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I’ve always been skeptical about hypnosis stage shows. The volunteers are just acting, right? There’s no way they could actually be under hypnosis, don’t you agree?
Well, at least that’s what I thought — until I saw hypnotist and magician Ryan Joyce’s comedy hypnosis show during a weeklong Western Caribbean cruise onboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) Norwegian Escape. When I witnessed my friend go into a deep sleep (he was so relaxed that he fell on the floor), then act like a Chippendales dancer upon hearing a code word, it was hard to deny the show’s legitimacy any longer.
My friend didn’t remember a thing from the hour or so he spent on stage, and neither did any of the other volunteers I spoke to after the show. Twenty participants were prompted to do all sorts of hilarious antics, from lip syncing to singer Adele’s music and hopping like kangaroos to licking what they thought was a melted ice-cream cone. The audience was rolling with laughter, and Joyce’s commanding skills certainly made a believer out of me.
“Comedy Hypnosis With Ryan Joyce” is one of many impressive shows available onboard Escape. Indeed, NCL is no stranger to providing outstanding entertainment in the cruise industry and has been featuring branded entertainment since 2010.
“Guests can always expect to find engaging, enjoyable and thrilling entertainment across our fleet,” said Richard Ambrose, vice president of entertainment for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. “We are continuously seeking to provide new and inventive experiences for our guests so that every time they cruise with us, they will be entertained to the fullest.”
“After Midnight,” winner of the 2014 Tony Award for Best Choreography, whisks the audience away to 1920s Harlem for a front-row seat at the Cotton Club. Here, guests can watch a talented ensemble — backed by an eight-piece band — belt Jazz Age tunes. The actors perform scenes and tap dance against a narrative of Langston Hughes poetry and original arrangements by Duke Ellington. Expect standout performances from Sharon Wilkins and Darryl Williams, who have their own individual shows on the cruise, “Ladies in Music Starring Sharon Wilkins” and “The Mind of a Tenor,” respectively. Beginning April 7, Brenda Braxton will replace Sharon Wilkins, and her cabaret will be called “Act II, Now What?”
If you love “After Midnight” as much as I do, be sure to catch one of two 30-minute Motown shows offered at The Manhattan Room restaurant. Some “After Midnight” cast members reunite for an all-too-brief performance of songs by Aretha Franklin, the Jackson Five, Marvin Gaye and other favorite Motown artists. Some diners were inspired to sing along and even stand up from their table, waving their napkins up in the air to the beat of old-school jams.
Weaving together Top 40 hits and classics from the past five decades, The Company Men deliver incredible vocals with suavity and class. The four-man vocal group — which on my sailing featured Shaun Mykals, A. Miles Powell, Brandon Alameda and Aleks Pevec — reinvent songs such as Prince’s “Kiss” with arrangements from Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass.” My favorite arrangement was a four-minute-long boy band tribute that incorporated at least 16 songs from the likes of NSync, Boyz II Men and The Beach Boys. Somehow, it all worked. During the main stage performance, one of the singers likened the unique way they perform music to Neapolitan ice cream.
“You have your chocolate, strawberry and vanilla,” Pevec said. “All three flavors are classic in their own ways, but when you run the spoon through all three, you suddenly have something really unique and different. And that’s what we’re trying to achieve with the music we perform.”
Whether seeing them in the more intimate The Supper Club or backed by a full band on the main stage, The Company Men put on a feel-good show that will have guests clapping their hands and bobbing their heads.
The 80s are alive (and totally awesome) at the Escape Theater, where “For the Record: The Brat Pack” takes center stage. The hourlong concert experience is a pastiche of classic films such as “The Breakfast Club,” “Weird Science,” “Ferris Bueller's Day Off,” “Pretty in Pink” and other cult favorites. The set design is spectacular, with pink neon lights as far as the eye can see and a huge LED screens that change color to the beat. The show is best suited for those who are familiar with the Brat Pack movies of the 80s, because the narrative isn’t as cohesive as most of Escape’s main-stage shows. This 80s baby, however, thought it was pretty darn rad.
Need an excuse to get a buzz on during the day? Look no further than “Wine Lovers the Musical” at The Supper Club. For an additional $23.54, guests can sample six wines, enjoy a three-course lunch and learn how to properly taste wine thanks to instructions from a quirky musical. The script is ridiculous at times, but I did learn about the chemical reaction that creates sparkling wine, what a “palate memory” is (how we catalogue smell and tastes) and the characteristics of certain varietals. Bonus: The pours are hefty, and you get to walk out of the theater with a full glass of prosecco.
A host of other top-notch entertainment options are available throughout the cruise — so many that it’s impossible to experience them all. Some of the most notable are the dueling piano show at Howl at the Moon, stand-up comedy with Dean Edwards (who has appeared on “Saturday Night Live” and “The Sopranos”) and a magic and illusion show with Joyce. During my sailing, the guests I interacted with seemed genuinely impressed with the range of things to see and do onboard.
“My wife and I sailed on Escape in 2016, and I have to say that the onboard entertainment we’re seeing now is far superior than it was in the past,” said Kurt Mangum from Phoenix, who sailed the Caribbean with his family in late February and early March. “The onboard entertainment on this cruise more diverse, younger and more relevant than before — it blew us away.”
Starting April 22, Norwegian Escape will be sailing roundtrip from New York to Bermuda. The seven-day journeys start at $649 per person.
The DetailsNorwegian Cruise Linewww.ncl.com