Productions of West End and Broadway shows are now often part of the big-ship experience 6 April 2015 by Caroline Hendrie I
t has been a long tradition in cruising for entertainment directors to put on small but energetic shows in the ship’s theatre. Troupes of singers and dancers jiggle their way through medleys of pop and show tunes for 40 minutes after dinner, exclaiming: “Just think what you would pay to see a musical in the West End!” They must have been relying on audiences who had never actually been to a West End show, where performers are allowed to get to the end of a song, have great voices, and can act, too.
But things are changing. Cruise lines realise their passengers are experienced theatre-goers and have long enough attention spans to follow a plot. Productions of West End and Broadway shows are now often part of the big-ship experience.
Norwegian Cruise Line leads the way with fast-paced, 90-minute versions of popular musicals. Highlights include Legally Blonde on its ship Getaway; Priscilla Queen of the Desert coming to Epic after the vessel’s makeover this autumn; and Million Dollar Quartet opening on new ship Escape in October.
Royal Caribbean is putting a full-length, big-cast production of Mamma Mia! on Quantum of the Seas, and We Will Rock You opens on new sister ship Anthem of the Seas, which starts cruises from Southampton later this month [April 2015].
Rather than buying in Broadway hits, Princess Cruises has commissioned Stephen Schwartz, writer and composer of the musicals Wicked and Godspell to compose a new show, Magic to Do, exclusively for its ships.
Cunard offers something a little more serious, with a capsule company of six Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts graduates to perform matinees of plays by Shakespeare and Wilde on transatlantic crossings.
Bucking this trend is the newly launched P&O ship Britannia, which is sticking to traditional pop song medleys, but has made a big leap in production standards, with LED backdrops and hi-tech special effects.
* See Legally Blonde on a seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruise from Miami aboard Norwegian Getaway. A fly-cruise package departing Heathrow on 23 October costs from £1,370pp including one-night pre-cruise in a hotel (0845 201 8900; ncl.co.uk)
. * A 13-night Sunshine in the Canaries cruise on Anthem of the Seas, with We Will Rock You on board, sails round-trip from Southampton on 28 September. Fares from £1,199pp (0844 493 2061; royalcaribbean.co.uk).
* A seven-night transatlantic crossing from Southampton to New York on 3 May aboard Queen Mary 2, with plays performed by Rada graduates, costs from £799pp in a balcony cabin. The fare includes a return flight to the UK (0843 374 0000; cunard.co.uk).