Drones, Dancing and a Musical Revolution: Carnival Cruise Line Amps Up Its Entertainment

by Ryan Leeds

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday September 26, 2019

Even drones will be dancing on the high seas this December when Carnival Cruise Line premieres two musicals on its new ship, Panorama. The maiden voyage is slated for December 9 and will include the shows "Rock Revolution" and "Broadway Beats."

Recently, entertainment and travel insiders were recently invited to Carnival's Miami-based, 44,500 square foot facility to watch a sneak peek of "Rock Revolution" and to learn how cruise ship entertainment is created.

The Woodstock tribute, directed by Jonathan Tessero, features Carnival's finest performers-and drones-who are selected based on talent and personality. Many have worked several contracts and are nominated by directors of their past shows. The show features a horn trio, rock band and enormous LED screens chockablock with psychedelic images. For the first time, drones will also be interacting with this cast of 12, moving to the beat of the music through state of the art technology.

"When planning Carnival Panorama's Playlist Productions shows, we challenged ourselves to think more creatively than ever before to find ways to 'wow' both our longtime guests and those sailing with us for the first time," said Kerry Stables, creative director of Carnival Productions. "From performing drones to new music genres and a keen attention to costuming, décor and theme details, these shows prove how innovative our productions have become and raise the bar on our offerings in a fun, creative and unique way."

Stables, a British native, began her career as a performer with Carnival and has worked her way through the ranks, carefully overseeing all of the 14 shows that play on Carnival's fleet, "We start our process as though we have no budget and no limitations and the we scale down from there," she said.

Budget is a primary concern for any organization. Carnival realized this when they were using valuable cabin space to rehearse. In 2014, they put plans in motion for their massive facility, which includes 21 studios, nine music/band rooms, four vocal studios, and three dance studios. The studio officially opened in May 2017. "It's practically paid for itself," said Press Relations Director Vance Gulliksen.

"Broadway Beats" pays homage to the Great White Way and the city that inhabits it. Garment workers were busy in the shop, creating elaborate costumes representing the Big Apple, Angel of the Waters, the Chrysler building and other monuments. Costume designers Lucio Bolivar and Jim Buckovich spent time in New York City to glean inspiration for the show's metropolitan look.

Carnival offers a generous lead time from the show's inception to the first performance. Between the cast and the creative team, they are offered a full year to tweak the needs of their shows.

Insiders were also treated to live performances of Carnival's other offerings, including "Studio VIP," which tips its hat to the famous Studio 54; "Latin Rhythms," a Colombian based quartet; "Wrecking Crew," a cover band that plays contemporary hits; and "Ibano Strings," a trio containing two electric violins and one electric viola. Performers hail from all over the world as Carnival actively holds global auditions. 

Panorama, a 133, 500-ton vessel, is the first of three ships to be unveiled in the coming years. Next year, Carnival will add Mardi Gras to its existing fleet. And that's a party you won't want to miss.

Ryan Leeds is a freelance journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine and The Broadway Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @Ry_Runner or on Facebook.

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