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Cedar Point 2011 – Live Shows (Review) Updated June 2, 2011

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment.
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Good News, Bad News…and another summer of live shows at Cedar Point

First the Good News: Tropical Heat, Island Beat is back at the Red Garter Saloon, and it’s as ridiculously entertaining as last year. Infused with Island-beat pop rock standards, the cast delivers 25 minutes of energetic, fun music with the best selection of songs at the Point. Grab a drink, enjoy the show, and see what the raves were about (including my own) from last season. This year’s cast brings its own charisma to the show.

Next, more Good News: What a difference a year makes. Grand Ole Country at The Palace Theatre is the show they tried to stage last year, but found undone by the uneven casting. This year, the attractive ensemble cast is terrific, and every performer can not only sing well, but also do the difficult choreography, and do so with a smile on their faces. It’s a whole new creature, and it’s highly recommended this year. Granted, you better like your classic country music, ’cause it’s all about the foot-stomping, clap-along, “know how to hold ’em” variety here.  My one complaint — just like last year, the pre-recorded score is cranked up way too loud for the singers, who at times struggle to be heard over the soundtrack. It looks something like this:

Rockin’ The Point, at the Jack Aldrich, replaces last season’s one-year disaster, Rock Band Live. Thank goodness. This returns the show back to it’s musical theater roots, with a variety of students from around the region performing a 30-minute homage to rock music, from the 50’s to the 80’s. The talent varies from good to very good, and it’s a welcome return-to-form for the standard Broadway-style-review. The show is upbeat, the cast clearly enjoying themselves, and a good way to end your day at the park. The sound inside this theater is uneven. Depending on where you sit, it can be just right, too loud, too echo-y, or too soft. I suggest getting there early and sitting toward the middle to middle rear of the house.

Everybody Loves Snoopy is back at the Goodtime Theater (the old Imax theater) and it is virtually identical to last years show, with the same cast basically intact. That’s good news because it brings back the excellent brother-sister team of Neill and Lara Shelton, with some of the supporting cast also showing improved strength and a few new tricks this year. But the show itself is virtually identical, complete with 7 costume changes and multiple sets. The general consensus on the way out of the theater was “this is the best show I have ever seen in a theme park” and outside of Disney Shows, I would second that.

And now, the Bad News….I have never been a fan of All Wheels Extreme in any of its incarnations, and this year’s is even a bigger mess. It’s loud, chaotic, and everything you see here is done better, faster, and more cleanly on weekend Extreme Sports tv shows — you know, the ones they run in the middle of the afternoon on Saturdays because even the studio sports departments know that nobody watches this stuff. That is not to say that this cast is not athletic, and that they don’t know their craft. The bimbos are back to cheer, clap, and generally serve as obstacles for the stunt performers to swerve around and increase Cedar Fair’s insurance premiums. I suppose if you are a very drunk father of a group of  7-year old boys who insist on seeing this show, they probably serve to make this 25 minutes more tolerable. It’s chaotic, and the direction is poor — you don’t know where to look for half of the production, and the tumbling and bike-riding is well done but overall one-note.

This year one of the bimbos does this:

One of the tumblers does this:

BLECH….

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Cedar Point 2010 – Live Shows (Review) — updated May 31, 2010

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment, musical theater, Theatre.
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All of Cedar Point’s shows are now up and running for the 2010 season.

I’ll start with the newest of them, “Rock Band Live” at the front of the park. It’s awful. I can’t tell you what a mess this show is. Based on the computer game, it mixes pre-auditioned audience participation with a gag-me “scripted show” and is a direct ripoff of “the American Idol Experience” at Disney Hollywood studios without the budget, glitz, interest, or talent. The microphones go on and off, emit static, and sometimes fizzle right out. The lighting and costuming are bizarre to say the least — at times, it looks like the slaughter-of-the-pig sequence from Carrie, the Musical. The technical work is sloppy throughout. The performances are shaky, ranging from mediocre to completely inadequate.

I’m not even going to waste more time on that show — it is dreadful — stay away. It is sure to be a one-season temporary production in the theater that normally houses Broadway-style reviews.

Everybody Love’s Snoopy is the big-budget ice skating show in the Goodtime Theater. It’s much better than last season’s production, and the skating is quite good. The entire thing is well choreographed and the sets and costumes look terrific (this is an import from Cedar Fair’s Knotts Berry Farm from last season). Brother and sister skating team Lara and Neill Shelton (competitive pairs skaters) do a terrific job with their featured segments — they are energetic, young, and attractive. There are no beer-bellied skaters this year (unlike last season). The show looks something like this:

Lara and Neill Shelton “boogy” to some Buble:

And here, they perform more serious stuff (their death spiral):

By the way — the Goodtime Theatre (Everybody Loves Snoopy) used to be the old IMAX theater at CP — as a result, it was designed to maximize sound from the front of the house to the back, and to deaden audience sound. That results in a very hollow live-feedback sound. You literally can not hear the people around you applauding, laughing, or responding. As a result, the sound is very one-directional. They make a big deal every year of urging you to applaud and respond when you like the skating elements. Please do so. The cast will enjoy hearing your response, and your neighbors will feel less like they are the only ones in the packed theater.

Let’s continue with the most highly attended but least interesting show of the bunch: ALL WHEELS EXTREME; which really is only bikes, in-line skates, scooters (the artist fell twice), gymnasts (of the backflip and not much else variety) and a couple cheerleaders.

The show is what it is, and except for music, is virtually identical to last summer’s show. The stunts are good. The cast is attractive. The effort and energy that goes into this show are phenomenal. But it’s all a hollow thing. You can see more than this on tv these days, any given afternoon. But they amp the volume up, keep the crowd cheering, and its a pleasant way to spend 25 minutes with a great view (of both the performers and the blue lake beyond). Here, one of the performers does a (wait-for-it…) backflip:

Here’s another shot: you get the idea —

GRAND OLE COUNTRY at The Palace Saloon is a tremendous improvement over the sing-along that has been there the past few seasons. The six-person cast performs a variety of country and gospel songs from Patsy Cline to current favorites. It all moves along briskly in a clumsily-choreographed community-theatre caliber show. The performers have great voices. The girls are particularly strong. The guys have nice voices but stumble through their dance moves. The volume of the canned music is cranked up far too loudly for the performers, and some of them can’t be heard over the piped-in music. This is the same problem that plagued last-years show at the Red Garter Saloon. One of the men (with a deep baritone voice) fares better than the others; another of whom has many solos and basically can’t be heard at all. The costuming is fine, and the lighting good. My suggestion would be to crank down the volume, let the kids perform, and cut all that fussy choreography. Here they perform some of the clumsy choreography:

On the other hand, the diamond of the summer so far is over at the Red Garter Saloon. TROPICAL BEAT – ISLAND HEAT is an all-around terrific show; the best in the park this summer. The live band is back and they look and sound terrific backing up a three-member cast.  The guitar player sings along, and it’s all great fun. The music here is crowd-pleasing; the cast is energetic and clearly having fun; and the show is well-staged, avoiding needless movement, briskly working its way through a set of beach-party infused tunes that range from “Get On Your Feet”…to “Turn the Beat Around”. Terrific fun. Here’s a few shots of the cast in action:

As with all shows at CP, you need to get there at least a half hour before the show. The Red Garter Saloon in particular has a seating problem with not enough chairs to go around. If it’s full, get a soda and stand at the bar. This show is worth standing through.  If you only have time for one show – skip the more obvious All Wheels stunt unspectacular, and head directly to the Red Garter Saloon at the front end of the Frontier Trail. You’ll have a great time, and see the most professionally produced show at CP in quite some time. If you have time for two, pick up Everybody Loves Snoopy and enjoy the skating, air conditioning, and attractive cast.

Summary – 2010

Best Show: Tropical Beat – Island Heat

Best cast: (tie) Everybody Loves Snoopy — Tropical Beat – Island Heat

Most Energetic cast: All Wheel’s Extreme

Best Choreoraphy: Everybody Loves Snoopy

Best Direction: Tropical Beat – Island Heat

Best Lighting: Everybody Loves Snoopy

Best Sound Design: Everybody Loves Snoopy

Best Set Design: Everybody Loves Snoopy

Best Costumes: Everybody Loves Snoopy

Best Featured performers: Lara and Neill Shelton (Everybody Loves Snoopy)

Best musical selections: Tropical Beat – Island Heat

Cedar Point’s “Starlight Experience”; a weekend at the park May 26, 2009

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment.
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I have a season pass for Cedar Point — I decided to spend the weekend there Memorial Day weekend, and had a marvelous time staying at the Lighthouse Point cabin right on property. It’s a great little cabin with AC and 2 t.v.’s !! It has a small exterior porch, and a terrific lake view. It’s also a 2-minute walk from the Magnum park entrance. Highly recommended (they are appropriate for up to 6 — though 6 is pushing comfort level)

CP-cabin

I’ll get to the overall ride review in a bit — but since I’m a director and designer at heart, let’s take a look at the shows and other stuff first. First off, two of the major live shows are not yet up and running — neither Signed, Sealed Delivered (the Broadway-style review) is running yet, nor is the ice skating show, Snoopy’s Big Bow Wow. Those arrive in June and I’ll update this when those are up and running.

UPDATE 8/8/09:  Signed, Sealed, Delivered is now up and running. The show is fast, loud, and at times unintelligible. But the performers are good, and the show is the closest thing the park has to a “broadway review” type production. There is too much Four Seasons and not enough Vandellas, but it’s still fun and well performed. The kids tend to mug and play to their friends in the audience (at least at the performance that I saw) but there is enough talent to spare.  Snoopy’s Big Bow Wow is looking a bit tired — but maybe that’s cause it was the last performance of the day. The technical work and lighting here are marvelous — the best in the park — but the skaters look a little time-worn, and the lead male ice-dancer has a beer belly. Still, it’s a fun event, equally impressive to the adults and fun for the kids. Certainly take some time out to see this well-done ice review. Its unique, and its well done.

GOT COUNTRY, at the Red Garter Saloon is a loud, upbeat pop country show with three guys and three girls. The lead male (Billy) in particular is quite impressive in his vocals, the remainder of the cast good. This show is LOUD — needlessly so. They singers had a hard time outshouting the canned music that is cranked to levels that are too loud for this intimate venue. Arrive at least 1/2 hour before the performance or you will have noplace to sit. You can stand at the bar for the 25 minute show, but then you’re hardly going to get the chance to take the load off for an hour and relax. By the way, the Red Garter serves adult drinks and beer in addition to food. Standard themepark fare – but not bad to combine lunch with the show. Service is SLOW.

On the Wicked Twister Midway – The All-Wheels Extreme show opened this weekend. It’s fun, rowdy, and the extreme bike riders, roller skaters, and performers are all energetic and fun. The tricks and stunts are standard theme park level, some of it very well choreographed. The dancers are enthusiastic. The two male gymnasts are fantastic, although a bit one trick after their first sequence. This is a great 25-minute show. It too requires you arrive early. You can do some people watching of people on the beach while you are waiting. You’ll enjoy it, just don’t think too much cause the “storyline” is non-existent. Enjoy the music and the stunts, you can’t go wrong.

Over on the Frontier Trail, the majority of it transforms at night into the new “Starlight Experience”. They advertise “a million LED lights at a cost of approximately a million dollars.” There are nowhere near a million lights, but it’s bright and colorful, and it really IS an addition to that part of the park. You won’t linger long while walking through the display, but it’s a pretty and colorful way to end the day. It looks like this:

CP-TE1 There are also some big blow-up snoopy characters themed to the colors of the display which loosely follow colors appropriate to the “seasons” — blue and white for Winter; Green for Summer, etc. They are the same things you see people put in their front yards at Christmas Time. Snoop, Lucy, Charlie Brown, etc.

In order to set up, it takes them about a half hour, and they close down the frontier trail during that time. I heard a lot of grumbling from the teens who are used to running through the trail to get from Millenium Force to Maverick for their last rides of the evening. Now, they have to go around on the Gemini Midway, or take the train. It also started a good hour too late — 9:15. Eventually, they’ll get that setup down to a bit less time, and they really do need to start it earlier in the evening if they still want to retain that family audience this is clearly aimed at.

It’s pretty, and it’s worth a wander through. It wasn’t worth a million dollars which would better have been served fixing the bathrooms, or hiring a few more kids to clean the bathrooms all summer — still the most disgusting bathrooms I’ve seen at any theme park anywhere.

As to the rest of the park: it’s exactly the same as last year (Oh, there are some new directional video monitors and a new fountain, but that’s basically like saying the cake has sprinkles on it versus it does not — no big whoop.) Magnum XL is celebrating 20 years (Can you believe it?). It is as sparsely ridden as in past years, and in two very busy Memorial Weekend days, it never had more than a half hour wait.

Top Thrill Dragster was up and down all weekend — but seemed to be running most of the time. When it runs, the line is about 1 1/2 hour all day — when it begins to break down, that wait can go up to 3 hours.

Millenium Force was whipping riders through the turnstiles as fast as they could. The ride is still marred by horrible restraint systems that don’t permit many riders to ride (those too tall or those too wide, or those with normal American shaped bodies that can’t fit inside the ridiculous seatbelt system). Make sure you try the sample chair at the entrance if you have any doubt. By the way, that new restraint system is here to stay. It was installed in 2004 after a death on a similar gigacoaster elsewhere, and in over-reaction Cedar Fair changed the restraints at all their parks and they have stayed that way. The Ride Ops on Millenium Force are the rudest and roughest at any of the rides at Cedar Point. Sure, they are in charge of possibly the best coaster on the planet – but the attitude here is basically “Get on, shut up, hold on, ride, get off, buh-bye”

Everything else was generally up and running except for the Pirate Boat swing — not sure if it had a mechanical problem or just plain old not enough ride ops. Their full compliment of employees won’t be on board until the high schools and colleges in the area all get out in early June.

I had a great time, and Cedar Point is what it is — an amusement park with the best coasters in the world, fighting an identity complex as a Ride Warrior park versus a Family Destination park — it’s both, though the Coaster and Thrill Ride portion is definately winning the game. The paddlewheel Excursion is a mere shadow if itself. The trainride spends as much time weaving around the roller coasters as it does going through the remaining wooded area of the park. They are both afterthoughts at this point. I’ll leave you with a final photo that sort of says it all…as the Paddlewheel Excursion boat winds its way through the lagoon, in the shadow of Millenium Force, dwarfing the ride, and ruining any “frontier ambiance” that the ride once had. It’s a sign of what Cedar Point has become — America’s Roller Coast, with a few other leftovers from the 50’s and 60’s holding on for dear life as they get pushed aside in favor of something that is taller, faster, louder, and more thrilling.  More photos can be found at my smugmug photos here: https://ronannarbor.smugmug.com/gallery/8317795_cRqWb#544890321_gq756

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