Valentina Shtyrenko is a very busy lady. When she is not dancing twice a night in five different production shows every week, she is also the Assistant Cruise Director and Dance Line Captain on board the Crystal Serenity. It is remarkable that she had time to take a group of interested passengers and myself backstage of the theatre to see the story behind the slick production shows performed by the on-board perfumers. This tall, slim and very fit looking lady comes from Russia and has been performing with the line for over five years.
The company consists of ten dancers and two lead singers. The dancers are multi-national and come from the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Russia and Ukraine. They are recruited by submitting audition videos and then a shortlist is auditioned, usually in London, by the Vice President Entertainment and three current or past members of the company.
Unlike many cruise lines, the company is a fluid one and dancers leave and join at various times during the year rather than all coming on board as one pre-trained company for a period of time. Training of new dancers takes place in Pasadena California, which is near the Los Angeles head office of Crystal before, they join the ship to then integrate with the existing team.
New shows are learnt on the ship and the choreographer comes on board to teach and develop the new creation. Due to the cost of developing a new show they run for around five years with five in the repertoire on each Crystal ship. There is only one show common to both (Curtain Call) although both have versions of shows created by iLuminate. This was a successful group from “America’s Got Talent” involving dancers dressed in black suits with light effects on them.
The dancers do not sing live although the lead singers do. The shows all have very energetic dance routines and so although they wear mikes and appear to be singing, they are miming. I had assumed this as I noticed the quality was consistently flawless, as were the harmonies – and none of them were wearing the radio microphone packs needed to transmit the sound.
There are separate male and female dressing rooms behind the stage. As there is limited room backstage there is a sprawling conveyor system that snakes up and around the ceiling. The costumes are stored by scene order and they are moved down to a level where the dancers and their dressers can access them as required. There are vast quantities of shoes in hanging holders all over the room, one for each dancer – with spares of all sizes hoisted high up on a cupboard. Wigs and hats are on shelves squeezed into the remaining available space.
Unlike theatres on land, the dancers and singers do not have a wardrobe mistress, prop manager, make-up and hairdressers. They have to care for their own costumes, wigs and accessories and are responsible for keeping them clean, maintained and in order. They also do their own make-up and hair.
While weather can lead to a show being cancelled when it is too rough to safely perform, they usually know the upcoming conditions and will schedule one of the guest performers like singers or comedians on those nights and run the production show in their slot.
On the Serenity the shows put on by the team are:
- “Welcome Aboard Showtime”, where they perform extracts from “A Chorus Line” and “Grand Hotel”
- “Curtain Call” which features a selection of songs from Broadway and West End shows.
- “Across The Pond” which is a medley of songs by British artists that made it big in the United States such as the Rolling Stones and Beatles.
- “6-8 Cafe” which is set in an American Diner and features popular songs from the sixties trough to the eighties.
- “The Tourist” which is the show using iLuminate light covered costumes and special effects.
- “Rocket Man” which is an Elton John tribute show.
One trend that Valentina told us about was that the shows are getting shorter. The older ones are around 60 minutes but more recent are around 30 minutes. It seems that passengers are developing shorter attention spans and itching to get out to take in the other entertainment opportunities – and to gamble!
The enthusiasm of the theatre group is impressive. They work hard and deliver slick and well-rehearsed shows which seem to be much appreciated and enjoyed by the passengers. It is clear that Crystal are looking to evolve the style and format of the shows to meet the changing nature of the passengers and to broaden the appeal and variety. This is a positive step as, while I think the shows were well-produced and performed, they do feel similar to many other lines and bringing innovation as they are doing through other areas, like the dining and in technology, would be a great step forward to differentiate the line even more.
For more of my articles, videos and photographs about Crystal visit tipsfortravellers.com/Crystal
Declaration: I travelled as a guest of Crystal Cruises on a 12-night Mediterranean cruise on the Crystal Serenity