A 100-year-old carousel at Efteling has inspired a theatrical musical show at the Netherlands-based theme park. Madeleine Barber takes in the inaugural performance
Who recalls making a beeline for the merry-go-round at fairs during their childhood? I do, and recently found myself repeating history at Efteling theme park in the Netherlands’ Kaatsheuvel region, home to a century-old steam carousel with one of only five Gavioli organs remaining in the world.
The fairy-tale and legend-themed park also has rollercoasters, a fairy-tale forest with Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread house and Rapunzel’s tower, and the Efteling Theatre, which has just launched a show based on the park’s ancient carousel.
Caro follows the story of lovebirds Oscar and Eva through childhood and their twenties to becoming parents and grandparents. Olaf Vugts, the show’s creative director, explains: “It’s the story of life. We wanted to give visitors something all people can understand, so we told the story of birth, love, marriage and losing someone.”
This marks a big step on the park’s mission to become a fully international destination by 2020 and is the reason the theatre show is largely speech-free. “Caro was developed for the international market, so its speech and language are superfluous,” Vugts adds.
The moment the show begins, it’s clear this is no amateur performance. Madam Time, one of two “narrators” is played by Dutch singer Talita Angwarmasse, who belts out world-renowned tracks by the likes of Adele and Stevie Wonder, while actors and actresses perform impressive acrobatics and dance routines. She’s clearly found of the role.
“I was really happy to be chosen as Madame Time because she acts out the different colours of emotions. She’s a mother figure and she can be funny, but the really beautiful thing is the vocals and to sing Adele. The character gives me so much,” she enthuses.
The visuals are impressive too, with pyrotechnics, a rain curtain and intricate costumes – designed in-house – making the show a great spectacle.
It’s performed on a rotating stage, and Angwarmasse says this has been a huge challenge for the cast. “We have to have eyes in our back and on our sides. The script is new and the costumes are new too – it’s a beautiful process,” she says.
A challenge it may be, but it’s integral to the show’s success, as Vugts explains. “We have rebuilt the theatre to be circular, like a carousel, and that’s what we like so much about it now – it’s so close and intimate, and we’ve used this to get the story across. Whether it’s a child, adult or grandparent, they will relate.”
Claire Hancer, UK country manager for Efteling, agrees that Caro appeals to the whole family. “Adults will love the pop music that helps tell the story, older kids will be amazed by the groundbreaking special effects, and younger members of the family will love the bright colours and costumes,” she says.
Even casting has an all-inclusive theme, with 14 amateur children taking to the stage as one-night-only “special guests”. These little ones will have undergone a day of training to take part – Caro has more than 2,000 children lined up for the next six months, and they’re certainly upping the show’s cuteness factor.
In order to get Caro and its special guests the attendance it deserves, Efteling is working closely with its trade partners on comprehensive packages already available with Jet2, Super Break, Eurotunnel and DFDS. Point-of-sale videos, mini brochures and images are also on offer to agents.
So while Efteling branches out further into the international tourism territory after 66 years in operation, I have a feeling it will have no trouble at all attracting even more visitors, with Caro on its programme for the next three years.
Book it: Super Break offers two nights at Efteling for a family of four for £711, including self-catered accommodation, theme park passes and Stansted flights. Caro tickets are an additional €7.50 for overnight guests. Based on December 3 departures.