Florida’s humidity was sapping my energy as I trudged through Busch Gardens Tampa feeling like I was really on a safari… aka… barely any shade. Instead of melting in the heat like a fallen Cherry Popsicle, I decided to take advantage of the attractions where shade always guaranteed… the shows! Due to time restraints I wasn’t able to watch ALL staged shows.
UNTAPPED: BURN THE FLOOR
Ballroom dancers perform spicy and exotic moves with a hint of sexy at the Pantopia Grill—the only dining area in the park to have a stage (you don’t need to eat to watch). I watched in jealousy at the sassy yet graceful way each dancer performed to styles mostly rooted in Latin or Swing… I wanted to do that! Although most dances involved the group moving together, there were still many moments when each of the cast of international dancers was able to show off their personal styles. As each set continued, my dance-dumb self recognized the building blocks of many ballroom moves, but the dancers threw in plenty of tricks to show why they were the professionals. At one point, two guys actually leapt onto the dining tables and competed in a Latin-inspired “Tap Dance” battle within the crowd.
All music was sang by the powerful vocals of two, talented singers. A second-floor stage also featured three men plucking guitar strings throughout. Although it looked visually nice, I’m not sure they were needed because with the accompanying soundtrack I couldn’t tell if they were really playing or not.
OPENING NIGHT: CRITTERS
Be prepared to watch scores of creatures—furry and feathered—as they blur the line between acting and just being themselves. While barely anybody gets stage time longer than 30 seconds, that just means the appearances of mini horses, macaws, and even emus keep coming and coming. While most tricks involve a moving animal moving and activating a switch, there’s some actual tricks such as a Broadway-singing bird, a hide-and-seek dog, and a trio of birds whose tails actually scrape the heads of audience members as they fly above.
The story begins with the animals rebelling against the former host of their show. Two stage hands view this an opportunity to take the spotlight—but first they have to prove themselves. A similar “Critters” show ended years ago and close observers will notice several of the old tricks revamped under the new spotlight. And just like the old show—unnecessary singing. Okay, the first song was actually cute because the old host is trying to sing it while the animals prank him—but the song itself isn’t memorable. The remaining songs seem to come out of nowhere and thus become borderline annoying. While the actors can really sing—unfortunately their songs add no memories.
At the urging of their Grandfather, a very “plugged in” child joins their Grandpa in his world travels and learns there is much exciting entertainment to be found in nature. Through whimsical sets and large projected backgrounds, I was transported to the Serengeti, the Great Barrier Reef, the Artic and the Rainforest. As the name of the show hints, the centerpiece is the ice-covered stage where at times up to twenty performers danced with half of them skimming the ice in tight choreography—yet a mid-ice collision never occurred.
Besides ice skating tricks there’s also jumping meerkats, a dragonfly zipping through the air, and monkeys on a trampoline all making appearances. Of course these aren’t real animals—although there are a few animal actors—but very elaborate costumes donned by acrobatic dancers.
By the time you started to appreciate an act, it was on to the next set. Iceplorations could easily stretch into an hour but with the time given the show quickly crammed a lot into a little time.
Riding on acapella’s popularity following movies like “Pitch Perfect” or television contest “The Sing-Off” this show follows an acapella singing competition between an all-boy and all-girl group. While the singers and the songs are hits, the show itself isn’t memorable. I believe most of the audience was more entertained by having an excuse to sit for half an hour in the shade with a fan. Busch Gardens already inserts singing into all its shows (see above) so we know the park is filled with singers—but this is the only show unaccompanied by other tricks.
I was mildly amused by the little ways the actors would make their characters their own even if it wasn’t important to the story—like a girl getting her hair caught in a twirling umbrella or the awkward-seeming nerd on the guy’s team tripping during a dance. Each singer was talented, however in the final song they all sang to a soundtrack which defeated the purpose of this whole show.
This summer-only show energized the audience over the big Gwazi field on a great multi-tiered outdoor stage. The only problem with this arrangement was the lack of seat elevation. If there’s a tall person who sits in front of you, you won’t see lower action onstage. Yet you are still bound to see something because every foot of the stage is covered with a performer—most notably the live rock band blasting out music from the top stages. Naturally there’s singing and the songs are all current Top-40 hits such as Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” to Kesha’s “Timber.” Everything is further pumped up by the group of tightly choreographed hip-hop dancers.
But the singing and dancing is only to uplift Kinetix’s main focus – all the crazy stunts. Ample time is given to a very daring balancing act, unique hula hoop tricks (and believe me I’ve seen a lot of hula hoop tricks) and even an almost seductive female duo on a single, twirling suspended hoop. The final act was a bit of organized chaos as the choreographers tried to see how much varied action they could fit on one stage but it was a good way to once more see the previous performers show off one more time while a troupe of fun-loving guys trampolined off the cityscape in the background.
Kinetix has only one performance a day in the late evening. Afterwards, guests only have to turn in their seats to see the Park’s night time fireworks.
PAUSING FROM THE ROLLER COASTERS
At first Busch Gardens’ choice of shows seem strange against an area where the relationship between man and animal is the first theme—but there’s only so many nature-hugging, animal tricks shows you can create. As a result, Busch Gardens has a good show line-up that still has hits or misses. The most obvious mistake is attempting to insert singing wherever possible—please don’t try to be a Disney—Busch Gardens has its own charm! Experience the talent of Busch Entertainment next time you visit… you’ll also get some welcomed shade and a chance to sit.
Please excuse the quality of my photos– flash photography is not permitted in the indoor shows and my little point-and-shoot was rebelling.