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Nice to be back on the Monarch!

2009-12-30Where in the world am I today?: Nassau, The Bahamas aboard the Monarch of the Seas.

I’m feeling all filled with nostalgia at the moment aboard the Monarch of the Seas because this was one of the first ships I performed on after signing on to have Don Casino represent me to the cruise ship market. Flash back to February 2005, I flew myself to Miami for the Don Casino Talent Showcase and got a contract shortly after with Celebrity Cruise Lines… My start with Celebrity seemed to fizzle out before it really had a chance to get going though and it wasn’t until I started to work for Royal Caribbean in July of that same year that I really started to feel like I was getting some traction with the agency and with one specific cruise line.

Over the course of the months that followed I ended up working on the Monarch of the Seas a number of times and I feel like I have this ship and the shows I did in the Sound of Music Theatre to thank for helping me transition my show to working well for audiences on cruise ships. Although the Monarch is one of the smallest ships in Royal Caribbean’s fleet (just over a third of the over all tonnage of the monster  Oasis of the Seas), coming back to this ship this week feels like coming home in a strange sort of way and I’m really looking forward to being back up on this particular stage at the end of the week.

Here’s the low-down on the space in the Sound of Music Theatre… The venue itself can hold about six hundred and eighty people. Given that the maximum capacity of the ship is two thousand seven hundred and forty four passengers, the chances of getting decent houses for your performances are really good. Now not every cruise has a capacity crowd, but given the ratio of two shows per evening divided by the total number of passengers, it’s more than likely that the room will feel pretty full when you step out on stage. This is a very good thing! The other thing that helps is that the Sound of Music Theatre is the only show room on the Monarch of the Seas, so, unlike on most Princess ships were there are often multiple shows to choose from nightly, on the Monarch, the show that’s going on in the Theatre is ‘The Show’ to see each night. Result – bigger houses.

Seating in the venue take the form of long slightly arched sofa-like chairs and several rows of what seem like movie theatre chairs on the main level that are slightly raked as they move back from the stage meaning that sight lines in just about every seat of the theatre are excellent. Further back there are tables and chairs providing a bit of a cabaret venue feel and there’s a wrap around balcony above as well. That the venue has enough height for a balcony means excellent ceiling height for performers like myself who juggle and use the space as well as second level viewing options for spectators. Were I to compare it to the venues I typically play on Princess ships, the Sound of Music Theatre would be a combination of the Universe Lounge and the Princess Theatre and seems to pull the strengths of both of those Princess venues into a single performance space which is awesome.

The shape and acoustics in the room also lend for a better experience for the performer on stage. The energy exchange is fantastic. Any energy you throw out to the audience comes back in spades. This seems to be because the venue itself funnels audience reaction right back onto the stage and almost amplifies it. As I watched the welcome aboard show on Monday night I could feel waves of energy hitting the stage as the audience responded to the comedian. It was fabulous!

The stage itself is raised a little over three feet above the ground level seats in the front row meaning that for the front few rows of the audience, the stage is at eye level. All eyes are up to look at the performers on stage which likely also helps the energy of the audience as its a bit harder for the blue rinse set to nod off as a result. This configuration doesn’t seem to make for any sort of uncomfortable separation between audience and performer and the staircases on either side of the stage make it easy for performers to leave the stage and enter the audience or have audience members join the performer on stage for volunteer bits.

Technical support in Sound of Music Theatre takes the form of the Production Manager who runs the space, one technician on sound, another on lights and if required there is also back stage help as well. In other words there are plenty of hands on deck should you require any special effects or added assistance in making your show work. I spoke of transitioning my show to work well for the cruise ship audience and this has more to do with the attitude with which I deliver my material as opposed to how successfully I tap into the technical aspects of what ship venues can provide in the way of support. I barely scratch the surface in terms of what sorts of effects I ‘could’ use in these theatres, but keeping it simple seems to keep the rehearsals short which in turn keeps the technicians happy. Happy technician, happy show seems to be a fairly safe way to opperate for me.

Show requirement-wise I’ll be doing a thirty minute set as part of the Farewell Show during this particular contract. I’ll do that same thirty minutes for two different seatings, one at 7:00 pm and the second at 9:00 pm on the last night of the cruise. Also included in the show will be a sneak-peek of the cruise video that is produced on-board, appropriate funny and thank-you’s from the cruise director and a short production number by the singers and dancers as well as a passenger dance number I believe. Variety acts seem to get this spot in the farewell show a lot on Royal Caribbean Ships, so depending on how you look a things either this is a great because it’s far less work than what I typically do for Princess, or it’s not as good because you spend a lot of your time waiting around to work. For me, the chance to come back and play on the Monarch again is a treat and I’m thoroughly looking forward to my shows on Friday!

One Response to “Nice to be back on the Monarch!”

  1. […] complete freedom to do what ever I like for the first few days until I was brought into the theatre on Friday to do my rehearsal and shows that […]

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