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2010 Best Theme Park Attraction nominee: Busch Gardens Tampa's Katonga

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Published: February 8, 2010 at 10:25 AM

We kick off another week here on Theme Park Insider by welcoming Busch Gardens Tampa's Katonga to the daily attraction spotlight. Katonga joins the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament as the seventh seed in the Best Live Show bracket.

Busch Gardens Tampa's Katonga

Set in the 1,200-seat Moroccan Palace Theater, this 35-minute musical show debuted in 2004 and follows a day in the lives of aspiring storytellers, called Griots, as they strive to become masters of their craft. To accomplish this rite of passage, the performers evoke traditional African stories to entertain the audience.

I have to fess up that Katonga is one of the few nominees in this year's tournament that I have not experienced in person. So I'll turn it over to TPI reader Russell Meyer, who wrote: "I wasn't sure what to expect from Katonga, but I came out realizing that I had just watched the best theme park show I've ever seen. Many people will probably want to draw comparisons to Animal Kingdom's Festival of the Lion King, but I think Katonga's imaginative story and original score elevate it even higher than any of Disney's show offerings."

And here's Joe Lane: "As our story begins, we meet Karume, a master storyteller, who calls together the best storytellers of Africa, called griots, and challenges them to tell the best stories they possibly can. One tells the story of Whirly, a young monkey who learns about being confident (to the tune of Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy"). Next, we have the song of Kipopo, a caterpillar struggling to find her place in the world of insects, follows with a story about Rok Rok, a bullfrog who's taught a lesson in living with others in harmony (accompanied by the Leslie Bricusse song "Talk With The Animals"). The finale is a story from about an African crowned crane named Kilinda and a great flood that threatens to wash away two lovers. The song "Celebrate the Light" is perhaps the true highlight of the production, uplifting and inspiring--and it's original, written by Tampa native Desmond Boone who has been writing music for BGT for 25 years."

Busch Gardens visitors, what do you think about Katonga? If you haven't seen the show, here's a clip of "Celebrate the Light":

Readers' Opinions

From 24.162.248.231 on February 8, 2010 at 10:31 AM
very good
From 68.200.240.18 on February 8, 2010 at 1:55 PM
This is definitely the best Show at Busch Gardens Tampa, and perhaps my favorite of any park.
From Pyra Dong on February 8, 2010 at 2:00 PM
No NO NO! I LOVE KATONGA! and I LOVE the "celebrate the life" song-- but that video probably shows the most blah part in the entire Katonga show! REALLY! However beautiful the song is there is NO action whatsoever in it. (yet, because of the song's beauty, I can't imagine what sort of action can even be put in the background... hmm)

KATONGA is filled with awesome choreography! There's a mix of African-inspired moves, breakdancing, trampoline artists, and more. The set is also wayyyyy more elaborate than what you see in the video.

YES! definitely see Katonga! The video clip doesn't do it justice. I always come out of that show forgetting that I'm in Tampa.

From 216.54.96.140 on February 8, 2010 at 3:04 PM
Another example of the incredible talent that is the Busch live entertainment department. Disney shows may have more whiz-bang effects and technology, and Six Flags shows are sure loud, but the most talented performers and crew in the business work in the Moroccan Palace and Abbey Stone theaters.
From Anthony Murphy on February 8, 2010 at 7:07 PM
Too much like Festival of the Lion King for me!

I will wait for that to make the list (I hope)

From Rhys Evans on February 8, 2010 at 7:12 PM
This'll tick off some folks, but IMHO, this is hands-down BETTER than Festival of the Lion King...
From 97.97.33.225 on February 8, 2010 at 8:13 PM
good show but will be closing in about a year. there is a even better show in the park that i hope makes it up here. I won the 2009 IAAPA award and has a mixed cast of animals and people.
From Joshua Counsil on February 8, 2010 at 11:37 PM
A very good show, indeed, probably an 8-Commendable on the TPI scale.

The music and imagery were beautiful, especially for a theme park, but something didn't quite come together with the show. It felt uneven, like four different directors had each created one piece, then assembled them incoherently. In many ways, it was like a small-scale Cirque du Soleil show, but Cirque, even with all its eccentricities, has a seemingly intuitive progression. Katonga - not so much.

I'm probably getting into it too deep - it's a theme park attraction, for cryin' out loud - but if you're gonna do Broadway-esque shows, I'm gonna judge it like one.

Still, better than most theme park shows and is a must-see at BG.

From Mark Kausch on February 9, 2010 at 1:22 AM
Sorry, but I thought the clip was pretty blah. It would not inspire me to see this show at all. Nor did I think much of the singer.
From Robert Niles on February 9, 2010 at 9:49 AM
Sorry if the clip doesn't do the show justice. As I mentioned, I haven't seen it, so I went with the clip with the best video and audio quality. You can YouTube some pretty jerky stuff that does show the choreography and more music.
From Joshua Counsil on February 9, 2010 at 11:08 AM
Mark -
As Pyra, among others, has mentioned, the clip is taken from the blandest part of the show.

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