G-Fan and I were fortunate enough to be among the very first audience of guests and VIPs to enjoy a preview performance of "Finding Nemo: The Musical" at DAK's Theater in the Wild this morning at 10am on Nov 5th.
The theater has been refurbished to some degree with a new building structure and new seating (it appeared). The layout of the theater itself remains similar to what it was before. Some railings were badly placed and would partially block the view of those seated towards the first few rows of the second upper section of the theater, so keep that in mind if you want a totally unobstructed view of the stage.
The stage's walls appears to simulate an underwater enviroment, and on either side of it, plastic bubble coverings light up and also serve as video screens during the show.
The entire show lasts 30 mins. I am not going to go into details since descriptions of the show have appeared on other sites already, so I won't bore you with the details again. However... there may be a few spoilers ahead so cover your eyes and skip this thread if you'd prefer.
As we walk into the theater, the "Finding Nemo: the musical" name logo is projected on the huge stage.. and as the show starts, the animation gives way to a very stunning but brief sequence of the sea coming to life.. which gives way to a very movie-like retelling of the Nemo story. As in the movie... the story begins as Marlin and female companion watch over the newly placed eggs as they happily anticipate the hatching... Projections of sharks swimming by elevate the tension level... and the inevitable tragedy that follows is painfully portrayed without being gratuitious, thanks to the skills of the actor playing Marlin on stage. From this point on, the show follows the movie's plot almost to a "T".
We delight in some of the most memorable scenes from the movie, featuring some new musical material and lots of colorful eye candy to enhance the sense of wonder and beauty of the sea and it's fauna. And yes... the much heralded "Big Blue World" first heard at EPCOT's new Nemo ride, is performed here during the first few scenes of the show.
As the show unfolds... we re-live Marlin's desperation as he searches for Nemo, we delight in Dori's forgetfulness and antics, we laugh along as the many friends and foes they make along the way, move the plot and we discover scenes of underwater wonder, one right after the other.
Very well done is the scene in the fish tank at the doctors office... as the stage takes a more intimate feel with the help of stage framing and other effects... Finally, we delight as we ride the currents with Crush and Squirt, and finally become emotional in the re-encounter of Nemo and Marlin at last... Just to leave the theater a bit flushed (no pun intended) after seeing Marlin being able to let go of Nemo with a heartfelt "Goodbye Son" and a mutual bow salute between one another.
The show ends.
Now my opinion on this musical... I honestly was not all that excited about the prospects of this show to be honest, as I felt the show was not being presented in the proper setting or even the proper park. I would have liked to see this at the MK... Maybe in a new facility where the dreaded Pooh playground now sits. After seeing the show and being thoroughly entertained.. the fact is .. it does NOT matter.
Finding Nemo The Musical is an undisputed E-ticket show, and probably the best stage show presented at WDW in a very long long time. The musical hits the bullseye in every technical and artistic way, and this particular cast today was Top Notch great.
As I frequently do, I lovered my expectations...but yet, based on the few photos leaked out online, my expectations were to see something that came close to TDS' Little Mermaid show at Mermaid Lagoon.. I would have been happy just to see something in the Nemo Musical that came remotely closed to that other spectacle at TDS. Lo and behold! Nemo Musical delived solidly throughout.
I was quite impressed by the sophisticated level of the puppetry in the show... The costuming was equally nice, and even the choreography of the show was flawlessly executed, including the aerial bits...(these aerial ballets of performers are more the focus on TDS' Mermaid show, and while it would have been nice to see more of that integrated into Nemo Musical, the show still was a solid production delivered by great perfomers) One particular dance sequence involving a school of fish was quite imaginative and marvelously staged.
As for the cast itself... they were simply AWESOME. True professionals on the stage here IMHO. I felt a bit sorry for these excellent performers who at times have to become a bit of second bananas to the colorful puppets they have to maneuver themselves... but they never missed a beat, combining the puppetry requirements with solid acting and even more enjoyable singing. Jokes were delivered matter-of-factly and we laughed along... My Favorite line in the whole show comes early as Marlin teaches Nemo about the perils of the sea.. "Didn't you see JAWS???" .. So this particular cast today gets a most enthusiastic KUDOS from me in every respect.
As for the puppets and props.. the pelican (I believe it's a pelican) who befriends Nemo and other sealife in the fish tank in the doctor's office is stunningly real in movement as he peeks into the stage just like the character does in the movie. Great prop. Equally well done is the Crush puppet and Manta's. However, these props are placed on a bicycle-like vehicle due to their size and while I found that to be a bit distracting...but the puppets themselves were awesome (no Crush impersonation intended). Missing here, and greatly missed... the silly seagulls.. "Mine! Mine!..." were nowhere to be found.
From a technical point of view, the show is a visual treat combining the live action on stage with projections that enhanced the overall feel of the action underwater, which kept me quite transfixed on the action as the plot unfolded. If this was a "dress rehearsal" performance... I would not have known, since the entire show appeared to be well rehearsed and painlessly excecuted,as the cast never appeared to have missed a queue, and the technical aspects worked well, along with the proper lighting following the action on stage. KUDOS to the technical staff.
Finally the songs... a few of them were very enjoyable.. and some were a bit long, but all in all, I never felt bored or lost interest to the point of looking at my watch to see how much longer to go before the finale, which is something I seem to do often when watching "Aladdin The Musical" at DCA, a show that bores me terribly.
Very little I found in the show that could be improved. Unlike with the "Tarzan Rocks" show, all of the music here is pre-recorded, and the only gripe I have with that is the sound system in the theater.. I felt the volume was a bit low and the quality of the sound was not up to what I would expect from a major theater production.. so the acoustic within the theater may have to be examined and fixed, or maybe the sounds system should be replaced with digital and more modern speakers?? Also, as delightful as the show is... a few scenes seemed to go on just a tad bit long..especially since there is so much dialogue in the entire production. I would guess that some non-english speaking guests and very small children may have a hard time keeping up with the many funny jokes and story plot, so maybe, taking a few seconds here and there in some scenes could help the show to not get to a point where the audience may feel it's beginning to drag a bit.
Other than that... NO complaints here.
My final thoughts are... Nemo the Musical is an excellent production, with many surprises along the way, great acting and singing, pretty decent music and songs, and technical candy galore to keep the masses engaged. Most definitely a great great addition to the entertainment lineup at DAK, and one addition that should set the quality standard in future musical/stage show productions throughout WDW. It's what Disney magic should be all about.. exceeding expectations in every way. E-ticket show.
TDLFAN says... RUN to DAK and check it out. 5*****s out of 5. Enthusiastic KUDOS!!!
Sorry I was not able to bring you photos of the performance as requests to abstain from such was made by the Entertainment director of producing the show. She said "We want you to see the show with your eyes..." I saw no one with a photo or video camera attached to their face. Just GO see the show at your earliest convenience, as I feel you will NOT be disappointed in the very least.