Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Amazing Acro-Cats - A Review

This past weekend I saw a cat circus! The Amazing Acro-Cats performed at Stage West Theater in Fort Worth. A friend of mine told me about a meet and greet they were having at Wits End, but I already had tickets to a play that night. Coincidentally, we had planned to spend a day in Fort Worth this past Friday, so I purchased tickets to that evenings performance.

I had seen a different cat circus at Summer Adventures in Fair Park in 2013, so I knew I would really enjoy this one. I couldn't wait for Cat Circus Night! I dressed accordingly as a bat/cat! :D

As soon as we walked into Stage West Theater, I squeed when I saw the cute cat in a top hat sculpture and kitty paw prints on the floor leading to the merch table. I was so excited, I didn't notice a couple of our friends were there until after I got my hand stamped!

Ready for the show! Polly let me borrow this cute sign.

After chatting with our friends for a bit, the house opened and we grabbed some great seats. Soon, a groundhog wandered onto the stage up to a microphone to "announce" that the show would start in a few minutes. So cute! I didn't get my camera out in time to snap his photo, so I snagged this one from my friend Oliver's Facebook page.


After an opening performance by the groundhog, some cute rats, a chicken, and of course some kitties, Samantha Martin introduced herself and her assistants Polly and Seunga. (I chatted with Polly and Seunga before and after the show and they were super nice!) Samantha is a feline behavioral expert who trains these fantastic felines. The show was not only entertaining, but also educational. Samantha explained the concept of clicker training and training cats to go into a carrier when they hear a whistle. The whistle training is especially important for emergencies - it could save precious seconds to get your kitty out of the house safely in the event of an emergency. She even sells a training kit that comes with everything you need to clicker train your cat!

After Tuna, the star of the show, hit the switch on a light-up applause sign, we were treated to more kitty tricks. Tightrope walking, ball balancing, hoop jumping, and even a shopping trip!











Of course, being cats, the tricks did not always go smoothly, but Samantha, Polly, and Seunga handled it with grace and humor. Part of the fun was laughing at the kitties' finicky nature. Once kitty ran into the audience and wandered for a bit!

Samantha also introduced each Acro-Cat and told their stories. Every cat is a former rescue, stray, or orphan. Samantha fosters kitties and finds them forever homes - sometimes they end up staying with her as an Acro-Cat! It was so fun to hear about each cat and learn their names - Nola, Oz, Asti, Buggles, Pudge, Tuna, Jax, Alley, and Sookie were just some of the cuties we met.

We even witnessed a bowling show-down and bell-ringing contest between Tuna and Cluck Norris the chicken!




The grand finale of the show was a performance by The Rock Cats. They were so cool! The best part was being able to go onstage after the show to meet The Rock Cats and take photos. We were not allowed to pet the kitties - except for Pudge! Pudge "loves being mauled by strangers." She really couldn't get enough pets! Such a sweetie!


Pudge!

Buggles being cute!

Sookie!

Tuna!

Pretty Jax on her skull with Oz in the background.

Nola, two cuties whose names I forget, and Cluck Norris.

The Acro-Cats are very accomplished. Tuna has had several television appearances, including the role of a killer cat in a 2004 short film, Zeke - you can watch it here! Alley is in the Guinness Book of World Records as of 2014 for the longest jump made by a domestic cat! Go Alley! Buggles has also made film appearances, and The Rock Cats have been mentioned by Ripley's Believe it or Not!

I love this Target commercial they are in!

And here is a great Rock Cats music video:
After the show, I purchased a cute tee shirt and Rock Cats pin/magnet. I was tempted to get the training kit for Caprica, but I held off. I can always purchase it later online!


I had so much fun at this show - my face was seriously hurting from smiling so much. The Acro-Cats have left Dallas, but will be in Houston from February 12th through February 22nd. I highly recommend catching a show if you are in the area! You can also keep up with their tour schedule on The Amazing Acro-Cats Website. I will definitely see them again if they come back to the Dallas area!

The Amazing Acro-Cats Official Website

The Amazing Acro-Cats Wikipedia Page

Tuna and The Rock Cats Facebook Page

Online Shop

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Cavalia's Odysseo - A Review

Last night I got to scratch one off the Bucket List. I saw a Cavalia show! Cavalia came to Dallas in 2006, but I was unable to go. It was a huge regret for me, and I waited and waited for the show to come back. Years and years passed, and I had given up on Cavalia ever coming back. Until I saw a billboard in early January and almost had a meltdown.

Not only is Cavalia back - they are back with a new 30 million dollar production - Odysseo! So what is Cavalia? Cirque with horses! Not only A cirque - THE Cirque. It was actually conceived by Normand Latourelle, one of the co-founders of Cirque du Soleil. You can read more about Cavalia and watch a video here.

We decided to purchase VIP tickets since it meant so much to me, and I was really impressed with what I read online about the package. The VIP tickets included premium seating; access to a VIP lounge 90 minutes before the show with unlimited food, beer, wine, soda, and water; a coffee and dessert bar at intermission; a stable tour after the show; and a souvenir from the gift boutique. There were three levels of VIP, but the only difference in price was how close you were to the stage. So, we went with the lowest level VIP because I don't like to be too close to the stage.

I dressed up in my favorite colors and favorite wig. I had considered wearing my unicorn ears and horn, but I only have them in purple and couldn't put a suitable outfit together.


I did wear a unicorn brooch and a My Little Pony button badge. :)


We arrived early enough to enjoy the VIP lounge for the entire 90 minutes. When we arrived we were given our VIP passes and our souvenir - a book with photos and facts about the show.


The food was delicious and everyone working inthe tent was very friendly.




We even had our own separate gift boutique and restrooms, which was a nice touch. I didn't buy anything at the show because you can get most everything online. I plan to purchase the Cavalia and Odysseo DVDs soon. Since I never saw the original Cavalia, it will be a treat to watch it on DVD!

We stayed in the lounge until an announcement came on stating that the show would start in a few moments. We made our way to our seats and I was delighted to discover how perfect they were! They were much closer than the seating chart made them look, and they were not too close either.


Before the show began, some trivia about the show was projected onto the screen. It was multiple choice and we were encouraged to raise our hands to pick an answer. I learned that Odysseo has over 60 horses in the stable and they are all stallions and geldings - no mares!

Then the lights dimmed and the curtain pulled back exposing a sheer curtain with projections. The stage was a forested glade and free-roaming horses slowly came into view. The sheer curtain pulled back and we watched as the horses happily frolicked and rolled in the grass. Then people emerged from the forest and horse and human played together while a woman sang a beautiful song. (The music and singing was all performed live! The musicians were partially hidden in the "treetops.") From the forest, we were taken to grassy fields, desert canyons, and a carousel in another galaxy. Clever use of lighting and video projection really took the audience out of space and time. The stage sloped upward and horses and performers came over it from the back. (I have seen this technique only once before with Shen Yun, and it's really powerful.) My favorite act in the first half was Carosello. A carousel came down from the ceiling and slowly rotated as men and women performed gorgeous pole acrobatics. All too soon it was intermission. Although, I couldn't be too sad about it with all the yummy dessert.


The second half of the show was just as wonderful as the first, with high-energy acrobats, lyra and silks performances, more trick riding, and the grand finale - a water act. I knew there would be a water act from photos I saw in an article online, so I was really excited. I had assumed the water would be set up during intermission, so imagine my confusion when we came back and it wasn't there. The water was actually pumped onto the stage at the end! It was cleverly done, the bottom half of the stage was darkened to disguise the water pumping in while we were treated to a dressage performance at the top of the stage. Once the lake was created, the lights brightened and the dressage horse and rider came down to prance in the lake. More horses came out to run freely through the water - it was so perfectly picturesque.

After the show we went back to the VIP tent to wait for the stable tour. We were allowed to roam the stables for a while to view the horses and take photos of them with only two rules - no touching and no flash photography. I made friends with a horse named Sherry - I think he wanted to eat my wig! I suspect he wanted a scritching as well, but rules are rules!




I loved to be able to see the beautiful horses up close, and my book has a ton of interesting facts about the behind the scenes workings of the show. This was truly one of the most satisfying events I've attended. The only disappointment was that we were unable to purchase our green screen photo because the printer jammed.

Photos of the performance were not allowed, but I can share the photos from my book and they are better than anything I could take anyway. Plus, I was too busy having an experience to snap photos. ;) These are all of the acts from the show, and they are NOT photoshopped. Not even the lightning storm in the background of the lyra performance - it's all lighting and projection.

Troupeau

Les Fees

Fete du Village

Liberte

Les Voyageurs

Carosello

Tribu

L'Odyssee

Tempete

Appel d'Afrique

Paseo

Les Anges

Nomades

La Grande Aventure

Odysseo

You know I have never actually seen a Cirque du Soleil show? This made Odysseo extra-special for me. I highly recommend it. And get the VIP package if possible - it's worth every penny!

http://www.cavalia.net/en

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Marvel Experience in Dallas - Review

Ah, the infamous Marvel Experience! I purchased tickets to this Hyper-Reality Tour the day they went on sale a few months ago. I planned my costume, then began the impatient countdown. Then...the review for the Scottsdale, AZ preview started rolling in just a few weeks before we had scheduled to go. They were abysmal and made me quite nervous with several reports of janky technology, broken attractions, and super-long lines. Of course, my tickets were already purchased - so I decided to hope for the best and make the most of it. We had a group of friends going, so I figured if anything we would suffer in solidarity.

So, how was my Marvel Experience? Pretty great! Although, I did see room for improvement.

When you first arrive and go through security and ticket scanning, you line up at a kiosk to register your S.H.I.E.L.D recruit ID. This can actually be done online - even prior to attending - to save some time. If you register online you can also upload a photo of your choice instead of relying on the kiosk's selfie camera. This proved useful due to bad lighting, and I had a better photo from a previous wearing of my costume. Pro-tip - you can download and print this ID from the website, so save the $9.99 in the gift shop later. ;)

Now you have all the pertinent information with which to stalk me, I suppose.

This is the first instance where you can see a bit of a hole in the technology. This ID was originally meant to sync to your wristband you receive upon entry. Much like the technology used for the Disney MagicBands, the bracelets were originally meant to store recruit information and training stats (which I assume would have been generated from the games and activities in the main dome.) The technology failed at the preview, so it seems they scrapped it. Without this feature, the bracelet was merely a souvenir, but I did like the little tokens you can insert. You receive 3-4 near the end of the experience and can purchase additional tokens in the gift shop. (Which I did, because I am a target market.) I do plan to keep and wear it.

After registration, you pass through the souvenir green screen photo booth, and into the first dome, which houses a short intro film. Then, into the second dome, which is another intro film that explains the purpose of your training - fighting a Hydra robot that absorbs superhero abilities, the Adaptoid. The videos are cheesey, but I love me some Marvel cheese, so that is not a con. Personally, I think one intro dome would have sufficed - not to mention the second dome was hot inside!

Next, we entered the main dome where all of the interactive games are. This is the meat of the experience. The very first area you come into is a sort of Marvel Museum with props and character origin videos. I liked the videos, but couldn't really watch them because each station was so close together the audio was hard to make out. Plus, if you know your Marvel basics, this area can be a bit boring. There was a matching touch game, which was supposed to be data-gathering from an Adaptoid excavation site. It was ok, but seemed out of place somehow.


Beyond this area was the games. The games were actually very fun, and what I was expecting. The Holo-Blaster Training Simulator was the headlining game. It's a 3D laser gun shooting game. I liked it a lot. There were two motion-based games, Hulk Out and the Mark 47 Flight Training.



I thought the Black Widow Agility Maze was unique. You navigated a corridor without setting off laser beams. You could watch people navigate the maze on the TV outside. Here I am derping around in entirely too much floof for agility (you can vaguely make out Dan at the back):


I did like the mural on the side of the building that housed the maze. We posed for photos while waiting in line. I think more features like this would have made the lines easier to handle.



One of my favorite things was the Avenges Encounter. Three people at a time stood in a designated spot and held a specific pose to summon an Avenger to interact with, which was projected onto the wall above. Really cute and great photo-ops.







We skipped the Spiderman Climbing Wall. We just aren't big on climbing walls and/or were not wearing the right shoes for it.

I do wish there had been more games, because I think that was the best part of the attraction. And the lines were quite long for each one, which I think having more games and activities would have helped that. But let's face it, I live in Dallas - I stand in line and deal with crowds for everything! The lines did keep us there much longer than the 90-120 minute advertised time. We were actually there for 5 hours, but we enjoyed ourselves and had specifically set aside the morning and afternoon, so we weren't bothered by it. (I'm a photo-op nerd, so I probably added a bit of time to that myself.)

We took a break in the cafe before moving on, but didn't eat. The food looked on par with movie concessions. Movie concession prices, as well - but is anyone really surprised by that? One of the employees actually spoke to some of my friends after I had wandered off with Dan to take some more photos, and asked how they thought a cosplay night would go over. My friends said that it's a great idea (I agree!)- especially an adult night. Apparently they tried an adult night during the preview, but it flopped. I think that may have been due to the bad reviews, plus we love our adult nights here - the Perot always sells out for the quarterly Social Science events. I hope they give it a try.

There were some activities in the cafe area, as well. Classified Files to look through - which were vintage comic book covers, and an Avenger paint program. I had to make a pink Captain America, of course. I chose to email my artwork to myself. I liked that little freebie - nice touch.






The next area was inside a replica of a Quinjet. It housed a touchscreen strategy game.


Then, on to the next dome, which housed the 3D movie. This movie was neat because it was projected onto the domed ceiling, so you had to turn about to catch everything. It seemed to place you right in the middle of the action, which I liked. It was a bit disorienting, and a couple of my friends felt a bit woozy afterward.

Next, we moved into a sort of prep area for the 4D ride with a cleverly done Spiderman safety video. And finally, the 4D ride. The ride had moving seats and would burst air, but it was not rendered in 3D, so I wouldn't really call it 4D. Still neat, though. This also showed the largest hole in the failure of the interactive bracelet technology. There was a light-up attachment that you could tell would pop onto your bracelet, but instead we were instructed to just hold it. There was a point in the movie where we held them up to "fight" and all they did was change color. That fell pretty flat, I would have loved to see this utilized to make the 4D movie a big fighting game at the end, with personalized top scores.

After the 4D movie, we exited through the gift shop. There have been some bad reviews on the gift shop due to it being over-priced. In some instances, the items were marked up quite a lot. (Stay away from the Under Armour shirts!) The Her Universe and Mighty Fine prices were not bad, just do your research. The unique item that was available was a custom 3D-printed statue of you and a superhero. The company scanned you there, and the statue ships later from Germany. Prices were not in my souvenir budget, unfortunately. It would have been nice if you could pay a small fee to get scanned (and possibly get a photo printed), then order a statue later. Ah, well. (I completely forgot to take note of the company, or I would link it here.) I purchased a Captain America cardigan by Her Universe I have been eyeing for some time. It was marked up $10, but if you consider shipping cost and the convenience of trying it on first (not to mention larger sizes go fast online), I called it fair. I also purchased a few button badges and the previously mentioned tokens for my bracelet. And I split the cost of the souvenir photo with a friend, because it turned out great:



I was also happy to see the iconic DallasBIG letters at the exit.





Overall, I had a lot of fun. I would love to see this done again with more advanced and enriched technology for a more truly interactive experience. And adult nights! With superhero themed cocktails! In the meantime, that saying "vote with your wallet" does mean something. If you want to see more events like this come to Dallas - support and attend!

http://themarvelexperiencetour.com/

**This review is my personal opinion. I was not asked to review The Marvel Experience by Hero Ventures. I am also reviewing based on General Admission ticket prices - I cannot speak on the value of any of the VIP Packages.**

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