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Universal Hollywood hits its mark with grown-up 'Creature from the Black Lagoon'

By Robert Niles
Published: June 30, 2009 at 2:46 PM
Universal Studios Hollywood is trashing industry convention with Creature from the Black Lagoon, staging a raucous Broadway-quality musical that revels in adult humor.

This isn't a show for the kiddies. Universal dusted off one of its classic monster franchises and brought it back to life with a fresh musical adaptation, one that's equal parts silly, sexy and snarky.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon confronts his prey

If you're not familiar with the 1954 horror classic, USH's 25-minute live show riffs off the same plot - an expedition travels to the Amazon, where a comely young scientist becomes the target for the eponymous creature. Except that this time, in a twist straight out of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, our lustful young lady lead is as hot for the Creature as he is for her.

Listen carefully to the lyrics, as Universal Creative's packed the show with silly pop culture references and sharp R-rated puns, the best of which I don't dare repeat here but that had me laughing loudly, as much at Universal's audacity for trying them as for the jokes themselves.

Visually, "Creature" delights, with choreography from Lynne Taylor-Corbett, a film veteran who also choreographed the Aladdin show at Disney's California Adventure. "Creature" makes full use of modern stagecraft, launching its leads above the audience for a stunning mid-air recreation of the film's swim sequence. A towering puppet also plays a role, slyly controlled by several puppeteers.

The cast, as usual for Universal Studios Hollywood, gives its all, but with a delightful script and original score to play with, they deliver a far more entertaining show than the Castle Theater's seen in years.

Some parents might complain, but I say it's about time that a theme park tried to extend its range. The jokes here would seem tame in any comedy club, but for a theme park, they are risque. (Universal promises warnings outside and inside the theater, advising parents of the adult content within.) Many theme park shows have played two-level jokes before, with a double entendre aimed at keeping the parents in the audience as amused as their kids. "Creature" dumps the kiddie level, and aims its gags straight at the grown-ups.

"Creature" hits its mark.

Readers' Opinions

From William Clark on June 30, 2009 at 4:23 PM
I've got to see this. Last time I was at Universal Hollywood was... well, 10 years ago. It's time to return.

Is it still safe to stay in Los Feliz? LOL.

From Anthony Murphy on June 30, 2009 at 4:27 PM
Good report, but I think it kinda looks a bit dumb. I hate when movies, plays, or theme parks use pop references. Will people know Amy Winehouse or Axl Rose in five years?

Still, it seems a bit campy and I could see it staying around and be a big huge success at HHN. The costumes were nice, but the video really didn't wow me, but good report anyway!

From Robert Niles on June 30, 2009 at 4:38 PM
I would hope that Universal would keep the script fresh, but a concept like this won't last forever - it's too irreverent for a long run. I do think it could lure some of the nighttime date crowd from CityWalk into the park, though.
From William Clark on June 30, 2009 at 5:19 PM
Axl Rose has been around a bit longer than 5 years. Matter of fact I saw him with Guns and Roses at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. Yep, Paradise City, One in a Million, November Rain, Live and Let Die.(borrowed from the Beatles) I think Axl has stood the test of time. But anyway, Creature looks like a good show. Let's just hope it's better than Beetlejuice's Graveyard Review at Universal Orlando.
From Derek Potter on June 30, 2009 at 7:37 PM
"It's about time that theme parks extend their range". Exactly my thoughts, hence the reason I liked Hard Rock Park and all it had to offer. It had an edgy personality, a lot of which is gone, some due to the intellectual property BS from the previous management, and some due to Freestyle wanting to tone it down.

I really wish that more attractions angled toward adults would open. I know that kids tend to equal money in this business, but that leaves little room for true variety. It's the same in the music business. When someone hits upon success, other people try to copy that success...hence the trends in music. The problem with following a formula is that people eventually tire of seeing or hearing the same thing over and over again. I see it happening in the amusement/theme park shows. The shows are cheesy, bland, and homogenized..taking no chances whatsoever. Quite simply, there's no heart and soul or personality in it, no real artistic expression All the music acts have become showtune cover bands instead of being real artists/performers. The shows are all either stunt shows, ice skating, or karaoke. Instead of being designed out of creativity, they are all designed out of fear of angering or offending someone. I'm not saying that they should be shocking and/or offensive in the name of art, but they also don't need to be complete sellouts in the artistic department.

Part of the problem, at least in my neck of the woods, is that most of the major parks in this area are owned by chains. I've always been a huge fan of Cedar Fair's rides, but their shows are boring, plain and simple. Paramount's shows weren't much better either...a disappointing fact considering all the movies they had to work with. I understand that they need to appeal to kids, but there are also plenty of adults out there that wish there was something for them besides an overpriced drink. After all, some of us do like to go to the park without kids In an age where everyone plays it safe, it's good to see some parks stepping out and taking a chance.

From Anthony Murphy on June 30, 2009 at 8:09 PM
I didn't mean that Axl Rose was going to be or is insignificant, but one of these days, the kids are going to ask Axl who I think. Though we probably will never know, I bet there was some Michael Jackson joke.

Like I said, the costuming looks so much better than I could have imagined, but it looks a little to edgy for a family park (yes, Universal is a family park no matter what they try to do in the ADs)

From James Rao on June 30, 2009 at 9:31 PM
Derek, I am with you completely. As much as I harp on parks for having too few family-oriented attractions, they also suffer from not having enough adult-oriented experiences, especially in the after hours. I am not asking for a themed strip club or a XXX simulator ride (Back to the Kama Sutra: The Ride, anyone?!), but a few on-the-edge experimental shows would be a nice start. Alcohol and uber coasters are not the full extent of the average adult's interest, despite what some may think.

As for "Creature", I think it looks like a lot of fun. I used to go to a lot of local productions that were campy, sci-fi, and adult-oriented and I always had a good time. This brief snippet reminds me of those classic midnight rock operas. I hope it stays around long enough for me to see the full show in person someday!

Thanks for the report, Robert.

From 76.173.111.78 on June 30, 2009 at 9:39 PM
I saw it 2 hours ago and was very dissaponted a load of people walked out even the cast member said they wished that they had fear factor and in my eyes a very pointess ending.
From Robert Niles on June 30, 2009 at 9:50 PM
If there's any park where an adult-humor show could work, it is USH. With thousands of date-night couples at CityWalk on weekends, and a healthy influx of young adults even on weekdays, a more adult-targeted show in the theme park might be able to draw some of those visitors into the park.

It's a different mix than even Universal Orlando, and certainly different than Disney.

From James Rao on July 1, 2009 at 11:44 AM
Fear Factor? Puh-lease! I can't wait until the one in Orlando is closed for good. Ugh! 'Creature' may not be a great show (I may never find out), but I am sure it is light-years ahead of anything Fear Factor ever offered in the way of entertainment.
From Joshua Counsil on July 1, 2009 at 5:54 PM
Completely agree on the adult entertainment points. Jungle Cruise humor can only go so far.

I've said it before - they have attractions with height restrictions, so why don't they have attractions with age restrictions?

From 74.166.169.84 on July 1, 2009 at 10:47 PM
I won't be getting to USH for another 2 years but I hope the show is still around. It looks great.
From Jacob Sundstrom on July 2, 2009 at 2:37 PM
I was at the media event as well, and I have to say that I strongly disagree with you Robert. Universal has popped out a show that is edgy for the sake of being edgy. And no matter how excited forty-something year adults get over a "Show for them" I can't help but wonder how in the world they do not see the juvenility of the jokes in this show. The "Male Growth Cream" 'plot twist' (If you have seen the show, you know what I mean) is so ridiculous that I felt it was almost an insult to my intelligence.

So while the show was (as always) visually stunning, and the actors quite earnest, and even the opening song or two was great, the show as a whole was quite weak. If you want edgy entertainment, let's get them to keep the Bill and Ted show in there year round. At least that had decent jokes.

This show will certainly not be pulling anyone off of the Citywalk. Can you imagine: "Hey hunny, let's pay sixty bucks to go to Universal Studios for two hours so we can see that new show" - get real!

I gave the show a 2/5 based merely on the great special effects and performances given by the actors. You say Creature hit its mark, but that makes me wonder what mark it was shooting for exactly.

From Robert Niles on July 2, 2009 at 4:00 PM
I think is this a show for the CollegeHumor.com generation - it's silly and self-parodying. It won't be for everyone, but again, I'm getting a bit tired with every non-roller-coaster attraction trying to be for everyone. I'm going to continue to give Universal huge props for trying this, and making it work well, no matter how many people seem to have it in for this show.
From Sylvain Comeau on July 2, 2009 at 5:20 PM
I'm looking forward to seeing this, when and if I finally get back to the west coast. Fear Factor was not bad, but when you've seen it once, no need to see it again. This looks like a big improvement, so what's their excuse in Florida for hanging on to tired old FF?
From Jacob Sundstrom on July 2, 2009 at 5:24 PM
Have it in for this show? Are you really going to try and tell me that everyone who did not enjoy the show had a pre-disposition against it?

I'm seventeen years old, and a mild fan of the original film. I was exceptionally excited to check this show out, and did not want to believe the early reports that it was a little bit less than clever. However despite wanting to like it with all my heart, I could not help but find the jokes childish and quite frankly stupid.

I can admire Universal trying to be edgy, but even a show like Waterworld has some adult humor and remains to be one of the best theme park shows out there.

As I said before, making a show edgy for the sake of making it edgy is stupid if you can not come up with clever jokes. One song lyric goes "I'm hung, I'm hung, I'm hungry." -- really? Honestly? That's not funny, that's not sexy, that's dumb.

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