TwitterFacebookPinterestGoogle+

This cruise line rivals Broadway with 134 shows, 50 theaters

MIAMI (AP) — In a non-descript building in North Miami, two dozen dancers in bouncing yellow skirts are high kicking the can-can, aerialists are spinning perilously high from silk cords and frantic seamstresses are hemming outfits in a 20,000 square-foot costume shop. They are all part of a company that puts on more live productions a year than Broadway and London’s West End combined.

Royal Caribbean International’s cruise line directs 134 shows in 50 theaters on 26 ships around the world, including seven Broadway-originating shows, eight aqua shows, 18 ice shows and dozens of original musicals.

“We have a nightly audience of about 100,000. It is by scale a very, very large operation. Probably under one roof, the biggest in the world,” said Nick Weir, senior vice president of entertainment. “At any one time, there’s 1,500 to 1,800 cast members employed to make this all come to life.”

It takes two to four weeks for an army of dancers, singers and aerialists to learn a show before they’re dispatched to ports as far away as Australia and China.

On a recent afternoon, dancers roamed the halls in crop tops and buns. One stretched into a wide split on the floor. There are 14 dance studios, 15 rehearsal rooms, a recording studio, gymnasiums and auditorium. Exercise equipment lines some hallways. Nearby are living accommodations for 470 of the performers.

Often dismissed in the past as second-tier, cruise entertainment has evolved to a genre that Royal Caribbean says commands some of the best talent and technology around.

Several of the main characters in “Mama Mia” are from the Broadway version of the show. While New York theater has struggled to turn profits with its small, intimate venues, fickle crowds and finite real estate, the cruise industry’s onboard audience is growing exponentially.

Royal Caribbean is building five ships in the coming years, each with a custom-built theater with sophisticated stages and high-tech effects. A few years ago, they built a small plane with a 22-foot wingspan that now flies over the audience in every production of “FLIGHT: Dare to Dream.”

“The stages that they have on the ships, the technology is far better than it ever was on a Broadway stage, even 10 years ago,” said Greg Graham, who was the resident choreographer for “Billy Elliot” on Broadway before coming to the cruise line to choreograph “Hairspray.”

Roughly 3,000 hopefuls showed up to recent auditions for “Hairspray” in New York and London.

Weir said the casting operation is massive, culling talent from 75 cities a year auditioning nearly 25,000 performers last year alone.

“At my audition there were hundreds of girls … it’s very competitive. There are so many people who want to be doing this,” said Taryn Borman, a 21-year-old Australian dancer, who’s performing on a ship for the first time in a new show with aerialists and contortionists. She’ll head to Asia with the cast in a few weeks.

Singer and dancer Oli Reynolds, 26, wrapped up a starring role in London’s West End production of “Mama Mia” and came back to Royal Caribbean where he’s reprising the same role.

“I think there’s still a stigma about cruise ship performing … historically, a lot of cruise lines didn’t put the focus on the performing, it was more about the destinations,” said Reynolds, who stressed that’s changed. “People come from Cirque du Soleil, they come from Vegas, they come from London, they come from Broadway and it is a progression in my career for me.”

John Kenrick, a musical theater historian and adjunct professor at New York University, says the evolution was inevitable as more sophisticated cruise audiences — accustomed to seeing shows in spots like Vegas and Atlantic City — are demanding better entertainment.

“It’s certainly upped the game. (Cruise theater) used to be a little better perhaps than summer stock just with better costumes,” said Kenrick, adding “it’s definitely improved. I can’t say it’s Broadway.”

Every performance on every ship worldwide is rehearsed at the roughly 133,000 square-foot facility where the halls are literally alive with the sounds of music.

In one room, dancers with black top hats are perfecting choreography to “All That Jazz.” Across the hall, six singers are harmonizing a number from “Once Upon a Time.” In a recording studio next door, the walls reverberate with what sounds like theme music from an adventure movie.

At the massive costume shop, the hum of a sewing machine where a seamstress works on a gold glitter costume competes with the hiss of a steam iron. One of the head seamstresses is busy completing a white sequin ballroom dress, with flowing feathers and a rhinestone studded bodice. The cruise line makes its own costumes and must coordinate fittings for dozens of shows.

The cast on each ship performs not one, but three shows — a Broadway musical like “Hairspray” or “Grease,” a ballroom style show and a pop show. The shows are upbeat and family oriented and chosen to appeal to a wide audience — nothing too sexual or intellectual.

Scheduling all the rehearsals is more precise than the choreography. The new casts arrive, rehearse and depart to sea at a dizzying pace every few weeks. It takes exactly 26 days to train a new cast to perform the musical “Cats.”

Typical theater productions will rotate in new cast members periodically, but Royal Caribbean prefers to sign performers to roughly nine-month contracts. They spend a few weeks learning three shows from scratch and then head to sea. When it’s over, the cruise line casts a new set of performers and begins again.

Staging a show at sea has its own challenges and quirks. Performers need extra core strength to adapt to rough waves and pitching ships. If a costume is ripped, there’s no one to run to the store.

There are also perks that even the most legendary theaters on land can’t compete with — picturesque ports, free meals, room and board, the chance to interact with the audience and the sense of onboard community not found at other venues where performers simply go home each night.

“You definitely become more of a family,” said Mya Carpenter, a 22-year-old dancer who performed in Paris before joining Royal Caribbean. “You come to know people inside and out. They’re friends for life.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

VIDEO NEWS

National Politics

An error occured during creating the thumbnail.

Trump Campaign to Fly Massive Banner Before Democratic Debate in Houston

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is taking to the skies and local print ahead of…

An error occured during creating the thumbnail.

Trump announces help for certain historically black colleges

WASHINGTON (AP) — Historically black colleges and universities with a religious affiliation will no longer…

An error occured during creating the thumbnail.

Trump dismisses John Bolton, says they ‘disagreed strongly’

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday forced out John Bolton, his hawkish national…

An error occured during creating the thumbnail.

Congresswoman Val Demings calls for increased Diversity in American Media

ORLANDO, FL – Today, Rep. Demings introduced a bipartisan, bicameral resolution calling for increased diversity…

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

An error occured during creating the thumbnail.

Orlando Mayor Dyer, Commissioner Ortiz Launch Hispanic Heritage Month at City Hall

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) - To celebrate the commencement of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September…

An error occured during creating the thumbnail.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and District 2 City Commissioner Tony Ortiz Kickoff Annual Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration

ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and District 2 City Commissioner Tony Ortiz will…

An error occured during creating the thumbnail.

Orange County Celebrates 2019 Pine Hills Small Business Appreciation Week

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. -  Orange County Government’s Pine Hills Neighborhood Improvement District is celebrating 2019 Pine Hills…

An error occured during creating the thumbnail.

Governor Ron DeSantis Highlights More Than $11 Million in Donations and Announces 590,000 Bottles of Water to be Sent to the Bahamas

West Palm Beach, Fla. - On Tuesday, Governor Ron DeSantis highlighted more than $11 million…

FNN SPORTS

MORE SPORTS NEWS

An error occured during creating the thumbnail.

Walt Disney World Resort Sponsors the UCF Knights

ORLANDO, Fla. –  With a new sponsorship agreement, Walt Disney World Resort hopes to spread some…

An error occured during creating the thumbnail.

NFL Week 2 Prediction: Buccaneers Offense Has Chance Against Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FNN SPORTS) - After greeting Week 1 with losses, the Buccaneers and the…

An error occured during creating the thumbnail.

Orlando Magic Youth Basketball Academy to Host Her Time To Play All-Girls Youth Clinic

Orlando, Fla. – The Orlando Magic will team up with the WNBA, NBA and Orange…

An error occured during creating the thumbnail.

Disney: Arnold Palmer’s 90th Birthday

Walt Disney World Resort joined other golf courses and the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation…

An error occured during creating the thumbnail.

NFL Week 1: Cleveland Browns Add Another Losing Season Opener to Their Belt

CLEVELAND, Oh. (FNN SPORTS) - One is the loneliest number when it sits in front…

An error occured during creating the thumbnail.

What to Expect in Week 1: Buccaneers vs. 49ers

TAMPA, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) - The 100th NFL season home opener is finally in view.…

BUSINESS NEWS

MORE BUSINESS NEWS

Mass Shootings Give Rise to Bullet-Resistant Backpacks

NEW YORK (AP) — Companies like Guard Dog Security, TuffyPacks and Bullet Blocker are peddling…

Universal Orlando Resort Reveals Passholder Appreciation Days Perks

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) - Source: Universal // Universal Orlando Resort revealed that for the…

Orlando Continues to Support Small Businesses

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) - Small businesses play such an important role in the economies…

S&P 500 posts its worst week of 2019 as trade tensions flare

Investors rattled by President Donald Trump’s latest escalation in his trade war with China drove…

ID theft stings, but it’s hard to pin on specific data hacks

NEW YORK (AP) — Equifax 2017. Marriott 2018. Capital One 2019. Data breaches through hacking attacks…

Apple Announces New Batch of Emojis on World Emoji Day

Cupertino, CA (FNN NEWS) — July 17th is National Emoji Day! What better way to celebrate…

ENTERTAINMENT NEWS

  • AOMG CEO Jay Park, Simon Dominic, Gray, Code Kunst, and Woo Won Jae have a drink as they discuss the contract for the program as well as the audition applications. Poster: AOMG.
    SEOUL, South Korea (FNN EWS) - South Korean Record Label AOMG to Launch Hip-Hop Audition Program

MORE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS

Jordan, Foxx debut injustice drama ‘Just Mercy’ at film fest

TORONTO (AP) — The starry based-on-a-true-story social-justice tale “Just Mercy” made a powerful impression in…

Ariana Grande Accused of Stealing a Drag Queen’s Likeness After Suing Forever 21 for Trademark Infringement

Arianna Grande recently sued fashion retailer Forever 21 for $10 million claiming the brand launched…

Ariana Grande Sues Forever 21 for $10 Million Over Trademark Infringement

TMZ reports that Pop singer Ariana Grande has filed a lawsuit against Forever 21 over…

The Walt Disney Company to Donate More Than $1 Million to Relief and Recovery Efforts in The Bahamas

BURBANK, Calif. – The Walt Disney Company, led by Disney Cruise Line, has committed more…

[Photos] 2019 Allstate Tom Joyner Family Reunion Rocks One More Time, Despite Hurricane

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (FNN NEWS) - The 2019 Allstate Tom Joyner Family Reunion (ATJFR), the “Party…

Review: Cage the Elephant Energizes and Preps Tampa Crowd for Beck with Big Antics

TAMPA (FNN NEWS) - In the midst of hurricane season, Thursday, August 29th turned into a…

LIFESTYLE: TRAVEL, TOURISM, THEME PARKS

  • This cruise line rivals Broadway with 134 shows, 50 theaters
    MIAMI, Fla. (AP) - This cruise line rivals Broadway with 134 shows, 50 theaters

MORE LIFESTYLE NEWS

Universal Orlando Resort Rolls Out New Year’s Eve Celebrations Across the Entire Destination

ORLANDO, Fla. – At Universal Orlando Resort, New Year’s Eve isn’t just another holiday – it’s…

Orlando Mayor Dyer, Commissioner Ortiz Launch Hispanic Heritage Month at City Hall

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) - To celebrate the commencement of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September…

Disney: Arnold Palmer’s 90th Birthday

Walt Disney World Resort joined other golf courses and the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation…

“Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle” to Make its Highly-Anticipated Debut at Universal Orlando Resort on September 14

Orlando, Fla. – Next week, the all-new light projection experience, “Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle,”…

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line's Grand Celebration Turns Into Humanitarian Ship

PALM BEACH, Fla. -  The Grand Celebration, owned and operated by Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, which…