Theme Park Ranger
8:31 AM EST, February 2, 2012
There's no kitchen sink in "Iceploration," the new ice-skating show at Busch Gardens in Tampa, but it wouldn't be that surprising. The show throws a lot at you.
The production features a dozen ice skaters (including one that takes flight), life-size elephant puppets, cheetah costuming, a Siberian lynx and other animals, acrobats on trampolines, a three-story tree, a virtual snowstorm and high-tech video mapping to tell a round-the-world story in about half an hour.
"It's about three hours of show in 30 minutes," creative director Scott Swenson says. "Iceploration," which debuted at the theme park Thursday, was three years in the making.
"We have done ice shows in the past, and they have been very, very popular with our guests," Swenson says. "But this is the ice show for the new millennium. We're taking it to a whole new dimension."
The plot centers on an 11-year-old boy who communicates mainly through his electronic devices, and his grandfather, who encourages him to come out of his room and "journey to the four corners of the earth," Swenson says.
The global nature of "Iceploration" is achieved through ever-morphing staging created by technology known as video mapping, which projects images onto different surfaces inside the park's Moroccan Palace Theatre.
"By taking video content that has been produced specifically for the show, we are able to change the entire look of the proscenium or the legs or the backdrop. Or we're able to project onto painted media and make it move and come to life," Swenson says. "It's incorporating some rather high-tech video processes into a live theater experience."
The stage changes along with the changes in show's locations. Guests and skaters make stops at the Serengeti, the Great Barrier Reef, the Arctic and a rain forest.
The African scene features a life-size momma elephant puppet controlled by two puppeteers, who are inside the puppet, wearing low stilts with cleats to maintain balance on the icy stage. Skaters in this segment represent a baby elephant, gazelles and a cheetah.
"Iceploration" presents a nontraditional use of puppets in the barrier-reef scene.
"We've filled these puppets with helium so that they have a sort of a natural buoyancy, and they're basically guided around the stage so it looks like they're floating or swimming in the water," Swenson says. The scene also uses black light for an otherworldly effect.
For the Arctic segment, a group of skaters performs high-energy choreography to form a snowstorm. The boy and his grandfather later arrive by dog sled pulled by four huskies.
In the rain forest, acrobats in monkey costumes are part of a huge production number, Swenson says.
The female soloist skater sports a dragonfly costume. "Not only does she skate in this costume, she also takes a cable flight, where she actually leaves the ice and comes back multiple times throughout the number," Swenson says.
The costumes were created by designer Gregg Barnes, who won a Tony Award for his work on the Broadway production of "The Drowsy Chaperone" in 2006.
"He developed all the costume designs and was actually on property to oversee their construction as well," Swenson says.
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Yep, that's the genuine below-freezing article at "Iceploration," the new Busch Gardens ice-skating show.
"It's real ice. It's not synthetic ice or what is often referred to as 'glice,'" says creative director Scott Swenson. It weighs in at 4 tons, he says.
"People don't realize when you have such a massive piece of ice not only how much it weighs but how much water it takes to make something like that," he says. "It's roughly 10,000 gallons of water to make 4 tons of ice."
Maintenance is done multiple times daily to keep the surface as smooth as possible for the skaters and the rest of the cast, he says.
There's a small non-icy rim at the downstage edge that some of the animals walk across.
"And some of them just fly over the ice," Swenson says.
Where: In the Moroccan Palace Theatre at Busch Gardens, 10165 N. McKinley Drive, Tampa
When: Three to five shows daily.
Cost: Included in regular park admission — one-day admission is $77.99 general, $67.99 ages 3-9
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