By Charly SHELTON
Theme parks everywhere are opening new attractions and summer festivals to give returning summer guests something new to enjoy. Whether it’s a ride, show or a festival with activities, summer crowds will eat it up. But Knott’s Berry Farm is going above and beyond with not just one of those options, but all three.
HangTime, KBF’s new dive coaster, opened last month to much acclaim both critically and from park-goers. (CV Weekly was there for the opening and you can read a full write-up on the totally tubular ride in the May 24 issue.) To add to the summer festivities, it has debuted two new shows: Calico’s Mountain Jamboree and Beach Blanket Beagle.
Calico’s Mountain Jamboree is a dance and stunt show on the Calico stage where Scary Farm’s The Hanging takes place. Guests will find the Calico Miners and the Timber Mountain Loggers battle for supremacy through dance, aerial rope displays and high-fall trampolining. Beach Blanket Beagle is a musical in the Charles M Shultz Theatre. Set to 1960s surf tunes, everyone’s favorite beagle Snoopy helps a bunch of kids save their local beach from becoming a parking lot. While both shows probably seemed a good idea on paper, in practice they come out somewhere between a time-waster and painful-to-watch.
The Calico show is the easier of the two to handle, but just doesn’t give much more than a few trampoline moves, a low tight rope and a few generic dances. It was meh. Beach Blanket Beagle is nearly twice as long and much more cringe inducing. The acting and dialogue are just atrocious. The overall plot is common for a “Beach Blanket Bingo”-style story – the beach needs to be saved and money needs to be raised through a surfing or dance contest. The songs are great and performed well by the entire cast. They really are an enjoyable choir and, if it were just a collection of songs and dances, it would be a fun show. But it’s the parts where they speak lines of dialogue that should just be cut out. This makes the early seasons of “Hannah Montana” look like Ibsen, both in script and acting. After an entire day at the theme park, to be able to sit in air conditioning and watch cute beach girls splash each other in “itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikinis” while singing the titular song, sounds lovely. Despite that, I’d still rather stand outside and stare at the sun.
The stage shows’ lackluster performances notwithstanding, the rest of the summer fun actually is fun. Ghost Town Alive! is a much better way to spend your time at the park. Guests take on a starring role in the town of Calico and interact with the citizens of the town, who were are quick-witted, on-the-ball improvisers who really made the day special for guests, especially kids, through their scripted activities and just rolling with the punches as kids say the darndest things. Throughout the day, depending on your choice of activities, you can see a bank robbery, be robbed on the train, print newspapers, grow a mustache, meet animal friends, mine for gold and more, all culminating at 5 p.m. with the big, town-wide hoedown where guests can learn classic western dances and play with their new Calico friends. It’s like “Westworld” but with less violence and real people instead of killer robots. This is a great way to spend the day and lengthens a stay into the night for the cool summer evenings.
Ghost Town Alive! runs select days through Sept. 3 at Knott’s Berry Farm and HangTime is open now.