Review: Cedar Point's Luminosity

posted by Jeff | Saturday, June 9, 2012, 3:01 PM | comments: 2

Cedar Point has a new evening midway show, and it fundamentally changes the character of the park at night. I've seen it twice so far, once during the preview week, and on its opening night.

First, it's important to think about where the park is coming from. For around 15 years (I don't know the starting year), the park had a big projection screen on what was once known as the "Million Dollar Midway," where a number of flat rides used to live. With Iron Dragon and Wildcat bordering the area, they would pack people into the area for a laser and fireworks show, with video and laser projections on the screen. Over the years, the show barely evolved, using the cheesiest "patriotic" themes, college fight songs and uninspired light shows. Tired doesn't even start to describe it.

So late in the off season, the park decides to scrap it, take down the screen, and build a stage for Luminosity, a show with live singers, dancers, drummers and aerial performers. The staging is essentially on par with an arena pop music concert. Lots of lights, video and of course, lasers. To keep it intimate, several large concrete "hockey pucks" are spread around the plaza for the performers.

The show is anchored by four singers, two male, two female, and a supporting dance troupe. The music is tracked, but the percussion is live. A constant mix of popular music flows from start to finish, mixing the current and classic in a reasonably seamless way. The show ends with a DJ platform that rises out of the stage, and starts a dance party that ends at some later time, after the park closes.

Luminosity succeeds in keeping the energy of the park's guests very high until the moment they leave. It's intended to cap the day with something visually energizing, in the way that Disney theme parks have for years using parades or night time shows (who doesn't think of Illuminations when they think of Epcot?). Cedar Point manages to do it in a way that is contemporary without alienating anyone. It may sound like hyperbole, but the character of the park is dramatically changed in a way that is completely unexpected. I didn't realize how stale the park had become until this show came along. It's a change for the better that will leave a remarkably good impression with people, and hopefully, bring them back.

To that end, the show definitely meets its goals of providing that "kiss goodnight," as the new CEO put it in his interview with me. As a piece of art, I think its worthy of a deeper critique.

The show has a loose theme of land, sea and air (and space) in terms of its video, costume and staging elements. While not necessary, it does elevate it slightly beyond a pop music variety show. It starts with a high energy impression, tapers off a little, and then builds in the last third. It is, perhaps, slightly too long. I'd drop the number with the song about New York, as it seems wildly out of place. I would keep the song with the female solo (the performer I saw nailed it on the first night I watched).

There are, as best I can tell, a pool of singers. Someone mentioned there were three of each gender, so I've seen all three women, but only two of the guys. The first show, one of the guys was not good at all, but he was solid the second time. Of the women, the one I saw doing the solo in my video absolutely blew me away. She's got pipes. Overall, they're a very capable bunch.

The dancers don't inspire me, necessarily, but I don't have any knowledge to judge them beyond the observation of some sloppy choreography. They're just not very tight yet, and I assume that will come sooner than later. The introduction of props seem to make it worse, especially the sails and the sea creatures. The dude with a seahorse pogo stick... it looks wrong on so many levels. The dancing is very contemporary, but the routines they work with don't have any "gee whiz" moments.

The staging is very over the top, in a good way. They use a lot of lighting elements and video tiles to overwhelm you with volume. It isn't always the most creative use of what they have, but there are subsets of cues that do a good job of exaggerating the scope of the stage. That's what I like to see. My opinion is that more automated fixtures up stage at the base of the scenery would exaggerate that scope even more, and "wrap" the viewing area on all sides.

There is one gimmick that they need to refine. At the end of the show, they use drums with water on them to make a visually interesting statement. I'd say it's borrowed from the Blue Man Group, but it doesn't use the elements that make it great. I understand that they don't use paint, which would look better than water, but they need to increase the intensity of the lighting from underneath, or consider a high frequency strobe. Also, if you really want to blow people away, mic those drums! With all of the percussion in this show, I never get that feeling of that driving, tribal beat that you get from a BMG show. There's a sonic opportunity there!

And let's make one thing clear. Using auto-tune was artistic exactly once, when Cher did it in 1998. It's the single worst thing in pop music today. It's awful in the show. You've got very talented singers, so why would you pipe their voices through that crap? For the love of all that is music, please, stop it. It's not cool, it's not trendy, it just irritates the shit out of me.

One minor pick... I don't like that the performers never get to take a bow. They deserve it. They just kind of fade into the background as the DJ takes over. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't like that.

Overall, it's a really entertaining show. As I said, it really changes the entire feel of the park for the better. I can only hope that this represents a renwed commitment to live entertainment at Cedar Point. I really believe it's a key part of the ideal experience at the park.


Dave Althoff

June 9, 2012, 5:56 PM #

The projection screen went up in 1995, in conjunction with the "125 Summers" promo campaign. I remember hearing that in exit polling the laser show (for that's what it was back then) scored higher than Raptor in customer satisfaction.

Figures the show would be tracked; I just hope it sounds better than the Red Garter show did when I saw it. Because of the need for the performers to hear the track, the track was way too loud in the mix. Best way to fix that show would be to hire a bassist and kill off the track entirely. But that's a different show.


June 11, 2012, 9:28 PM #

The sound is much better than any of the indoor shows--remarkably so. Couldn't agree more on the horrible sound mix at The Red's equally bad at the Palace --the vocals in both shows are mostly indecipherable. Not so at Luminosity. It sounds great. You get what you pay for.

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