Love Letters to My Amusement Park -
A Tribute to Origins
Since we don’t know what’s coming yet for this year, I’m taking this moment to share a tribute to the special show that we’ve enjoyed at Kings Island for the past two seasons. In the Kings Island Theater, between the park’s main entrance and Action Zone, the past several years we’ve had a series of fun acrobatic shows. Picture a Cirque du Soleil type of performance, just on a little smaller scale. These shows are filled with artistry, comedy and acrobatic skill.
This is the second in a series of love letters posts. As the beginning of the season gets closer, we want to appreciate many of the details we love the most about our favorite parks. The first post in the series can be found here, Park Rituals.
The park has many shows. In the Festhaus, on the stage between the fountain and the Eiffel Tower, in the amphitheater between the Eiffel Tower and Planet Snoopy, and still a few others locations, you can find musical shows with excellent singers, dancers, and bands performing throughout the main season. There are also many fun additions to the show schedule during Halloween Haunt and WinterFest.
Imagine was an earlier production created by the same company, HautVol. It was the acrobatic show at Kings Island before Origins arrived in 2016. It was recently at Carowinds, in North Carolina. It can still be seen this upcoming season at Dorney Park in Pennsylvania. From discussions I’ve read on various park blogs, Imagine had its passionate and loyal fans as well. I didn’t have the opportunity to get attached to this show the way I did Origins. I’m confident I would have, had I attended the show regularly.
You Enjoy Shows More When You See Them Often
That is a Park Hack that I want to share. Go to these shows as often as you can. Do your best to see many repeat viewings. These are live performances. When it is live, the audience is often on the edge of their seat, tensely biting their nails in anticipation that someone may miss a stunt. There are subtle differences in every performance. To the cast of performers, these productions are a series of well over one hundred performances. The acrobats are a tight-knit group of vibrant, talented, and creative young athletes. Because of this, there will be embellishments and extra business added as the show develops during the season.
In the early days of the performance schedule, the performers would need to concentrate on the timing and moving to where they need to be in order to do their part in various scenes. It doesn’t take long before the main details of the show are firmly set in their mind. Being creative, the performers would now begin to to experiment and add mischievous play in the gaps. They shared ideas and played small pranks on one another during the show. It is subtle. If you didn’t go regularly, you might never notice this. Spotting fun between the performers added a deeper level of enjoyment for the audience.
2016 Origins The First Year
The two years of Origins had several differences. The first season had a central elf character, a performer named Jorge Petit who did juggling. He also had a segment with an upside-down painting performance which included a member of the audience. Jorge was great at working the audience. He would stand center stage, quietly preparing for his trick while the suspense built. With expert timing, he would wiggle his hips and even shush the audience. The comedy was fun and his juggling was excellent.
The show opened similarly both years with the characters fulfilling traditional “clown” roles. These were “Jaco” and “Taco.” (I’m not sure how they spell the names. We were corrected during a meet & greet because we thought they were yelling Paco instead of Taco.) They appeared to us as purple monkey/lizard characters. The HautVol site refers to them as ferrets. These creatures would emerge 5-10 minutes early as the pre-show. There was lots of audience interaction. This segment was always fun, with enough variation and improvisation to even keep repeating visitors highly entertained.
Both years had slackline and trampoline performers. Two of these were the purple ferret characters. The 2016 Origins had a hula hoop performer. There was also a pair Sam and Louise, who performed a Russian Cradle act, that was relocated to the Kings Dominion 2017 version of Origins.
My family loved the show in its first year, seeing it more than a dozen times. This was the season that we learned about the special fun of seeing the show more frequently.
2017 Origins Second Year at Kings Island
When it returned in its second year at Kings Island, some elements had changed. It was great to experience the show again. The performers travel around the world, taking gigs with other acts. As I mentioned, Kings Dominion got their version of Origins in 2017 with some of the cast/segments transferring from the Kings Island show.
The pre-show started much the same way with the fun ferret characters arriving by ladder and interacting with the audience. We learned throughout the season that one of the cast was new and the other had been there in 2016.
Those previous Jaco & Taco links are for the purple ferret performers of those roles in 2016. In 2017 Joshua Vinette played Jaco and Sam Softich played Taco. After Joshua suffered a leg injury, Michael Starkey returned to Kings Island's Origins as Jaco for the last few weeks of the show's run.
The purple ferret characters smoothly transition from the pre-show to the main show opening with a fun sway pole routine. It is great fun to sit up front at the left and right of the stage. As the performer bends the pole toward you, he gets surprisingly close and looks you right in the eye. The eye contact and interactivity is an added dimension!
Following the sway pole, majority of the remaining elf cast enters the stage. The second year there was a glowing seed/fruit element that “unlocked” the next act of the show. This detail effectively tied the segments of show together.
The slackline was the next act. A slackline is a cross between a tightrope and a trampoline. It takes a lot of skill to repeat these leaps and moves with consistency. Nico was the 2017 slackline performer. When they are really feeling in the groove, you can see more risky and impressive stunts slipping into the regular routine. I bet slackline performers are great at skateboard and snowboard. The moves in the air look very similar.
Without spoiling the surprises within the show, I can say that the glowing fruit/seed unlocks the next section and allows the final missing member of the cast to make her special entrance. Once Shannon arrived, her partner Philippe entered and they began a Cyr Wheel Duo routine.
The drama and cute flirtatious interaction between the pair was fun. Their moves and routine were amazing. By attending several shows, I was able to witness some variation as they tried new stunts and material. For a brief period, they had the female partner face away and pose forward looking like graceful like a sculptural hood ornament.
Next came the balancing canes. The lights dimmed and the music became quiet and mysterious. When this character, new to the 2017 Kings Island season, emerged, you could tell something really different was coming. Resembling a hunched troll, this new character performed by Naël quickly became an audience favorite. This was also a segment of the show that the other cast added some subtle gags and mischief.
The ferret characters had a couple small transitional segments. Before the balancing canes, they did a humorous homage to the juggling act from the year before. It had most of the same gags, including a fun interaction with the elevated drummer and acrobat Levi.
Then, following the balancing act, they appear again with a musical ukulele number while they rest of the performers set up for the rola bola act.
A high platform is brought center stage. Aubresh, another new performer for the 2017 Origins climbs up and begins his act to the same music that the hula hoop girl used the year before. His act is probably the most consistently thrilling of the acts. Once you’ve watched it a half-dozen times, you realize there are a couple thrills that are put there for the audience’s experience. I’ve heard shrieks from ladies in their seats. I’ve seen faces of grandmothers, petrified with concern that this poor young man is about to fall and suffer a serious injury. It was impressive.
The trampoline followed as the grand finale of the program. The two ferret and two of the elf characters, Hélène and Michael performed a series of impressive flips and transitions between poles and platforms. This section ends by all the cast descending for an energetic curtain call. The glowing fruit/seed element was held up as the final note sounds and the lights drop.
It was surreal to sit in the familiar show, with much of the same music we enjoyed the year before, but with new acts unfolding as the show played unfolded. Following certain performances, the cast came back out for meet & greet time with the audience.
What’s Coming in 2018?
We shall see! Origins is planned to be at King’s Dominion again. Dorney Park is still scheduled to have Imagine. The Skeleton Crew show is planned to be at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, Missouri.
Any guesses what we’re getting this 2018 season at Kings Island?
All photos: Mike Kunze