The infectious enthusiasm of Carnival’s Playlist Productions shows reached its apex when the samba dancer, wildly gyrating to Gloria Estefan’s “Conga” kicked streams of water off her platform on to the group of us seated in the front row.
The staff on Glory had prepared us for the outpour, encouraging us to don plastic ponchos for the duration of “Latin Nights,” one of six shows that will be part of the repertoire on nine of the line’s ships by the end of the year. Yet we still burst out into shrieks of shock and laughter as the water hit us; through the drops, I noticed a smile on the dancer’s face as well.
As part of its Fun Ship 2.0 renovations, Carnival Cruise Lines has revamped its main stage entertainment in a big way. On those ships, the theater now features a high-def LED screen that can be used for music video-style, multi-media displays. Shows have slimmed down to 30 minutes and are held more frequently. And in perhaps its most controversial move – at least among Cruise Critic community members – live musicians have been substituted with a team of eight singer/dancers who perform to pre-recorded music, mostly pop favorites.
It’s the lack of a larger cast and accompanying band that seems to have engendered the most debate on CC forums. Says @taffy12, “I miss the Vegas-style shows, the full production and spectacle of it all, the feeling that we’re actually watching a show and not just a handful of people singing and kind of dancing.”
After seeing three of the Playlist Productions shows in person – Divas, Motor City and the afore-mentioned Latin Nights – I’d say that your enjoyment will depend on two things: How much you like modern-style concerts and the caliber of the talent that is on your ship.
The Motown-themed show, which featured old favorites like “ABC” and “Brick House,” seemed a bit of a snooze. “Divas,” on the other hand, felt electrifying in comparison (but maybe that’s because the song list, drawn heavily from Lady Gaga, Rhianna, Katy Perry and Beyonce, mimicked the workout tunes I have on my iPhone). The shows we didn’t see were The Brits!, Epic Rock and Studio VIP.
As media members, our group also missed the full show experience, which can range from pre-show dance lessons to the complete makeover of an audience member (a smart cross-promotion with the ship’s spa). The shows usually conclude with the dancers leading members of the audience out of the theater.
During our visit, which took place when Glory was docked in New York, Carnival’s manager for show direction was entertaining a group of the city’s talent agents. He told me that the line wanted the agents to see the shows so they could understand exactly how much work is required for the dancers – and how much stage time a performer would have if they took the gig. “They have to be able to carry it,” he said. And that’s true; with so few cast members, a clunker would really stand out.
In the end, my thoughts on the show quality echoed that of @Fredric22 on our forums: “The LCD screens are very cool (and must have been very expensive) and definitely propel Carnival’s entertainment into this decade. I realize not everyone likes this type of entertainment, but the truth of the matter is that tastes of the new generation of cruisers are different and Carnival has to cater to these changing tastes.”