This review is a guest post by Kara Dennison.
One of the cool things about Busch Gardens is, if you’re bad at keeping track of time (like I am), sometimes you get surprise shows. My family had gathered for dinner at Marco Polo’s Marketplace during the opening night of Christmas Town 2016, and we were rather pleasantly surprised to see a show start up in front of us… which kept us in our seats longer than any of us had been planning.
For those who don’t know, Marco Polo is a sort of multicultural food court with Italian, Mediterranean, and Asian food, which is now attached to Il Teatro di San Marco. That particular theatre, located in Italy, is known for more elaborate sets and effects than one usually gets at a stage in the park attached to an eatery — likely because the performance space is isolated enough that there’s no worry of confetti getting in your food.
“Miracles” is an interesting addition to BGW’s Christmas show line-up, because other than a mention of Christmas at the end, there’s very little that makes it directly seasonally-branded. You’ve got “Scrooge No More” in England, you’ve got “Gloria” in Ireland — handling multiple facets of the holiday, but both unmistakably themed to it. “Miracles” goes a different route. While you will hear a brief mention of the holiday and see what are definitely Christmas trees on the set, this is more a broadly uplifting, inspirational show. There’s talk of unity, love, family and friendship. There’s a performance of “Angels Among Us.” But it falls fairly solidly into the category of “uplifting”… yet and at the same time, seasonally so.
There were four female singers who would trade off solos and four-part harmonies throughout the show. The rest were dancers, with two notable female lead dancers — a sort of fairy snow queen in a sparkling, traditional costume, and the ingenue of the piece, who was in the same all-white ensemble as the rest of the dancers but notably smaller and coded younger. There was no “story” to speak of. Each segment might have its own vague plot to it: a boy and a girl lost in a forest and watched over by an angel, three girls playing tag on the ice, and the like. But this was knowingly an assortment of show pieces.
The costumes were actually quite nice. As mentioned, they were all white, but they weren’t uniform. Sitting close enough showed you that the dancers were in a wide array of wintry clothes. The ladies all had flowing skirts, but paired off with jackets, sweaters, blouses, leg warmers, and the like. The male dancers had an equal amount of variety. Everything there could likely have been store bought, but the decision to have multiple monochrome-yet-unique pure white ensembles kept things unified without running the risk of looking “strict”. It kept the production feeling very real and very human, where matching costumes might have made it lose the human touch it was going for.
The staging was overall good, with a mix of traditional and contemporary dance styles. The “contemporary” veered towards the playful rather than the postmodern, which was nice. There was some very creative choreography, but some of it could only be appreciated from straight-on (my group was seated stage right). Most of the choreography avoided this, but there were a handful of moves that were clearly gorgeous from head-on but couldn’t be salvaged from off-side. In spite of this, the majority of the production made good use of the expanse of stage, sending the singers and dancers to all corners and engaging as much of the audience as possible.
My one complaint is an “on the night” one, and not a complaint so much as a minor issue — one of the singers’ microphones was glitching on and off constantly towards the end. A shame, as she had a beautiful voice (all of them did). Overall, minus that one issue, the whole production looked well put together, which is good considering this choreography involves a lot of trust-jumping.
“Miracles” is very sweet, very pretty, and very uplifting. Someone a bit more cynical might tire of it early on, but it’s very much “good and pure,” no sarcasm implied. It’s just… nice. It’s people singing happy songs about caring about each other and believing in miracles and there’s confetti and shiny things and sometimes we need a little of that in our lives.
“Miracles” plays at select times at Il Teatro di San Marco during the entire run of Christmas Town. Admission is free, but reserved seating can be purchased on the event website.