In the early years of Busch Gardens Williamsburg, the country of Ireland was originally the Hamlet of Hastings; technically medieval England. This area has changed so much over the years that I plan on writing its own tale of development, but for now, I would prefer to concentrate on my memories of a show called “The Enchanted Laboratory.”
I was still pretty young when The Enchanted Laboratory opened in the old Catapult ride building. In fact, I would say I was the perfect age for the show and found the music quite enthralling. Yep. Even now I can sing the melody to the main introduction and finale of the show; the correct lyrics long forgotten.
“Nostromos Mystical Magical Show; a feast for ears and eyes! A world of wonder.. ….something.., of enchantment and surprise! …. Something… blah, blah, something artistical, …. something…??istical…. magical, mystical show!”
Yeah, I know. That is not even close to the main theme, but never fear! I’m pretty certain about the details of the show’s story at least.
It all starts outside the theater where everyone meets “Northrup the Assistant.” He gathers interest by performing a spiel designed to lure and entice guests to come inside and watch the show. Behind the energetic actor dressed in medieval-peasant garb is a banner that advertises Nostromos the Magnificent who promises to turn Iron into Gold. After gaining everyone’s enthusiasm, the crowd is led into the theater to watch the performance.
I can remember the inside of the theater clearly. The air was always cold and the scent of dry ice was forever lofting around. Fake candles flicker around the sides of the wall, and the stage is dark and quiet except for peaceful music that relaxes the senses. The assistant Northrup is busying himself around the Laboratory preparing the stage for the arrival of powerful wizard Nostromos, while everyone settles into their seats.
Before summoning Nostromos, Northrup awakens several animatronic characters. There is a wise owl named Pelinore** (my favorite character), a sleeping dog-dragon Talon, and a taunting raven named Elixer. The basis of the show is given right off the start as it is revealed suddenly that Nostromos will not be appearing and it leaves poor Northrup struggling to perform magic for everyone after the main introduction.
There were several parts to the story arc. There was an interactive magic trick with two children picked from the audience, a disappearing illusion, a spell that allows Northrup to fly (with its own musical number I may add), and the attempt of turning iron into gold.
I would like to insert a brief note that I was called up twice to assist with the trick of a drooping magic wand and the ol’ head in the basket trick. The second time I was savvy to how to keep the wand from breaking which garnered nervous glances from the actor until he bumped me lightly on the arm and whispered “just play along.” Ah~ Good times.
The “Iron to Gold” spell was the climax and since Northrup was not ready to cast such powerful magic, much like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the spell backfires and suddenly causes the beast named “It” to rise from the floor. The special effects were amazing as the sounds, smoke, flickering lights, growls, and bright flashes of light all made the scene very terrifying and yet tantalizingly fun. Nostromos appears on a screen above the theater and scolds Northrup for misbehaving while he is gone but also praises him for his honesty. Then, as Northrup begins cleaning a suit of armor and wishing everyone a fond farewell, the suit of armor on stage turns to gold when the young apprentice touches it, (by the use of laser projections of course). The show ends with that main theme and the doors opening to allow guests to stand up off the wooden benches and leave the theater.
Overall, I would like to stress that the most important aspect of the Enchanted Laboratory was that it was a high-quality production. The music was well done and the whole show inspired my imagination. So, a big thanks goes out to all of those who designed, produced, wrote, built, acted, and created The Enchanted Laboratory.
I will never forget the most important lesson of the show: “If you believe in yourself, then anything is possible!”
**You know, I wonder where the animatronic owl Pelinore is these days? He always said that “Wavering Faith will not serve you well.” I believe in you Pelinore!