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The Effectors - Royal Caribbean Shows-Off Tech Instead of Story Telling. Is It Worth It?

In recent years, Royal Caribbean has dedicated a lot of time, hard work, and money into creating their own evening shows.  Each of these aims to wow the audience with some over-the-top demonstration of technology and stagecraft, and their latest creation, The Effectors, is no exception. We got to enjoy the second-ever performance of this during our recently Odyssey of the Seas cruise, and you can read more about our thoughts and experiences on that ship here.

There were a few moments in this show that were unlike anything we'd seen on land or sea.  How did it work as a show though?  Well, if you're going strictly for the story, I'd skip it, but don't cancel your evening cruise plans just yet.

The Effectors - Plot Overview

It may be best, so that you can relate to some photos and descriptions below, to start with Royal Caribbean's own description of this performance, along with the digital posters outside the theater.

"Some superheroes are known for powers like ultra-fast speed, laser vision and titan-strength — but The Effectors draw their powers from their ability to create. Now, this band of heroes will have to face off against the ruthless Crash™, their arch-nemesis who’s bent on stopping the show and destroying the world. Get ready for an action-packed original spectacular at the Royal Theater — only on [Odyssey] of the Seas®."

The poster notes, "Join The Effectors as they take to the stage to demonstrate their awesome powers, and then come together to battle their arch nemesis, Crash as he tries to take over the world with his army of airborne Drone Soldiers and scary Henchmen."

When they say that The Effectors (the set of protagonists in the show) "demonstrate their awesome powers," this is fairly accurate, as the majority of the show is a demonstration of the technology in the theater.  The plot, as it's ordered in the description, is very much secondary.  So how was the technology that was so impressive?  It varied by character, and by scene.

The Characters & What They Showcase

Captain Viz - "The Power of Special Effects"

The only member of The Effectors with an officer's title it seems, Viz (that's what his friends call him) has a couple unique talents.  In one scene, which I've very poorly captured in a clip below, there are several performers on a dark stage, and their costumes have lighting that is centrally timed and controlled.  This allows for effects where it seems Viz instantly transports to different parts of the stage, exists in multiple places at once, or where his accompanying performers achieve impossible angles (presumably being held by those in costumes not lit at that moment).  Like almost everything in this show, it's nearly impossible to capture on camera.  At the very end of the show, Viz has another trick up his sleeve, and it's one of the most impressive things I've seen in a theatrical performance like this.  Without giving anything away, I'll just say that they flawlessly execute a body swap trick on stage, which I'd have been impressed with if at a big name magician's performance.  

Lume - "The Power of Light"

Lume could seemingly emit yellow lasers from her hands as she went about the stage, as could the team of...other Lumes?  I don't mean small laser pointers in their gloves, but powerful lasers that emitted a highly visible beam through the theater (though I'm sure a hazer was in use cloud the air).  The real power here was in the choreography, because those lasers were simply too powerful to come from the performers.  They were being beamed AT the performers, and they had to be perfectly on their marks and in perfect sync, in order to ensure the lasers were always hitting their hands.  More impressive?  We heard that the actor playing Lume was changed out at the last minute, and the performance we saw was only after a week or two of rehearsals, during which time she was also performing "The Book", a show in two70, the aft multipurpose venue.  

Reverb - "The Power of Sound"

His character may have the power of sound, but that wasn't the impressive part on stage.  Essentially, Reverb seemed to be a person in a hulk-like muscle suit who suppressed evil forces with his DJ skills.  The part that blew us away was a brief moment where his clothes are ripped off.  Or maybe pulled off?  If I could watch this again right now I'm not sure I could see exactly how it was done, but his "normal clothes" were removed in less than a half a second to reveal his muscles, and those clothes simply vanished.  There was a set piece behind him, and I suspect that's where they went, but I've no idea how they "hooked on" while he was dancing around.  

Pixel - "The Power of Video"

If I was ever in a fight between good and evil, I'm not sure how Pixel could help me in any way, but in this show, the cast and tech team did do an impressive job of cloning her.  Really.  As she dances around set pieces, some have screens (or projections), where she might stand behind part of a piece, but you see her "digitized" in on the screen, to make here "whole" in front of you.  This quickly turns into her dancing in sync with other projected Pixels that look exactly like her.  Then, multiple live actors come onto the stage, not only dressed the same, but looking VERY MUCH like the performer playing Pixel.  Wearing the same costume is easy, but how do they look exactly alike?  Part of this is that their movements were well-choreographed.  Another part, I suspect, is a wise decision in who is positioned where, so with features and qualities most like the "real" Pixel are positioned closest to her.  Many shows have characters dancing while looking alike, but this was very well executed.

Synchronized a Sea

In the past few years, there have been performances in Walt Disney World and elsewhere involving large numbers of small drones, where they change colors and move to create wild patterns in the air.  If you've seen this, you don't need me to tell you how surreal of an effect it creates.  These shows, however, have always been pulled off outdoors in massive spaces.  Even the largest cruise ship theater doesn't seem like a place you could fly multiple drones, but that's exactly what happens in this show. 

Crash, the antagonist, fortunately doesn't live up to his name when he commands his drone army of 45 (by my rough count) drones.  They launch from or near the stage, and then fly in various formations directly above the audience, moving about and changing colors in ways that sometimes make them look like much large single units.  I remember Royal Caribbean filing a patent for something like this years ago, but I'll be honest, I didn't think we'd ever see it in action - at least not like this.

From a technical standpoint, one of the things that I found amazing was the ability to coordinate these in close-quarters, where there is no line of sight to the sky.  See, usually, this would be done by GPS, but there's no way these devices could lock onto GPS signals from the lower decks of a cruise ship.  How did they do this?  Some seats in the theater were blocked off and contained show-themed boxes.  These boxes have some sort of equipment that the drones use to understand where they are within the theater.

My Overall Impression of The Effectors

This show has a very obvious comic book theme to it, and that's not the type of thing I'm generally into.  The plot and character development, however, are so secondary to the demonstration of technology, that it didn't matter to me.  Now, would I have enjoyed the show more if the theme was something that resonated better with me?  Sure.  I was absolutely blown away by the execution of the special effects and the choreography, though, and if I'm on Odyssey of the Seas again sometime, you can bet that I'll reserve a seat for this show as soon as I board, I enjoyed it that much.  Make sure you try and see it for yourself, though, as the photos and clips just don't do this show justice since it's so dependent on the visual effects that fill the entire theater.

To Be Continued?

There was a not-so-subtle hint at the end of this show that we might see a sequel of some sort.  I'm certainly game for that, but what I look even more forward to, is a show that is more than a demonstration of the technology and actors' skills, and instead a story that is enhanced by these things.  Either way, I can't wait to see what comes next.  

Thanks to RumJunkie for this photo.