I’ve always been a fan of the Theme Park musical; they generally put an amazing amount of work into putting these shows together. Busch Gardens brings big time music back to its amazing Globe Theater with its latest production, London Rocks.
The 20-minute show brings Broadway to Busch Gardens in a very big way. Featuring a large cast of mostly transplanted New Yorkers, the show tells the love story of Lucy and Sky as they meet, fall in love, get married and have a baby, all to the soundtrack of rock music from across the pond. At first I thought that they would do the standards, like Beatles and Rolling Stone songs, but they somehow managed to cover a lot of material in a short amount of time through the copious use of mashups. They did everyone from Bowie to The Kinks to Queen to The Who; they even threw in a little Spencer Davis Group with “Gimme Some Lovin'”.
Busch Gardens deserves major props for completely redoing the Globe Theater. The stage design is absolutely gorgeous. Clearly a lot of work went into creating it, and creating this show. Each sequence was meticulously staged and the costume design was pretty amazing – again, this is a 20-minute production.
During the post-preview Q & A session, the producers said that this is one of the biggest theme park productions in the country and it’s hard to argue with them. The theater received a new stage for the show, along with a monochromatic set representing London’s pre-rock era that bursts into a colorful psychedelic journey through the heyday of British rock music. Lighting design included 110,000 lumens of video-mapped imagery produced by five state-of-the-art projectors installed specifically for the production. The set, overlaid with custom video animation accompanying the classic British rock music, draws the audience into a compelling story about a young girl’s journey to adulthood and the music that influenced her life along the way.
The show features concert-style lighting and nearly 2,000 audio speakers—79 audio speakers around the perimeter of the theater and two speakers in every seat. The seat audio was only used for a minute or two in the last sequence. I don’t know if that was just for our specific preview performance or not. Some of the animated video sequences looked like they were filmed for 3D and were a bit blurry. I’m sure that will be cleaned up when the show officially opens this Memorial Day weekend. The producers said that they have two completely separate casts and crews that are responsible for putting on eight shows a day.
If I had any complaint it would be that the show felt really short and rushed. I really wanted them to linger a bit more on some of the musical numbers. However, it is almost worth the price of Busch Gardens admission just to see this spectacle.
London Rocks opened in the Europe Village at Busch Gardens on May 23, 2014. Admission is free to all park guests, but $25 will get you a backstage tour. Check out the Busch Gardens website for more information and a list of upcoming events. Photo Credit: All photos by Thomas Allen.