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Florida Guide > Other Parks

Katonga - Busch Gardens

When we visited our villa this summer we were able to take our first trip to Busch Gardens. Being August, the weather was wonderfully hot, so it was lovely to walk into the beautiful cool theatre which houses the delightful show ‘Katanga’. You can’t miss this cream and white building, tall and with a tower atop, it is just to the right of the entrance, and its façade is typically Moroccan. Twin staircases wind their way up to the entrance, and you enter the 1150 seat Broadway-style theatre through white archways, delicately carved in Moroccan style.

Once inside the theatre, your attention is caught by the large stage, framed on each side by huge tree trunks, complete with roots, their leaves reaching out across the top of the stage. Behind is a twinkling backdrop of tiny lights, and the name ‘Katanga’. The show, itself, takes us into the heart of Africa, and is full of music, magical puppets, African-inspired dancing, energetic acrobatics and spectacular costumes.

As we relaxed in the seats there was a feeling of expectation, and we were not to be disappointed. Although the show does not have a real story line running through it, like Lion King at Animal Kingdom, it is energetic, colourful. The show starts with the master story teller, Karume, who gathers together four novice story tellers to see who can tell the best tale, and ultimately become a master of their craft. The song, ‘Voices of Africa’, provides a powerful start to the show.

Ayo is the first, and his story involves a monkey puppet called Whirley, lots of energetic actors in monkey suits doing acrobatics, and a song which sounds distinctly like ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy.’ This is followed by a delightful story about a caterpillar who is trying to discover his place in the world. The costumes are spectacular and the performance is very cleverly put together. The bug costumes are really spectacular, and the storyteller, Citiwala gives a delightful performance, as she weaves in and out of a giant spider’s web. The huge caterpillar, who moves along the stage, is accompanied through the story by a grasshopper, bees, a dung beetle, and a dragonfly. The caterpillar becomes a cocoon, and is born anew as a butterfly in the finale of this enchanting scene.

Lyongo tells the third story about a bullfrog called Rokrok, and a watering hole in the African jungle. This colourful frog has to learn not to be loud and dominating, but to be able to listen to others and croak with them in harmony. Rokrok is accompanied in this gentle tale by alligators, a snake, a turtle, parrots, cranes, flamingos and, of course, his lady friend. As the tale draws to a close the birds swoop out over the audience, in a scene reminiscent of the Lion King. The music is easily recognisable as ‘Talk to the Animals’ from the film, Dr. Doolittle.

However, for me, the final story, by Shade, has to be my favourite. Her singing was impressive and she gave a powerful performance, as her tale of a flood unfolds. Thunder and lightning fill the auditorium, as Shade, with a rhinoceros, an elephant, a lion, a giraffe and a zebra beside her, appears high up on a rock, overlooking the turbulent waters beneath, to begin her tale. The raging river, skilfully presented by the use of rippling gossamer-thin material, was particularly mesmerizing. She tells us to hold tight to our dreams and not to let go, and says that we are all part of a chain, linked together by the light of the sun. As the raging torrent calms, we are asked to celebrate the light, and as a final epithet, Shade tells us that if you find yourself, love will find you.

The finale which follows was a wonderful cacophony of music, dancing, and acrobatics, with even more stunning costumes, and it brought this lovely show to an unforgettable end. The four novice story tellers, who have tried so hard to be the one to tell the best tale, finally discover that it is team work that counts, and that all their stories are worthy.

Children will love the hundreds of tiny tissue paper butterflies that cascade gently down from the ceiling during the performance. There was a general scurry to retrieve them after the lights went up, and many a child, and adult, went home clutching a souvenir handful of them. A particularly nice touch was the way the principle cast members stayed at each side of the stage at the end of the performance, allowing plenty of time for photographs. They were more than happy to oblige families who wished to take photos of their children alongside them, and with their colourful costumes and headdresses it was a great photo opportunity.

We found it a relaxing and enchanting interlude. The costumes and scenery were wonderful and the singing was of a high quality – no stunning songs like the Lion King, but it would be wrong to compare the two shows. There is very little that can beat the amazing words and music of Elton John, or the magical skills of Disney’s Lion King, but there is no doubting the casts’ exuberance and skills, and despite performing several times a day, it was fresh and full of vitality.

It is great family entertainment, and a welcome change for those who are not roller coaster fanatics.

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Page added on: 1 November 2005
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