WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -
DENISE M. WATSON, The Virginian-Pilot
Busch Gardens and Water Country USA folks are hoping to hear lots of "Yeah! Yeah! Yeahs!" as the amusement parks introduce a British Invasion theatrical show and a new ride in May.
Water Country's new attraction, the Colossal Curl, is the park's first family-thrill water ride and is touted as being the first of its kind in North America.
The 553-foot slide looms near the parking lot and looks similar to a human digestive tract magnified a zillion times. It is built to provide almost every type of water-ride experience - including waterfalls, feelings of weightlessness, twists and turns - all in a 55-second whoosh.
The rafts are cloverleaf-shaped to allow a family or group of four to ride together. The ride begins with a "tantrum" - a funnel that resembles the stomach of said tract - that will swish the rafts around before hurling them lower to a 40-foot wave wall.
Lighter-blue bands of the slide will allow in flashes of light, while deeper-blue areas will block it and engulf riders in darkness.
The thrill of the ride will require height and weight limits. Riders must be at least 4 feet tall, and no more than 700 pounds will be allowed on a raft.
The ride platform will include a scale for riders - it won't flash numbers but will indicate green, if the weight is under the limit, or red, if the party needs to be split. The curl will have a soft opening on May 17, when Water Country opens for the season.
The park's last new ride opened in 2011, but Jeff Thomas, vice president of Water Country, said his team had started rethinking its offerings before then.
"We have great inventory, but what we were missing was a true family thrill ride."
Carl Lum, president of Busch Gardens and Water Country, said he and his team are constantly trying to come up with the next big thing not only to keep the amusement parks popular but to draw more people to southeastern Virginia.
It is fitting to debut such an exciting addition, he said, during the park's 30th year.
"It's more than Water Country doing great," Lum said. "Not only do we want to attract more people, but we want people to stay longer. When they stay longer, they stay in timeshares, they eat in restaurants - everyone benefits."
Down the road at Busch Gardens, creative and technical directors are rehearsing and finishing renovations at the Globe Theatre, which will open its first stage performance in 20 years with "London Rocks."
For years, the Globe, located in the park's England area, was home to animation or film. The artistic team listened to park guests, who said they loved live entertainment.
"London Rocks" will feature the story of a young teen from the late 1950s to early '60s and follow her into adulthood. Along the way, she falls in love with and is influenced by the popular British rock of the time.
Producers aren't offering many details, saying only that Beatles lovers will get their fill. Other groups and musicians will be featured during the roughly 30-minute production, but those names won't be disclosed until the show opening May 23.
"We want to keep some elements of the show a surprise," said Phil Raybourn, production manager.
Busch Gardens cast nationwide for singers and rock musicians and has pulled in award-winning talent for the show, including Ken Billington, a lighting mastermind and Tony winner for "Chicago," and Tony-nominated director Sam Buntrock, who is known for "Sunday in the Park with George."
Not only is the Globe undergoing a renovation, but the England area will receive an overhaul and more British fare will be added to the menu.
Pete Dunklee, director of theatrical services, practically danced around the Globe's new set, which includes close to 900 peace signs hidden in the design.
With the latest technology, the audience will feel the mist of the London streets and clang of buses from speakers around the hall and in the seats.
Dunklee said, "All of this comes together in this cool, cool, cool, cool show."
Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, http://pilotonline.com
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