Last weekend, I capped off my 18- day sojourn in the Pacific time zone by attending both rope-drop at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom's finale fireworks on the same operating day. And instead of sleeping off my jet lag like any sensible person, I followed up by attending four major arts events in the first 48 hours after my plane touched down:
Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Florida
I missed the opening weekend of Universal Orlando's 2015 Mardi Gras celebration, but the media night was held right after my return, so I got my annual fill of free jambalaya and andouille. Fans of local theater or Halloween Horror Nights' Bill & Ted show should be happy to hear that writer-director Jason Horne has taken the reins of the signature parade, shaking up the lineup, repositioning the stilt-walkers for better visibility and adding a couple of brief show-stops in which the new "Krewe" dispenses unique beads and other upgraded bling. Though there's no overarching theme this year, the floats represent a greatest hits assemblage of past crowd favorites, from a newly rebuilt reincarnation of the classic Riverboat to the flame-throwing Day of the Dead tribute. As for the concert series, let's just say that I'm looking forward to Styx (March 14) and the B-52s (March 22), but I confess to fleeing the crowd of Kelly Clarkson fans in order to attend ...
Science Night Live at Orlando Science Center
I've been remiss in attending OSC's regular adults-only evening recently, but the kickoff to their 60th anniversary year (including their tenure inside the current Lowndes Shakespeare Center) was more than enough to rope me in. Demystifying Forensic Sciences brought together three of the world's top "celebrity scientists" for the most fascinating evening of PowerPoint I've seen outside of a TED Talk. Dr. Henry Lee – famous for examining Monica Lewinsky's semen-stained dress, as well as investigating the O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony cases – shared a few of the 8,000-plus crimes he's examined around the world, from the I-95 serial killer to Elizabeth Smart's kidnapping. Dr. Jan Garavaglia, Orange and Osceola County medical examiner and star of Discovery Health's Dr. G: Medical Examiner TV series, gave a primer on the evolution of MEs, from England's Articles of Eyre in 1194 to politically connected coroners in West Texas who don't even have GEDs.
But I'll admit I was really there to see Dr. Kathy Reichs, forensic anthropologist and creator of/model for Temperance Brennan, heroine of the Bones books and TV series. While she showed off some behind-the-scenes photos from the show, observing that her real storage facility isn't nearly as fancy but that the show's operating instruments are authentic, Reichs was even more riveting when relating how she helped recover remains from the World Trade Center and Guatemalan mass graves. I was also intrigued to learn that Reichs is a fluent and funny speaker in real life, nothing like Emily Deschanel's Aspergian on-screen interpretation. OSC's SNL brought out a packed, energetic audience, but I had to leave early in order to attend ...
Slava's Snow Show at Dr. Phillips Center
I heard awful online buzz about this one, but as an appreciator of European-style clowning, I figured how bad could it be? As it turns out, not quite as bad as being stuck in an actual Boston blizzard, but close. Aesthetically exquisite but emotionally and dramatically undercooked, Slava's squanders impressive atmospheric effects and obviously talented physical comics with momentum-free direction lacking in punch, passion or even point. A sad-sack schlub wearing an IKEA bag meanders from one nonsensical, repetitive scenelet to another, without any apparent plot or progression between bits. It begins with potential to be a mime Waiting for Godot, but never gets beyond mild giggles to the expected existential guffaws. The little girl next to me was mildly curious, then terrified, and finally bored stiff, vehemently shaking her head "no" when asked if she liked it; sharp kid. My inner stage manager was horrified by the shoe soles, sprayed water and sticky faux cobwebs that the theater's brand-new seats were subjected to. There were a few brief flashes of brilliance, like a tender moment with a coat rack, and my wife declared the blizzard finale "amazing," but I was relieved to sneak out of Act Two early in order to attend ...
The Explorers Club at Mad Cow
As someone who lost many a liver cell to Disneyland's Trader Sam tiki bar and Pleasure Island's Adventurers' Club (its spiritual ancestor), I'm only sorry it took me until closing weekend to catch this David Russell-directed farce starring several former performers from Disney's much-missed attraction. Bravo to the cast – especially Eric Pinder, Heather Leonardi and the blue-fauxhawked Ryan Gigliotti – for making me laugh harder than I have at Mad Cow Theatre in years ... not to mention keeping me awake.