, the competition generally worked quite well and offered some fine encouragement to the participants.

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