Celebrate! A Sneak Peak

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Brady MacDonald from the LA Times Travel Blog has put up the first review, and a picture of Disneyland’s new “Celebrate! A Street Party”, which debuts this Friday:

I was up well before dawn this morning to watch a dress rehearsal of  “Celebrate! A Street Party,” the new interactive “street show” debuting at Disneyland on Friday.

The Anaheim theme park’s Main Street USA was surreally alive at 3 a.m. — with overnight “third-shift” crews watering flowers, trimming trees and planting perennials. A backhoe stood sentinel before Sleeping Beauty Castle as a dinosaur-like cherry picker maneuvered down a spoke street.

But all traffic gave way when the pulsating dance music started and the first of the “Celebrate!” floats motored down the parade route. Dancers, Disney characters, stilt-walkers and bicycle “chariot” drivers in a mix of rehearsal sweat suits and sequined costumes enthusiastically performed for the mostly phantom audience, save for the parade support staff and the occasional gardener.

I was there to watch a preview of the show, which appeared pretty dialed-in from my first-timer’s perspective.

The show — and yes, it’s more a series of performance show stops than a traditional marching parade — seems the perfect anecdote for these dire economic times. A no-frills performance low on costly gadgetry and theatrics and high on affordable energy and fun. Call it a recession-era jolt of glitz, glam, vamp and camp with just a bit of retro-1970s cheese thrown in for seasoning. Dare I say it was even a tad bit hip and sexy, with the sequined-skirted female dancers high-kicking and back-flipping in a way that could only seem risqué if you filtered the scene through a Disney lens.

The parade — and I can’t help calling it that — features 99 performers, including 48 dancers, 12 stilt-walkers, 12 chariot drivers, three DJs and 24 costumed Disney characters. To my surprise, even Clarabelle Cow and Clarice the Chipmunk — two of Disney’s lesser-known characters — join the cast.

“We wanted to do something in the park that would celebrate the guest,” said Denny Newell, a senior show director at Disneyland who oversees “Celebrate!” “We thought the best way to do it would be to throw them a big dance party.”

“Celebrate!” began development about eight months ago, proceeding through the artist concept stage to costuming, music and float-building before auditions were held in January. The cast of about 200 (enough for a seven-day-a-week schedule) began intense rehearsals over the last several weeks.

“We haven’t done a big dance show like this at the park for a long time,” Newell said. “It goes back to the successes we had with “Main Street Hop” and “Party Gras,” these fun street shows that stopped and got everybody involved.”

The 12-minute “show stops” occur at three locations: along Main Street, around the Central Plaza hub and in front of It’s a Small World. You won’t see the show if you wait around Town Square in front of the train station or along Matterhorn Way.

“Celebrate! A Street Party” is high on interactive participation — with chances for the audience to join a conga line, bang a drum or dance the Twist. Just watch out for the speeding bicycle chariots carrying costumed Disney characters. I predict a fur-flying, stilt-toppling wreck of comic proportions in the coming weeks if those charioteers don’t slow down.

The seven parade floats include three rolling stages with DJ skyboxes and four smaller character floats featuring inflatable balloon likenesses of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy.

The show features 15 songs, including swing (”Jump With My Baby,” “Jump, Jive & Wail” and “I Wanna Be Like You”), rock (”I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Do You Wanna Dance?” and “The Twist”) and Latin (”Cup of Life” and “Tico Tico”). The conga line features a trio of reinterpreted Disney songs: “Under the Sea,” “Friend Like Me” and “Tiki Room.” The confetti-finale includes the infectious “Can’t Stop the Beat” (from “Hairspray”) and the original tune “Celebrate You.”

Between show stops, the performers travel to a speeded-up version of Miley Cyrus’ “Pumping Up the Party,” which will be familiar to any tween girl or her parents (I regularly sing a karaoke duet of the tune with my 8-year-old daughter, Hannah).

The parade will be held twice on busy days at 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and once on slower days at 7 p.m.