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Growing up I was a competitive roller skater. My mom used to drive us out to practice six days a week with us doing our homework in the car while cramming in an after school dinner. Twelve years of my life went to lessons, dance classes, and choreography. At the end of it all, I wasn’t able to go to the Olympics, get a scholarship, be a paid professional, or even have my face on a Wheatie’s Box. Roller skating never did anything more than to give me the ability to enjoy dance and various rhythmic styles.
You know what though… I’m Ok with that. I learned to dance like no one was watching.
Skating led me to appreciate all forms of musical performances. As a kid I knew all the lyrics and choreography in musicals such as Cats, Annie, and Phantom of the Opera. It is only natural that when I am Busch Gardens, I get to reconnect to that little part of my life again.
In my heart I sing along and dance with those on stage. Inside I sing like no one is listening.
Since my life has made it more difficult to ride rides like I used to, I find that I now gravitate more to the various shows at Busch Gardens. Luckily, the park offers more than thrilling coasters.
Despite the lady that ran the red light and changed my life, it’s helped me to love like I was never hurt.
So you see, this has brought me to reflect on the “theme park” entertainment profession in a deeper, more artistic level. For example: What kind of person spends their days practicing and going through a mountain of trials, just to get to be on stage at a theme park?
My educated guess:
Years of training, tons of auditions, call-backs, failures, successes, and then working a bunch of crazy hours in extreme conditions with an unknown rehiring status; all for a few months out in the spot light with a mere hope of the crowd appreciates what they do. No matter what, they perform like it’s heaven on earth.”
Musicians, singers, dancers, technicians, and stage hands have to work hard as a team to pull it all together. It takes fast learning to pull off learning the lyrics, choreography, lighting and sound cues, all within a few weeks before putting it all out in front of a packed theater. The competition is tough and the stakes are high. The directors, producers, and stage managers have an ever watchful eye; mostly for mistakes.
Yet, I look back to my life with all of those tedious hours of skating; my coach barking “Arch your back, point your toes, head up, one-to-three, on-two-three! AGAIN!! AGAIN!!”
It was like Abbey Lee Miller on Roller Skates. Much of it was rather tough for a kid my age but I honestly loved every minute of it. If you asked me now: “Do you want to go skating?” My answer will always be yes! It is in my blood forever.
You see, the people out there put themselves through this daily grind for the dream of it all. To make a living using what they love more in life. It is noble. It is inspiring and I wish from the bottom of my heart, that they all make it big.
I’ve spoken too many of the performers from various decades. They all share similar stories of “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” The job is hard. No matter how talented, young, or nimble you are, the schedules are grueling. Don’t forget that any profession has its fair share of politics and drama as well. I’m sure there is a TV spin-off that is just waiting to be made.
I’ve never performed at any theme park, but I imagine it is much like skating was. You work all year for a single performance (aka audition or competition) to either: 1) blow the judges away or 2) just go home with your tail between your legs. Either one opens the door for even more psychological drama. Even if you win… the pressure is on!
For example: I once ran across an old guide for entertainers back in the Old Country days. It was for a street performer and it was for a complete improve role in the 1980s. In a very “round about way” the job was summed up to this possibility: Congratulations for making it. Expect to be heckled and ridiculed, worst yet… ignored! Any stand up comedian, dancer, or performer will tell you this is so true no matter where or when they work somewhere out in the public.
I’ve witnessed the last one first hand.
In France, I watched these extremely talented musicians out playing for the crowds. People began walking in front of standing audience instead of going through the obvious pathway because they could care less.
There is also that awkward stare of “Whaaa?” And then they kind of shuffle off like the sight of a guitar is something never seen in this world. There is also the occasional (thankfully rare) individual that shouts out a rude comment now and then. Just like the booklet from the 80s said, it is all part of the game.
However I see that most people, regardless to how long they did stay, pause, listen, and smile before moving on. There are also those that sit and remain for the whole performance. That of course, is what keeps those in the field going. That mutual respect of performer and the audience. God bless them.
My hope is that this little story may change a few minds about those on stage working hard for your applause and praise. They pull on those hot, sweaty costumes every day to showcase their talents in hopes to forward them in life and to have that glorious sound of applause.
Even if you don’t like a show, consider it like going to a restaurant where you may have a bad meal, but the server is good. Tip the server! If the performers are out there giving 100%, even if you find the show droll, clap after they are done; don’t be shy. I promise they won’t bite! All of their hard work in life has led up to this moment of entertaining you. In fact, those working behind the counters and rides that smile and wish you a great day, even when the weather is miserable, are doing it for you as well.
Just remember that if you see something that makes you want to clap and sway in your chair:
“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”
Oh, and some applause would be nice.
There is a new breeze blowing at Busch Gardens this year that captures your ears and eyes; much like strawberry fields and marmalade skies. London Rocks marks the return of a live performance production at the park’s historic Globe Theater and it does so with a clear message: “All You Need is Love.”
The show highlights the counterculture movement of the 60s, 70s, and early 80s. During this time, music reflected the attitudes of those living in a very complicated, tumultuous time period. In order to explain the British culture through the decades mentioned, I would need to reference several books, articles, and documentaries based on the subject. London Rocks, however, has less than 30 minutes to convey recognizable elements of the decade; 23 minutes to be exact.
So what can you fit into a half hour? Let’s just say that the show is a powerhouse of visual images and subtle references, cleverly disguised as an easy-going musical about love and togetherness. It is obvious that a huge amount of time and effort went into making London Rocks and therefore, I wanted to make sure I honored that work by breaking down the symbolism and theatrical elements that brings the show to life.
I decided the most logical way to share my interpretation of the show is visually. It is my hope that I will shed some light on the story, symbolism, and music behind London Rocks.
Please note, this is just my interpretation.
Also as an FYI: The “60s” is really classified loosely from 1963 to 1974.
While watching the animation here is what you need to take note of:
- Colors: The scene is muted in mostly shades of gray and a splash of yellow, blue, and specks of bright red. The muted colors evoke daily life in London and the robotic nature of being a part of the system. The red is showcasing “Iconic” London, British symbols.
- Cultural References: The style of art is similar to the animation found in the opening sequence of the BBC/PBS TV program called Mystery! (as seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAmGsM4Dids&feature=kp ) Several announcements are made on the TV screen from an animated Queen Elizabeth that is an obvious homage to Terry Gilliam’s animation in Monty Python. The Abbey Road Records is appropriately named as the album “Abbey Road” still remains the best selling Beatles record. The fictional “QBC” network or Queen’s Broadcasting Network is harking to the actual “BBC” (British Broadcasting Network).
- Symbols: Businessmen with bowler hats and briefcases, famous London buildings, post boxes, the British Underground Sign, peace symbols, flowers, paisley prints, tea pots, and tea cups.
- Animation: the animation cycles to in force the “hum drum” daily life. There is a sleeping cat that ignores a little mouse in the window of the record store. The men and women go about their day in a slow, methodical drudge. When the TV broadcasts the Queen, she is featured only in black and white and babbles on about proper British rules like how to drink tea. In-between these clips, there are snippets of black & white broadcasts.
A sample of Monty Python Animation for Reference:
- Color: Lucy’s bright yellow outfit clashes against all the black and white. From this we get that Lucy does not fit in with everyday life and thus reflects the nonconformist movement of the era.
- Cultural References and Symbolism: Typical London Rain, business men flocking to various jobs in the city. Lucy’s mini skirt, go-go boots, and hair style is showcasing how the youth used style and fashion as a means of rebellion. The record on her coat also shows that this may be inspired by the music she listens to. The audio and movements of the businessmen have a comedy style much like that found in Monty Python. **An example of what I am talking about:
After a very exciting animation of riding the British Underground, Lucy emerges to head home.
Cultural Reference: Lucy lives on Arnold Lane which I picture as a reference to the 1967 hit from Pink Floyd called Arnold Layne; a song with a very extreme counterculture message for the time.
- Color: The Yellow (aka: Lucy) is used to not only the door to her flat but to here bedroom window.
- Color: Her room is devoid of any color except for her window. I believe this is her world without music.
- Cultural References and Symbolism: The British Flag on the bed sheet, the pictures of all the members of the Beatles, the band logo from Who, a strawberry, more peace signs and flowers, records, a poster of London, and some other images I cannot make out.
Side note: Lucy plays the record and starts to sing and dance in her room by herself. The song is “It’s Only Rock n’ Roll (But I like It) by the Rolling Stones. (1974)
- Color: This is the start of the spiral of Blue and Pink in the background. In this case, it is Lucy’s crush-infatuation-love for the lead singer. I call this “Falling in Love” (You’ll see it again)
- Song: “For your Love” by the Yard Birds (1965)
- Cultural References and Symbolism: Peace signs, the Union Jack flag pattern, and a heart right below the lead singer that is projected on the stage. The four band members could reference the four Beatles, their costumes much like that of their early career. See below photo:
- Color: Red has been used to showcase only iconic British symbols so far. Now the color seems to evoke desire. The stage becomes more colorful the longer the music plays.
- Symbolism: Lips, peace signs, and paisley prints. The lips are an obvious choice for Lucy being enamored by the singer’s voice. I think the Paisley print is to represent the counterculture style of music.
- Cultural References and Symbolism: Dancers come on stage with Camera’s for their heads and also (not shown) wearing over-sized Bowler Hats. This seems to reference a connection to Lucy’s infatuation with the singer’s image through the British media.
- Song: “What I like about You”by the Romantics (1979)
(This is not the actual animation for this scene. I am using this one to have a visual reference.)
- Color: The queen is shown to be only black and white. At the end the sun rises and is the same blue and yellow and blue you see for Lucy and Guy (who is about to show up in the next scene)
- Cultural References and Symbolism: The Queen and her Corgis. She declares the music as “barking” and that the racket “Will never last.” This bit is to show that at the time the older population thought the music rubbish and that it was just an unwanted phase of the youth. At the end the sun rises playing The William Tell Overture.
- Color: Both Lucy and Guy have complimenting outfits in style and colors. The muted colors are back in this scene except for the records themselves which are in rainbow like colors. This multi-color aspect is starting to reflect what is considered bohemian or counterculture for the time.
- Song: “Wild Thing” by the Troggs (1966) and “Wishin & Hopin” By Dusty Springfield (1964)
- Cultural References and Symbolism: Records, flowers, and peace signs. The records are obvious nods to popular records for the time. Albums such as Bowie’s Alladin Sane (1973) and The Beatles album Meet the Beatles (1964) are two that I can definitely make out.
- Color: The costumes of all the other characters are multi-colored, thus meaning they have truly embraced the Bohemian lifestyle. The bright red hat and boots (I believe) are used as a tool to gain focus on the fact that the couple is being drawn together.
- Song: “Come and Get It” by Badfinger. (1969)
- Cultural References and Symbolism: Fashion exploded in the 60s. “Do your Own thing” was a time of self expression and being free. London was huge for the Mod movement and both Lucy and Guy represent that London “Mod” Look. The other characters are more of the “Hippie” style. Bell-bottoms, fringe, long hair, vests, folk-style hippie boots all reflect self expression-letting it all go and to be free from conformity.
- Color: Besides what is already mentioned above, the swirl in the background has taken a pink-blue color pallet from the monochromatic in the previous scenes. This ties in with the “love” aspect of Peace and Love.
- Cultural References and Symbolism: Besides the fashion & hairstyles, there is an addition to flowers which is a play on the “flower power” concept of make peace not war theme of the 60s. The hippie characters surround Lucy and Guy in celebration of coming together in the spirit of love.
- Color: Main thing to note is that the streets of London in the animation are now in full color.
- Song: “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by the Beatles. (1967)
- Cultural References and Symbolism: This is an interesting scene that requires some need 3D animation type effects. The dancers run in place but the animation is creating an illusion of them running forward. This, to me, symbolizes Lucy and Guy’s romance- or a whirlwind romance.
- Color: This set is all about pink and blue; just like the swirls before. The groomsmen are in blue and the bridesmaids are in yellow to represent the couple. It is hard to see but Lucy has yellow flowers in her hair and a yellow floral bouquet. Guy also has a yellow shirt and tie. The guitarist is in red and for me, this serves the same purpose as the woman in the red hat in the previous seen. “Desire- the drawing together of two people in love.”
- Songs: “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton. (1977) possibly one of the most lovely, romantic songs for any wedding. <<Yes, this played at my wedding so I am a bit biased.>>
- Cultural References and Symbolism: The groomsmen are dressed in an almost spot-on look for how the Beatles were dressed in the cover of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album from the Beatles. (1967) A historic album that was known to be “a historic departure in the progress of music” (Time Magazine). The cover even received notations in fine art! Also, the guitarist looks very much like Slash. Here is what the album cover looks like:
- Song: “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie (1987)
- Cultural References and Symbolism: This is where the album cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band comes into play. A myriad of people are placed together and animated in a very “Monty Python” style; swaying back and forth to the music. (Much like the lyrics themselves ~let’s sway) The dancers on stage are going through various popular dance moves such as the hustle and perhaps a bit of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Either way, the dance is catchy.
- Color: Note the Queen is wearing color now and is more liberal in dress. Red being Iconic Britain in this instance.
- Cultural References and Symbolism: This is the moment I realized what the “sun reference“meant! The sun (yellow) is Lucy and the sky (blue) is Guy. “Lucy in the sky with diamonds.” Check. The queen is also wearing clothing that is more liberal and saying the music isn’t all bad. For me this is a take that Britain herself is becoming proud of the new music. Attitudes are changing and moving forward into accepting new ideas.
To save time, I am combining all three animated sequences:
- Color: Blue and Yellow~ Lucy and Guy like the Sun and Sky.
- Cultural References and Symbolism: The cars morph to reflect Lucy and Guy’s priority changing. After the wedding they go from a convertible (picture not shown) to a family style vehicle. Animation is once again showing the passage of time.
- Color: The interior of the car has yellowish tones and outside blue. It is also important to know that all of their children have yellow and blue elements to represent both parents.
- Song: A mix of three songs sung by the individual puppets. From left to right: “We will Rock You” by Queen (1977); “Octopus’s Garden” by The Beatles (1969); and “Come Together” by the Beatles (1969)
- Cultural References and Symbolism: The couple’s children are singing different songs and arguing in the backseat. All three songs are all very different in meaning and attitude, yet still represent the feeling of the era. Their manner of dress enforces their differences. The girl puppet wins by stopping the other boys and choosing the song “Octopus’s Garden.” I may be wrong, but I think the two boy puppets resemble Paul McCartney and John Lennon. This would make sense as the Lennon–McCartney would be a songwriting partnership that is legendary. Both had distantly different styles and visions. Yet, despite their comradely, eventually they parted ways. As Lennon once said about McCartney: ““He provided a lightness, an optimism, while I would always go for the sadness, the discords, the bluesy notes.”
- Color: The characters of the Walrus and Gator are in red, white, and blue with stripes; much like the Union Jack Flag.
- Effects: Bubbles
- Cultural References and Symbolism: The best line in the whole song to describe why this was picked for the children growing up is this one line: “Oh what joy for every girl and boy, knowing that they’re happy and safe.” Of all the Beatles songs, this one is perfect for children. Written by Beatle’s drummer Ringo Starr, which I fondly note that in this scene the drummer is an Octopus. “The Walrus” is a common reference in Beatles songs and a part of various debates of meaning and origin. The crocodile really causes me to geek out here as I recall an old Beatles Cartoon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Db_45UVHuYs The song also says “coo coo cachou” (there are other spellings, which is a a nonsensical word used by the Beatles, then Simon and Garfunkel, and even more recently, in the movie Finding Nemo! It could honestly mean anything and perhaps is better left to be interpreted by an older audience. During the song, lyrics appear above and you can sing along. Again, this gave me a huge sense of nostalgia as the old Beatles cartoons for kids (which would fit the time of the triplets -1969) had “Sing-a-longs.”
- Color: Record store is in full color now with the Queen dressed fully in red. Lucy’s flat now has flowers that are in yellow.
- Cultural References and Symbolism: Britain has embraced the music and is moving forward to the next thing with high hopes.
- Color: Everything is in a rainbow range of colors now. There is even a “Yellow Submarine” like Blimp carrying the Queen.
- Songs: “Strawberry Fields Forever” By the Beatles (1967) ; “Magical Mystery Tour” (1967) By the Beatles.
- Effects: There is a smell of strawberries that is pumped into the theater at this time.
- Color: Blue –Pinks (love) Blue sky (Guy) (Yellow Lucy) Lucy in the Sky… etc.
- Song: “Space Oddity” by David Bowie (1969)
- Cultural References and Symbolism: The Big Ben flies into space much like the Space Race going on at the time. The song “Space Oddity” references Major Tom, a fictional astronaut, and was released in 1969. The first man on the moon was also in 1969. The milestone was huge in British society and all around the world. This animation, like previous animations, is speeding us to another decade and point of reference in Lucy and Guy’s life.
- Color: There are those same colors, now in combinations of blue and yellow. Signifying the children of both Lucy and Guy. Blue and Pink- love and peace.
- Song: “Under Pressure” By David Bowie and Queen (1981). Possibly one of my favorite songs of all time.
- Cultural References and Symbolism: The triplets are now teens in the 80s and are unhappy. The 70s brought a depression and the 80s brought a sense of frustration and possibly a sense of the “World May End any day.” This is the part I relate to. I was terrified of nuclear war and the threat that tomorrow may end. Money was being spent and nothing was saved. People lived as if there was no tomorrow. The culture of the era reflected that. I would say these teens represent the musicians of Boy George, Cyndi Lauper, and Billy Idol. Also take note that in the background, there is a kitchen; thus meaning that they are at home in Lucy and Guy’s house (yellow).
- Color: Lucy and Guy are wearing Yellow Black and White. The colors in the back are muted once more, meaning “daily life” has returned. They have conformed to the system and no longer have peace, love, and happiness.
- Song: “Hard Day’s Night” by the Beatles (1964) Appropriately sung by a generation from the early 60s and when the couple first met.
- Cultural References and Symbolism: Lucy is working. This shows that women are now in the working place and she is tired of being everything to everyone. Both are now working in a business job, much like the hum drum life of those animated figures drudging away in the streets of London. It looks as if they may be on the verge of breaking up. Their children are angry at this and are tired of the bickering. They fight among themselves only to have the girl bring them together much like the scene in “Octopus’s Garden.”
- Color: The swirls become pink and blue and thus love has returned. Their house is red and not yellow.
- Song: “Work it Out” by the Beatles (1965) to “Under Pressure” By David Bowie and Queen. (1981)
- Cultural References and Symbolism: Just like in any marriage, it takes work and love. Lucy and Guy find love with their children and with each other. After all, all you need is love.
- Color: Yellow is back for Lucy and Guy as more of a goldish color. The Queen and most everyone has some sort of Blue, Red, and White.
- Song: A clever use of the patriotic song called “Rule Britannia” mixed with “All you need is Love” by the Beatles.
- Cultural References and Symbolism: The queen is no longer supporting the music; she is in the music and proud of it. This means that the British people look back on their history in music and the arts in pride. In the end “Peace and Love” win out and the message is clear: “All you need is Love! Peace! and ROCK ON!”
My personal take:
I was a child of the 80s and all I knew of the 60s and 70s was what I learned through TV and my parents. Thankfully, my husband introduced me to music from the era. Not only did I learn about the the complexity and messages of the time, but I also realized that all the music I loved in the 80s and beyond stemmed from the radical change in philosophy and styles from the 60s.
That decade was huge in the development of the world. The time from 1960 to the 80s faced huge turmoil; war, nuclear threats, assassinations, and the uncertainty of what will be. Music, designs, and fashions all reflected the hope and desire to escape from the reality. In retrospect, it was an artistic way to show the multifaceted and complex nature of what direction the world would go.
Music binds us all together; generations, races, and sexes. We can agree about music and art in a way that each song speaks to us on some level. We relate to it; we put ourselves in the lyrics and find peace in the words.
Thanks to my loving husband, I not only learned about the classics of rock, but established a passion for a generation that I never experienced. London Rocks is that window for all generations. It is geared to teach us that love is the answer and no matter what, we can work it out.
I hope this article sheds light on all the symbolic meanings and details that went into this production. As a film studies major with a degree in studio art and animation, I appreciate the concept on every level. I felt with my knowledge, I could interpret some of the themes and meanings in an artistic way.
London Rocks is a loving tribute to all things British; not to mention, an era of tremendous change. I can never know what it was like to live in the 60s, but the show gives all generations a glimpse.With history we gain wisdom and understanding. We accept those who may differ from ourselves because we are no longer afraid.
To the creators and artists behind London Rocks, thank you for the work and passion put into this production. Every time I watch the show, I keep seeing more and more subtle references. Now if you could only add some Duran Duran, New Order, Erasure, and Pet Shop Boys to the list of artists; I would be even more ecstatic.
- A special thanks to Behind the Thrills who allowed me to assist them in coverage for media day. Here is their video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDP60JjEwB8 You guys Rock!
- Behind the Scenes Official Video from Busch Gardens: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0axpOjtjvtk&list=UUPT2be1EnXUnBPwZ7l6FyCg
- Scot Gasparich, VP of Entertainment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8RmzYeB-cA
- Sam Buntrock, Show Director.
- Tim Bird, Projection Manager. From his Linkedin profile: “I am a Tony nominated show designer specializing in the integration of video projection into live work. Whilst working as a founder and creative director of the Knifedge agency, which ran for over 10 years, my work was dedicated to blending art with technology, in the service of storytelling and communication. This ethos continues into current work.”
- Jason Kantarowitz, Creative Producer. From IBD: http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=25730
- Ben Cohn, Musical Director. Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/ben-cohn/4/445/531
- Ken Billington, Lighting Director. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Billington
- Stan Meyer, Set Designer. http://clearconceptentertainment.com/StanleyMeyer/ I adore Stan. A sharp dresser first of all. When I met him, that suit was fabulous. He has done tons of work for theme parks, including Verbolten at Busch Gardens. He took the time to speak with me and it was very hard for me not to drop into a “Waynes World bowing moment” of “I’m not worthy.”
Many thanks to all those I did not mention.
Please check out all of Busch Gardens Behind the scenes videos and interviews on their You Tube Channel.
In the meantime:
This year Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens has captured my imagination and inspired that neglected artistic side to flourish once more. Many people are surprised to find out that my degree is in Studio Art and Animation. Sadly, that life long dream of being a traditional Disney Animator was promptly crushed when the studio stopped producing hand drawn films.
Yep, you guessed it. Life happened. Bills needed to be paid and my passion for art fell to the wayside.
Still, through it all, Busch Gardens has been a muse for me on many occasions. Going to the park and seeing the murals and small details captured my heart and imagination for decades. The quality and dedication to themeing is what Busch Gardens has been known for; something that is rarely appreciated until it is gone.
Therefore, I decided to make a series of articles about my need to capture these works of art and present them to a broader audience. It is my hope that when you read my stories and view my work, that it inspires you to look at Busch Gardens in another way; to see the beauty in color, line, light, and form.. to see performances as art and expression and to enjoy the little things.
The Art of Howl-O-Scream
Busch Gardens equals entertainment. Whether you are on a ride, watching a show, having a tasty treat, or just taking in the sights, the goal of the park is to entertain you. Many dedicated people behind-the-scenes; the unsung heroes, work tirelessly to find a way to make the magic happen.
This year for Howl-O-Scream, the park tried something new with their “Terror-tories” concept. Obviously, there was a decision made to bring the adult entertainment to a new level. I found myself intrigued by the new sights and sounds.
The number of times I have seen the show speaks volumes for the production value and talent of the performers. For me, I feel that I got away with stealing a free ticket to see a Broadway show. From the costumes, lighting, sound production, set design, choreography, and vocals; I am continuously entranced by the quality of it all.
For example, the rich colors of the opening number, the soft hues of the nocturnal set, the velvety purples and gold of the finale all give me chills. The choreography uses these colors to compose the performers on stage much like painting a picture.
The newcomer this year is my strongest recommendation for a dinner-theater experience. Blood Banquet never fails to entertain your sense of humor and to please the pallet with luscious food and beverages. By far, it has been my favorite addition to Busch Gardens along with the Food & Wine festival earlier this year.
Blood Banquet set the bar higher at Busch Gardens. This is the one place you can interact with the performers and share a few laughs. You get to see their costumes and lovely personalities up close and feel like you are a part of the act.
The whole things reminds me of Threedneedle Fair. Back in The Old Country era of the park, actors ran the games and interacted with guests daily in this area. They constantly stayed in character and spoke strictly with Old English accents. I was happy to see a similar concept return to Busch Gardens this year.
The actual “show” does not take place on a stage, but around the tables themselves. There is a heavy influence of the vintage Hollywood Glam and a nostalgic humor reminiscent of Groucho Marx. The costumes and set design reflect upon 1940s cinema and the ending number evokes the Broadway show and dance number “That’s Entertainment.”
Therefore it was easy to get lost in the art and magic of the production. Here are examples of what inspired me:
Other Examples: It is in the Details!
The rest of my artistic inspiration is based on several magic moments around the park; an extremely energetic performer that goes above and beyond or the hidden details in alcoves around Busch Gardens. If you look closely, you can always see art everywhere you go.
So what inspires you? Feel free to share your favorite Howl-O-Scream art with me and the readers.
In conclusion, I would like to send a special shout out to all those people who give 110% at the park. Thank you for all you do and for the memories!
The Michelin star rating for restaurants has only three awards with “Three Stars” being the highest an establishment can receive. Three stars is only rewarded to those rare places exceptional cuisine where diners eat extremely well, often superbly. Distinctive dishes are precisely executed, using superlative ingredients. “Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage” (Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey).
It’s official. My mind is blown. It’s been three days since I attended Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival and I am still finding it hard to put into words just how amazing this event is. It’s like trying to describe the Mona Lisa or Niagara Falls to someone who hasn’t seen it. No matter what I say, I doubt I am capable of capturing the fun experience in writing.
But I’ll try.
I was there for both the first “official” day of the event and the following day. Even with two full days of gluttony, I barely scratched the surface of what the Food & Wine Festival has to offer. For the first time in Busch Gardens history, I failed to ride any coasters. The only ride I did manage to hobble onto was the train and that was only to speed up the process of getting to and from food kiosks.
The first day was spent learning how the Festival works and how to navigate through the lines to receive small tapas like portions of the various culinary delights. The choices! The flavors! How can one decide? It is as if Chef Gordon Ramsay made a smorgasbord of food and then told you to pick just one dish to eat. It cannot happen. “One simply cannot choose just one.” Thanks Boromir for providing us that lovely internet meme to use in this situation.
Then, on top of that, each station has an array of beer and wine to select to go perfectly with your choice of delectable yumminess. There was one moment I envisioned myself looking like Jabba the Hut slithering around the park in a gorge fest of debauchery. I refrained.. barely.
At the end of each day, I felt like the Mr. Creosote on Monty Python’s Meaning of Life that after eating, “one wafer thin” mint could cause my stomach to explode; and I was OK with that. I was happy. Very, very happy.
I was also lucky. Bacchus must have been smiling upon me because I was picked for being the first contestant in the new show Grape Stompers, given a complimentary opportunity to enjoy the Chef’s Guest dinner, and also attend a special VIP event that included meeting the Resident Chef of Busch Gardens, Justin Watson, before setting sail on the Wine on the Rhine cruise. Thrilled, is not even close to describing how I felt about all this good fortune.
However, my good fortune is yours as well! Now I have a very clear picture of the events, food, and wine to share with you here. It is my sworn duty to provide you with a breakdown of what I saw, tasted, sipped, and experienced during those fun filled two days.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy my overview of my weekend in more detail. It is so extensive that I decided to put it into categories of Entertainment, Food & Wine, and Merchandise. If you find that my writing style fluctuates, I apologize. It is just that getting everything down on paper is not an easy task!
Well here goes… prepare yourself for a Busch Garden’s fan-foodie extravaganza of information! Are you all a twitter yet? You should be!
The Chef’s Guests
~an interactive dinner show with Virginia Willis, a highly acclaimed chef and writer.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this show as I have never attended a cooking demonstration-dinner hybrid before. I was pleasantly surprised.
Virginia Willis was charming, funny, and the meal she prepared for us was divine. Her story about her grandmother was so heartwarming and thanks to Virginia, I will never look at Grits the same way again. She made me a “true grit” believer! I am already planning my own version of her recipe in the near future.
Overall Experience: Well worth the cost. The food was fabulous and did I mention the grits? They were absolute perfection of a Southern classic dish! I chose Elios Mediterranean White Wine to pair with my Pork Loin and found it was a very smooth and went great with my meal. I highly recommend it.
What is included: Learning how your meal is prepared along with recipe cards to take home. Menu includes Gold-Peak Sweet Tea Brined Pork, Tangle of Bitter Greens, Grits with Corn and Vidalia Onions, assorted desserts including Coca-Cola Cake. One Alcoholic Beverage is provided with proper ID, water, soda, or coffee.
Cost: $19.00 (pass member discounts apply)
Dates available: These may sell out fast! There are only two more days left to book the dinner- June 15th and 16th so book it now y’all!
For More Information: Virginia Willis website http://virginiawillis.com/biography.html and Busch Gardens information and ticket reservations: http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/FoodandWineFestival/Extras
** If you do not wish to purchase a ticket, you may still be able to see Chef Willis on stage for no additional fee at San Marco Theater June 15th and 16th (dinner and beverage are not included).
~ an interactive show where four guests are selected to actually stomp grapes on stage at the San Marco Theater.
I was anxious to see the show and made sure that me and the group I was with got to the theater early to find a seat. However, I didn’t sit down long as I was immediately selected to be a participant! Talk about exciting!
The performers gathered me and three other individuals in a huddle and gave us directions on what to do. We were to put on these white suits and protective goggles, go on stage, and stomp the living daylights out of some grapes in a friendly competition of sorts. I did my best, but alas… I will not harbor any “sour grapes” towards the victor.
Overall Experience: It was hilarious! I had a complete blast being in the show and came back later to see the show from another perspective. It is just as funny watching people hop around on grapes. The music and humor make the show very entertaining. A memory I shall forever cherish! Thanks Busch Gardens for making my day!
The whole event was captured on film and can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iTwfRH0DrQ&feature=youtu.be
Thanks to www.bgwfans.com for filming and sharing their link with me.
Wine on the Rhine
~ A live band performs on a Rhine River cruise while you enjoy a glass of wine and treats.
As soon as I heard that Busch Gardens was offering a separate cruise on the Rhine River to enjoy music, wine, and food, I never hesitated. I bought the tickets as soon as they went on sale. This was something I had hoped the park would do for years and I was not disappointed.
My cruise was perfect. The evening had cooled off and dusk allowed the landscape to be lined in soft shadows. The quiet motor of the boat was a perfect tone to set a relaxing zen state of our group. Our hosts and hostesses made sure we were clear the bridge and a tray of food and the cutest bottle of wine were both handed to me.
The band began to play the perfect blend of nautical, whimsical music. I was so lost in the music, wine, and chocolate that it really surprised me to see the boats take us all around the right bend of the Rhine River; an area that was once a part of the old cruises in the early years of the park’s operation.
Overall Experience: I adored every aspect of this cruise from beginning to end. Perfect. Book the tour now as I think it is an absolute steal! This is a perfect date night, girl’s night out, or just a fun way to spend a weekend evening.
Cost: $16.00 (Pass Member Discounts will apply) Seriously- $16.00 – book it before it is sold out! Otherwise, Que Syrah Syrah. ~ba dum bum!
The Art of Food
~Busch Gardens has rounded up 15 various food art experts and will having food demonstrations of their work in three locations in the park during the Festival.
I happened to run into Burton Farnsworth, an extremely talented artist who can make illustrations out of fondue that you would not believe! Being an artist and trained in animation, I was entranced by his work. Please make sure to look around at the Festival for these booths and see what magic is being made at each station. Obviously no one told Burton not to play with his food!
Locations: Ireland, France, & Italy.
Food, Wine, & Beer
Kiosks are set up around the park that house samples of various famous dishes from various European Countries. After my second day at the Food & Wine festival, I would recommend purchasing a pre-paid wristband at the Food & Wine Welcome Center when you enter the park, grab a “passport” food & wine brochure and a pen, and set off on a major culinary adventure!
Over two days, here is what I have experienced so far:
Location: Where Pigs in a Kilt normally operates. It is tucked under an overhang near the stables. This is the location of the famous Scottish Egg, so you may want to have a little “Egg Hunt” of your own!
Chilled Pea Soup: The day I went to the park was extremely hot! The first stop was Scotland and I chose the chilled soup. This is not for everyone, but folks who enjoy a little adventure in their meal will love it! Presentation: a beautiful swirl of green and cream. Taste: Minty, Sweet Pea Bliss!
Wine: I chose the Chateau Morrisette Vidal Blanc as I thought it would balance my sweet pea soup. It did. A lovely Virginia Wine on a hot Virginia day.
Location of Kiosk: Tucked away in the old Bistro 205, France is a bit hard to locate. However, I highly recommend stopping there. I made it my first destination of the day as I thought it was an appropriate way to start out the Food & Wine Festival. C’est Si Bon! Magnifique! Having waiters bring you the food to your table was a nice touch.
Vichyssoise: I had this dish on my first day at the park. What can I say; I am a fan of chilled soup on a hot day! Basically the soup consists of sweet onion, leek & potato puree with truffle essence. Presentation: Simple as it should be. Taste: A balance of bitter and sweet. The name may be hard to pronounce, but what a wonderful treat. This dish is for folks who wish to extend their pallets and try something a little different.
Moules Provencales Avec Rouille: Balancing my meal, I decided to try the steamed Mussels in Tomato Fennel Broth & Lemon Saffron Mayonnaise. This was the first time I have ever had seafood at the park and shellfish of all things! Presentation: Three Mussels in a light red broth. Taste: I enjoyed it. I just wish there were more than three mussels. I love seafood! I see food and I eat it. Ba dum bum. Thanks, I’ll be here all week!
Wine: Horton Viognier: Horton is Virginia Winery and many people may not know that the Viognier was pronounced Virginia’s State grape in 2011! I love Viognier and this sample had that refreshing splash of flavor I needed with my seafood dish.
Location of Kiosk: Trapper’s Smokehouse outside grille. Look for the very large Canadian apple and onion themed sign. It screams Oh Canada!
Pumpkin Carmel Mousse: I actually tried this at the “Chef’s Guest” show but nevertheless shall review it here. Presentation: a generous portion of crème’ brulee style custard in a clear cup. Taste: Creamy, smooth, and oh so good. Pumpkin and Carmel- how can you go wrong?
Location of Kiosk: This may the hardest kiosk to spot. It is inside the Funnel Cake building in Rhinefeld Germany. The line begins to the side closest to the carousel. Hopefully, it is not too tucked away. I would hate for people to miss the dishes of Austria.
Tafelspitz mit Apfelkren: Being that I traveled to Germany and Austria; I was really being critical of this dish. It is the national dish of Austria, so I was nervous about how they could possibly get the flavors authentic enough for my liking.
Presentation: In a little tray are several slices of beef that has been simmered in a broth and sliced thin. Next to it is a horseradish and apple sauce that you dip the beef in. Taste: LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! I will say that before you run out and buy it… you have to like horseradish. If you don’t, forget it. It is not for you. I am still impressed how the chef’s got the horseradish to balance with the apple flavor, but they nailed it. Bravo.
Location of Kiosk: Centrally located near the Festhaus, Darkastle , and Mach Tower. The food and beer stand in Germany is impressive and worthy of the center stage. Da isst es sich gut!
Currywurst: This was the dish I was craving since the announcement. I loved this dish when I was in Germany and I often ordered this is little restaurants and street carts in Berlin and Leipzig. Presentation: a little paper tray with several cuts of Knockwurst with spicy curry tomato ketchup and a side of roasted potatoes. Taste: It took me back to Germany. I felt like I had just handed my money to a vendor in Berlin, not Williamsburg. I will be enjoying this dish again and again for the remainder of the festival. Es schmeckt gut!
I am unable to drink beer; but was lucky enough to be with folks who were enjoying both beer flights. Option 1: German Beer Flight or Option 2: Virginia Beer Flight. I am providing photos of the samples as I felt it was a great deal! Even though I couldn’t drink them, I thought they smelled wonderful! The presentation of the samples was fabulous and even included a break down of the beers and their flavor profiles.
Location of Kiosk: Behind San Marco Theater. This Kiosk may be missed if you are walking from Italy to Germany, but could never be said if you were walking the other direction. It has a gorgeous sign made out of wine corks in the shape of huge grapes. I love that detail. Molto Bene! Bellissimo!
Caprese Salad: One of the best deals in the park. Fresh Mozzarella, grape tomatoes, and a salad mix with Italian Vinaigrette. Presentation: Salad in a cup. Taste: Cold, refreshing, tangy salad with lovely chunks of mozzarella.
Antipasto Platter: Sliced meats, olives, mozzarella, and roaster red peppers. I wasn’t super hungry and this dish offered a nice portion for those who would like a nice snack with wine. Taste: meats, olives, and cheese. Again, how can you go wrong with that?
Panna Cotta: Vanilla Cream Pudding with strawberries. Presentation: Artistically presented on a platter with a sliced strawberry to the side. Taste: Delicious. I wish this was served all year long.
Wine: I love Chianti and so I chose the Donna Laura Chianti. It was mellow with a few peppery notes. It went well with my Antipasto Platter. Delizioso!
Location of Kiosk: In Italy on the right hand side between Da Vinci’s garden and San Marco Theater. It is a brightly colored kiosk that cannot be missed. If you look closely at the silver sun on the top and side, you may be surprised to find out that it is actually made from cooking utensils!
Tapas: Roasted Marcona Almonds, marinated olives, and manchego cheese with Membrillo (quince paste). Presentation: Most impressive presentation of food in the park I have seen thus far. A clear plastic three divided tray is used to separate the ingredients. Taste: I could eat these items all day long… on weekends, at night, in a box, with a fox, on a train, in the rain. I was surprised at how something so simple in concept, could be so enjoyable at a theme park.
Venera con Jamon: Scallop Wrapped in Cured Ham with Saffron Rice and Romesco Sauce. Presentation: A jumbo scallop cooked with a strip of bacon skewered together and a side of rice. Taste: The Scallop was amazing. It was wrapped in Bacon. Case closed. I wish the rice had more saffron but since it is the most expensive spice per pound, I shouldn’t be too picky! Still, it prepared well and I will never, ever turn down a scallop. Or Bacon. Mmmmm bacon.
Pancho Sangria: I was told by two of my friends that this was astounding. Therefore, I shall try it on my next trip.
Location of Kiosk: Next to Escape from Pompeii. White with a blue tile mosaic pattern; there is no confusion that the kiosk represents Greece. However, don’t forget to look up! There is a super cute little red table on top with two bistro chairs. Simply adorable. I wonder if you can ask for reservations.
Halloumi: MY FAVORITE DISH AWARD GOES TO THE MIGHTY HALLOUMI! Griddled Greek Cheese with Clover Honey and Crushed Pistachious. Presentation: Exactly that. Taste: Heaven in Cheese form with honey and pistachios on top! More please?
Souvlaki Tzaziki Presentation: a marinated roasted pork & sweet pepper skewer with cucumber dill & yogurt sauce over a bed of fresh greens. Taste: Awesomeness on a stick.
Salata: Greek Salad with Lemon Oregano Vinaigrette and a crispy pita chip. Taste: Greek Salad is hard to make unique when you can order it so often at restaurants. However, the Lemon Oregano dressing makes this salad a little different and I really enjoyed it.
Wine: Elios Mediterranean Red Blend: Smooth and somewhat dry. I chose this wine to go with my pork skewer and salty Greek salad. It was a good, but I could also see the Elios white wine being a better choice with the pork.
Kiosks I missed~
Location: As soon as you enter Ireland from Scotland to your left. Previously a food cart, this area was touched up to have more of a Celtic Flair and offers Irish food like Bangers and Colcannon, Irish Cheese and of course, Guinness.
Location: Ireland; across from the Abbey Stone Theater. Rustic décor with a mighty big fish hanging off the building signifies you are at the Scandinavian station. Cured salmon, Swedish meatballs (that I heard were fantastic), and a waffle cone cookie are your choices here along with wine and a frozen cocktail.
Crepes & Coffee
Location: France near the Le Belle Gift Shop. A beautiful new addition to the park; this stand is under a wooden trellis with hanging wisteria. Here you can buy a crepe, coffee, or a glass of wine. Having French waiters greet you and ask you about your day while enjoying your food selection: Priceless!
Location: In France near Griffon Gifts. It was formally a drink kiosk and features a lovely little sampler platter of Belgian chocolate, toasted hazelnuts, and Edam Cheese. (Much like the Spain Tapas plate). The booth also has a Belgian “Beer Flight” of four beers.
Different from the wines featured at the kiosks, the Wine Tasting is offered at three gift shop locations: Bella Casa, Le Belle, and German Gifts. These locations also feature wine related merchandise, apparel, and even bottles of wine.
Each location offers the guest four samples of wine and a souvenir Food & Wine Festival Glass for $14.95. Once the glass has been purchased, one can take it to the two other locations and partake in the tasting for only $6.95 (Season pass member discounts apply). DEAL!
Located near San Marco Theater and adjacent to the Artisans of Italy Capodimonte shop; Bella Casa features an Italian Wine Tasting or an Italian/ Virginia Wine Comparison. My favorite wine of the festival so far belongs to a local vineyard and featured a wine at the Bella Casa Gift Shop. So Congratulations to Ingleside 2007 Cabernet!
Located in the Aquitaine section of France near Le Aeronaut Skyride, Le Belle offers a selection of French Wine or a Virginia/ French comparison. The French rosé was my favorite, but honestly; they were all very nice.
Located in the Rhinefeld section of Germany, German Gifts hosts an array of German Rieslings as part of their tasting set. I am not one to drink sweet wines such as Rieslings, but after tasting their selections; I was impressed.
Each of the above gift shop locations offers full bottles for purchase either to enjoy in the park or to take home. Just be aware that once the bottle is opened, it cannot leave the park! So if you plan on drinking a bottle with friends, best to start early and finish it in time before you leave.
Tee shirts and tote bags with the Food & Wine Logo are also being sold in the park.
Food & Wine Cashless Wristbands are also sold in several stores in case you miss the Welcome Center entering the park.
I cannot encompass the true experience of the Food & Wine Festival into words. It is just that expansive.
Speaking with Justin Watson, the resident chef of Busch Gardens, I was amazed at how much planning and preparation went into each dish and how even something as having fresh parsley for such a large crowd could pose such a challenge. He seemed quite anxious to hear feedback on the recipes created by the talented culinary team at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
He needn’t worry. Everything was exceptional! “Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage” (Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey). Three Stars!
So hop on out to Busch Gardens and discover what your favorite dish is! Just remember to stop and smell the rosé along the way.
This is an event to savor!
Something new is brewing at the park and surprisingly, it isn’t beer. It’s wine! Busch Gardens Williamsburg will open their arms and wine bottles to welcome all to their very first Food & Wine Festival in 2013!
Austrian, German, Canadian, French, Scandinavian, Grecian, Italian, Scottish, Spanish, Irish*, and Belgian* cuisines will be featured at various locations (kiosks) around the park. Suggested wine pairings to the various food samples will be offered at each location. (See below for more details on dates, times, and pricing.) There will also be a German Beer*, and Crepe & Coffee* kiosk as well.
In addition to the festival, the park is offering quite an array of extra wine experiences. There will be wine tastings offered in France, Germany, and Italy, a “Wine on the Rhine” cruise, and also a very elite VIP tour for the serious wine and food aficionados out there. Most of these will require advance booking, so make sure to visit the Busch Gardens webpage or the Tour Center inside the park to see dates, times, prices, and availability of purchase.
As a self-proclaimed wine connoisseur and foodie (A person who has an ardent or refined interest in food; a gourmet), I cannot wait to enjoy all the park has to offer this year in wine, food, and fun!
*Note: (Above information marked with an asterisk was added to the Busch Gardens Website on 5-15-13)
Please note all information listed below was directly found on the Busch Gardens Williamsburg website as of May 15, 2013 and therefore, event details and pricing may be subject to change.
The Food & Wine Festival basics:
Dates: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from May 31 – June 23
Time: 11 a.m. until one hour before park closing
Admission to the festival is included with park admission, and individual tastings range in price from $3-$7.
It’s a merry Merlot mess at Il Teatro di San Marco, where our all-new interactive grape-stomping show is a fantastically fun spin on a classic Italian tradition. Bring your friends and family and watch as our crazy cast smashes grapes. Think you’ve got what it takes to be a champion? Get ready, because you could be challenged to a stomp-off.
Live cooking demonstrations with Chef Virginia Willis throughout the day at Il Teatro di San Marco on May 31 – June 2 and June 15 -16. See venue or park map for show times.
Food & Wine Festival Welcome Center
Situated right outside the main gate, our Food & Wine Festival Welcome Center is a one-stop information shop. Have a question about our brand new event? Ask one of our friendly hosts, or pick up a special event guide that will point you toward the closest culinary adventure. Browse culinary-themed merchandise, or register for unique experiences like wine tastings, behind-the-scenes VIP tours and celebrity chef encounters.
Additional Food & Wine experiences to consider in 2013
Please note all information below was found on the Busch Gardens website as of May 15, 2013; event details and pricing may change.
French Wine Tasting
Enjoy a tasting of four French wines in our newly renovated wine bar located at La Belle in New France.
Wine Tasting details:
- Taste (4) different French wines.
- Each sample is (1) ounce of wine.
- Learn about the wine offerings of France.
- Recieve a complimentary souvenir wine glass.
- Tastings are approximately 20 minutes in length.
- Available daily from May 24th – October 27th, 2013.
- You must be 21 years of age to purchase and consume alcohol.
- Positive proof of age is required.
- General admission to the park and parking are not included and are required.
Please arrive 15 minutes in advance to confirm your reservation.
Pass members receive a special rate by logging into the pass member area of the website.
Cancellations: Dining reservations must be cancelled or rebooked a minimum of one day prior to the scheduled dine or total payment will be forfeited.
Food & Wine VIP Tour
The Food & Wine Tour offers a sampling of foods and wines from around the world. This experience will excite your palate for sure!
- Each tour will be enlightened by its own personal guide.
- Learn about food and wine pairings from various cultures.
- Experience the flavors of 6 food menu items and a choice of 3 beverages.
- Tour is approximately 3 hours in length.
- Available every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from May 31 to June 23.
- You must be 21 years of age to purchase and consume alcohol.
- Positive proof of age is required.
General admission to the park and parking are not included and are required.
Cancellations: Tour reservations must be cancelled or rebooked a minimum of one day prior to the scheduled tour or total payment will be forfeited.
Wine on the Rhine
Enjoy a glass of wine served with cheese, crackers, strawberries, grapes and a dark chocolate truffle while cruising the Rhine River
- Wine choices for guests ages 21 years old include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Moscato, Chardonnay and White Zinfandel.
- Beverage choices for guests under 21 years old include water, soda or a juice pouch.
Your cruise details:
- Check in at the Rhine River Boat Docks 15 minutes prior to your selected cruise time.
- The boat will leave the docks promptly at the designated cruise time.
- The cruise is approximately 25-30 minutes in length.
- You must be 21 years of age to purchase and consume alcohol.
- Positive proof of age is required.
- The Rhine River Boat Docks are at the bottom of a hill and a steep set of steps.
- The area is not wheelchair accessible.
Cancellations: Reservations must be cancelled or rebooked a minimum of one day prior to the scheduled cruise or total payment will be forfeited.
Park admission and parking are not included and are required.
Pass Members receive a special rate by logging in to the Pass Member area of Busch Gardens’ website.
Upon hearing that the legendary progressive 70s rock band Styx would be the opening concert series at Busch Gardens this year, I couldn’t have been happier. I grew up as a roller-skating Rink Rat kid and therefore, the music of Styx was engrained in my head at an early age. Their music is a part of who I am and my journey in life. What a joy to finally hear them play live and at Busch Gardens Williamsburg no less! Woot~ mega Score!
The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Puffy white clouds sailed away in blue sky above the venue and the quiet breeze kept the temperature just right to rock the night away. I decided to upgrade and pay a bit more for the reserved seats for me and my husband. This also included my dinner for the evening and made for an excellent date night.
The seats we found were a few rows from the front-right and without any obstructed view. Pretty soon the Royal Palace Theater was full of guests and the energy started to grow while up tempo 80s music got the crowd moving.
When the band came out, I was impressed. Being that most of the 80s bands are returning to the touring circuit, I’ve seen many famous groups return to the stage. Some bands hold up well and they look and sound amazing. Others; well… so the story goes. Styx was a band that fell in the former category.
Tommy Shaw, guitarist-singer-songwriter for Styx, looked better than he did in the 70s. I have no idea what diet and exercise regiment the guy is on, but sign me up! Vocals for the group sounded just as I remembered and it was if I was transported back in time. Classic; timeless and influential to modern music; Styx really did their music justice that night.
Their setlist had a great balance of their Progressive Rock history with hits such as: Lady, Come Sail Away, Too Much Time on my Hands, and Renegade. I stood and danced the night away! Even with the obvious omission of Mr. Roboto, my husband and I had a blast! The fact that such an event was technically free to park guests still astounds me.
Busch Gardens should be proud to have added such a classic rock band to their roster and I am super excited to see who else will grace the Royal Palace stage in the years ahead!
Now I can hold my head high and proudly say I saw Styx perform live in concert! Domo Arigato Busch Gardens. Domo.
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!