Over the hustling schools of kids in various single colour uniforms mobbing about Georgia Aquarium on a weekday, Alvin at the information desk starts off the description of Dolphin Tales with, "Part Broadway show, part..." and on that we're already at the ticket counter for the last show of the day.
Quite the flank of seats up in the auditorium. A long line races down to get into the wet front rows. One of many ushers points them around the midsection, a better angle for the spectacle. The side view of the tank is where the anticipation builds its crazy momentum and kicks a knee at the suspense, watching as the dolphins torpedo from the base and shoot up, breaching the surface.
Duelling with a sea demon and making a bargain with dolphins marks the core of the story. Its human lead, The Star Spinner, in a most delightful cape (bedazzling with lights like veins, short of electrocution), has quite the song in him. An inviting and alluring call to the audience every time he belts out a verse.
Hard task with the real stars being the dolphins, drowning out the humans every time they're charging through the water. Leaping out, grabbing metres into the air before circling back again. More play in their act than story, but that doesn't matter since the story is far back and serves only to create a loose plot to hang their feats on.
Darkness falls and the inners are on the outer as the Star Spinner looks toward the audience for help in bringing out the second act. Throwing a lyric prompt to house left, "Higher, higher! Raise it higher!" Another line to house right, "From the deep it will rise again." For the seats down the gut, "And you in the middle can sing whatever part you like." Choices. They're paralysing.
From the dolphins the narrative is lacking, but their visual energy is utterly entrancing. The sneak peeks into the bottom of the pool only hammer in more want to see what else they can pull out of their fins and how high they can jump. They're on point and showing off their skills with a breathless ease, hitting their marks again and again.
The trainers are here and there in the mix of dolphins and animation across the backscreen and evidently in love with their jobs. Dolphins are in the main and nobody gets in the way of that.
Two of the male dolphins in their pre-show orgy
The show leaves a dangling thread over the eventual fate of the demon minions. As they're decked and sent into the waters, it's a stun more than a coldcock. With no visible corpses, the potential for the ongoing tussle only opens up for more sessions should they rise up again from the depths and wreck havoc once more. An ongoing battle that must cut the chains or show irrefutable evidence of their demise.
Part Broadway musical, part theatre and part cabaret. Throw in some pantomime with great enthusiasm and Dolphin Tales is a fantastic 30 minutes of watching agape as the dolphins best each other in getting air and, as my wife puts it, "moonwalking across" the water's surface.
Absolute fun but feels far too short.
From a showing at 16:00 on Tuesday, 10 May 2011. Costs $12.50 for an adult ticket, not included with general admission into the Georgia Aquarium. If you try and take a photo, even in the pre-show wait, you'll find an usher quick on you.
Reviewed on Sunday, 22 May 2011