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This is still a developing story and this post will be updated with more information as it comes out.
Before I go any further, if anyone has any additional information that they’d like to share, you can email me here. As always, your identity is 100% confidential and I’ll never release anything you don’t specifically approve.
From what I’ve been able to gather from an army of independent sources within the park, a highly respected musician who has been working at the park for over a decade now was fired on the spot sometime on Wednesday. Upon hearing the news, at least three additional musicians from the show decided that they were done putting up with the actions of the park’s entertainment management and walked off the job. Because Mix it Up relies rather heavily on live musicians, the park’s entertainment management has decided to cut the show entirely for the remainder of the year. Seeing that there are already questions about whether or not Mix it Up will be returning for 2014 anyway, the last show on Wednesday night very well may have been Mix it Up’s last showing ever.
Now, for anyone who doesn’t follow the ParkFans Forum, this news may seem very sudden and, frankly, out of the blue. I assure you that’s not the case. In all honesty, this is just the latest in a long string of firings and quittings occurring within the park’s entertainment department right now. Though entertainment is a naturally turbulent business, some of the things we’ve seen and heard over the past few months go far above and beyond what you’d consider to be normal “turbulence”. I won’t go into detail here, but I assure you that if you look around, there are plenty of interesting rumors on the topic to be read on our rumors board.
If you don’t plan to go off and do your own research, just know this: It looks like Scott Gasparich, the VP of Entertainment at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, has a crumbling castle on his hands. What happened with Mix it Up’s cast over the last few days is just yet another devastating blow to add to the already very long list of recent missteps and screw-ups his department has been involved in. I truly do hope this will be the final knock the park’s entertainment department will need to take in order for SeaWorld Park’s & Entertainment to start listening to the employees and guests up here in Williamsburg. Things are getting very bad.
The Italian Ensemble has just lost their female lead and, as of Friday, is not performing. Il Teatro di San Marco now sits empty. See update #1, #2, and #3 below for more information.
Anyway, with Mix it Up gone and the park not wanting to leave one of their largest venues empty, Busch Gardens has scrambled to move the former Killarney Village Band to San Marco where they will perform their Italian Ensemble act. You can watch my recording of an Italian Ensemble performance earlier this year below.
As you’ll be able to tell from the video, though the Italian Ensemble is great for what it is, it’s far from a full production like Mix it Up was. With two of the park’s busiest weekends on the horizon; one of which is dedicated to the park’s pass members, I can’t help but think that most people won’t see the Italian Ensemble as a legitimate replacement for Mix it Up. If people go expecting the Italian Ensemble as they have when the act has been performed in the past, I’m sure they’ll be perfectly happy with the performance. However, when a four person band is forced to replace a full stage show at Busch Gardens Williamsburg all week long, I fear the Italian Ensemble simply isn’t going to fly.
Unfortunately, tt sounds as though the cast of Dig it Up, the Howl-O-Scream replacement for Mix it Up, has also taken a formidable hit after this week’s exodus.
Dig it Up, like Mix it Up, is a show based very heavily on live music and has historically shared much of its cast with its main season sister show. With so many key musicians walking off the job just two weeks before Dig it Up’s 2013 debut, there’s already talk of not being able to cast the show in time which, if true, could possibly lead to a delayed opening or even cancellation of Dig it Up for this year’s Howl-O-Scream. Very, very sad news.
If you have yet to see Dig it Up, I’ve embedded my recording of last year’s show below. Hopefully it will provide a bit of entertainment after what has been a very sad news piece thus far.
I heard whispers that another high-profile walk-off may have occurred after the Italian Ensemble’s final show yesterday and, from what one of our forum members, ChickenKing, is reporting from the park today, it would seem that those rumors were correct. Apparently the Italian Ensemble, the planned temporary replacement for Mix it Up, has just lost its lead. As you could probably imagine, not having a lead vocalist for what is already a very barebones show is basically a deal-breaker. That is why, as of today, all show related signage has been stripped off Il Teatro di San Marco and the theater now sits empty.
With Celtic Fyre gone, IllumiNights over, the Aquitaine Village Band given the boot, Mix it Up cancelled, and now the Killarney Village Band’s/Italian Ensemble’s lead walking off the job, the park is going into one of their busiest weekends of the season with just one show venue operating. The lack of shows is worsened by the fact that the park is also down two of their three main indoor attractions: Pirates 4D which closed earlier this season in preparation for Globe Theatre renovations and Europe in the Air which shut down two months ago due to budgetary problems. This weekend is shaping up to be an absolute trainwreck.
Before I jump in, I need to give a little background information on the Italian Ensemble.
The Italian Ensemble was designed to be a small swing-show which would perform in Il Teatro di San Marco one day a week to give the entire cast of Mix it Up a day off. Now, in past years, this hasn’t been needed because historically Busch Gardens Williamsburg has employed enough alternate performers to replace individual cast members on particular days. This is the first year that they’ve moved to cutting core shows one day a week in order to give a single day off to the entire cast of each show. The only exception to this is Celtic Fyre which retained a large enough swing cast to continue to run seven days a week.
Now, if you’ve seen a performance by the Killarney Village Band, the Italian Ensemble performers may look a bit familiar. Why? Because they actually share the same cast. On days Mix it Up would have off (typically every Wednesday), the Killarney Village Band would put on Italian-themed costumes and perform their Italian Ensemble act in San Marco. Now, yesterday, after the cancellation of Mix it Up, the Killarney Village Band (KVB for short) was informed that they would be working San Marco full-time through the 8th and would be abandoning their Killarney Village Band act (below) entirely.
Not only was the Killarney Village Band informed that they would be performing in San Marco till Howl-O-Scream, but the guests who showed up for the nonexistent 1pm Mix it Up showing on Thursday were told the same. Now, after I heard that the Killarney Village Band’s lead vocalist walked yesterday, I instantly assumed that would radically change the plans they had informed us of yesterday (the 29th). That’s why I sent ChickenKing over to the park today to see if anything was actually being performed in San Marco. As I said in the first update, he found all show logos stripped off Il Teatro di San Marco and the stage showing no signs of life. Since I made the update above, ChickenKing has informed me that he spoke to someone who identified themselves as an Entertainment supervisor who informed him that today was the Italian Ensemble’s day off and assured him that the Italian Ensemble would return to San Marco tomorrow (the 31st).
After he told me this, I was instantly very suspicious. The Killarney Village Band’s/Italian Ensemble’s off-day has never been on Friday- they’ve always had one of the first days of the week off so that Killarney would have its street performers on the busiest days of the week. Considering that the park didn’t have any prior notice of Mix it Up’s untimely demise, it would make no sense for that schedule to change this week. With that in mind, there’s no reason why the KVB shouldn’t have already had their day off for this week and should, thus, be working today. After a bit of investigation, ChickenKing found that he had, in fact, been lied to. As it turns out, the KVB was actually in Killarney performing their Killarney Village Band act without their female vocalist today as Il Teatro di San Marco sat dark.
Now the question becomes what will happen over labor day weekend? I assume the Italian Ensemble simply can’t perform without their lead vocalist and the Killarney Village Band is clearly crippled by losing her as well. Will we see the park attempt to pull off an instrumental version of the Italian Ensemble and hope that will quench the thirsts of anyone looking for Mix it Up this weekend or will the park leave the theater dark and let the Killarney Village Band continue to play in Killarney without their lead? I suppose we’ll see what happens tomorrow. Stay tuned…
Well, it’s Saturday and, as I imagined, the Italian Ensemble simply can’t perform without its female lead. Because the park knows just as well as I do that they can’t just leave the stage empty over the next two weekends, overnight they’ve begun construction on Dig it Up’s set. From what I understand, the dinosaur has already gone up and signage has already been installed on the outside of the theater announcing its September 13th debut. That said, from what I can gather, Dig it Up is still far from fully cast. Don’t be surprised to see some empty parts in the show come the 13th.
Anyway, all that said, the main point here is that it looks as though Il Teatro di San Marco will end up sitting dark for the rest of the main season. Tis very, very sad news.
As mentioned at the top of this post, this is still a developing story and will be updated as more information comes out. If you’d like more steady updates and thoughts on Mix it Up’s untimely demise, I encourage you to keep up with the forum thread on the ParkFans Forum dedicated to the news. Also, as always, follow us on Twitter or Like us on Facebook so you hear about any updates that are made to this post over the coming days.