Back in the heart of Orlando at Leu Gardens, Creative City Project's latest theatrical walking experience has debuted. "Dragons & Fairies" finally emerged, after a week's postponement due to shipping delays.
(Read Part 1 of this week's column, which covered SeaWorld's new Ice Breaker roller coaster.)
I fell hard for "Dazzling Nights" and "Down the Rabbit Hole," the organization's previous pandemic-era walk-throughs, finding them even more enjoyable than Creative City's signature Immerse street festival. Participants once again traverse a wonderland of imaginatively illuminated trees, encountering live actors along the trail. This version weaves an original fable — obviously influenced by The Wizard of Oz and Labyrinth, among other classics — following Freya (performed by Zoe Rosas during my visit), a headstrong orphan fairy with a charmingly incomprehensible brogue, and her flightless dragon friend Dauntless (Adonus Mabry) as they petition a powerful wizard (Brett McMahon) to rescind the decree that keeps their kinds separated.
Creative City's latest collaboration with director/scriptwriter/costumer Donald Spencer didn't enchant me to nearly the same degree as the last, despite sharing many of the same design elements, but that's largely because I'm about four decades too old to really appreciate it. While the candy-colored lighting design rivals Disney's bioluminescent Pandora and the enthusiastic cast fully commits to their roles, the writing and direction lack the sly sharpness that made last year's Alice-inspired show so delicious for adults.
Kids, however, will be enamored of comical characters like the bickering trolls (James D. Stanley, Gregg Baker Jr.), and young ones will definitely be more awed by the attraction's heavily hyped half-dozen dragons (from Chinese manufacturer Gengu) than their parents, who are likely to notice that the inconsistently sculpted and scaled figures' stiff movements more closely resemble Christmas lawn ornaments than any animatronic you'd find in an Orlando theme park. I'd imagine locally built creatures with human puppeteers would have been far more expressive and less expensive.
Although "Dragons & Fairies" seemed to me like a series of missed opportunities, when viewed through the eyes of the enthralled pre-schooler in my party, it was a rousing success. If you go, be sure to bring your inner child — and maybe grab a cup of hot cider from Easy Luck's booth before beginning your quest, because even dragon fire can't warm up these frigid Florida nights.