"Wonderful World" is a brand new show created exclusively for the Carnival Triumph, and it stands apart in the world of cruise ship entertainment. It is the best cruise ship show we have ever seen, not because it is vastly different from other shows, it is just so well executed.
Most cruise ship shows are a monotonous parade of costume changes and repetitive dance steps. In fact, if I ever have to sit through another rendition of "A Pretty Girl is like a Melody" while a bevy of eye-lashed beauties descends a staircase draped in feathered boas I may give up cruising all together. In these typical shows the costumes are given more emphasis than the content, the songs are reduced to snippets, and the pace is reminiscent of an MTV television commercial. In "Wonderful World" you hear the entire song, sung to perfection, and the dancers are integral to the piece, not fluff. "Wonderful World" has a theme that envelopes the audience and fulfills its promise, a taste of culture from each corner of the world. Each segment emerges and develops with enough time to allow your mood to get in sync with what you are seeing, and the songs are so memorable they'll boost your mood for days.
The two featured singers, Mary Ellen Thompson and Christopher Alan Graves, are fetching and their vocal ability is flawless. Their voices blend beautifully despite the unique talent each commands and they execute their harmonies with perfection, a chemistry that becomes apparent with the first notes they sing. Particularly haunting is the duet of the operatic "Time to Say Goodbye" by Andrea Bocelli sung in the original Italian. The next day people were stopping Christopher time and again to ask him the name of that "Italian song." Both leads sing Italian and Spanish with authority, and in addition Ms Thompson's ability to deliver a verse in Zulu during the syncopated and modal African piece leaves one breathless.
A particularly memorable segment in "Wonderfull World" is the Antarctic piece which begins with a lone penguin in top hat and tails dancing in step with a video matte projection of hoards of computer generated cartoon penguins. Out pop four tuxedoed penguins through slits in the video screen as if the cartoon penguins have suddenly sprung to life. They do a rousing rendition of "Putting on the Ritz."
Carnival shows are developed "in-house" as opposed to hiring an independent production company to write, score and cast the show for the cruise line. Each show takes about 6 months to create and the policy now is that no ship will have the same show, or pieces of the same shows kludged together which can happen on other lines. Creation begins with a Carnival team consisting of a producer, production manager and a technical director who define the theme and look of each new show. They then contract a director, choreographer, music director and technical director who build the show in collaboration with the Carnival team.
Carnival shows are typically rehearsed for four weeks before they are presented to passengers, and unlike other cruise lines, rehearsals are all done aboard ship. The current cast members joined Triumph in the Fincantieri shipyard where they lived and rehearsed aboard ship for six weeks before the first cruise took place. When a cast change takes place in the future both casts will be on board at the same time for four weeks, one performing and the other rehearsing in preparation to take over.
Christopher Alan Graves has been a singer for Carnival for nearly 11 years, Mary Ellen Thompson for over three years. Most of the dancers are new to Carnival, and are mostly Brits found though auditions held in London. Many eastern Europeans are also now finding their way to London for the auditions and making the cut. Mary Ellen and Christopher each live in their own cabins on the lowest passenger deck while the dancers live two to a cabin one deck lower in the crew area. The show has five technical people to run the lights, sound, lasers, video effects and stage cues such as scenery changes.