Recently I criticized the new Fantasea show at Chicago’s John G. Shedd Aquarium as a tacky spectacle that put the esteemed Shedd in an unflattering light.
I called Fantasea an embarrassing mix of Cirque du Soleil and Sea World. Known for its animal care and preservation efforts, Shedd has gone completely commercial with the show, combining Vegas-style entertainment with performances by Pacific white-sided dolphins, Beluga whales, penguins, a sea lion and a red-tailed hawk.
I e-mailed my concerns to the folks at Shedd and Bill Tortorici, assistant director of membership at the Shedd, politely responded.
He said the Fantasea show was created in response to years of guest feedback.
“We’ve heard over and over again from an overwhelming majority of guests and supporters, that while we must continue to remain true to our mission and commitment to education and conservation, they would also like to see Shedd’s marine mammal presentation become a bit more entertaining,” he wrote Aug. 20.
Entertainment in education is fine, but not when it means turning such animal demonstrations into a three-ring circus. My point was that the Shedd could have those animals do the same things for the audience without the light and sound show and silly costumes and sets.
I got the feeling that Tortorici had answered concerns like mine before. Hopefully he is getting lots of complaints about the show.
“We will continue to evaluate the show to ensure it is meeting the needs and desires of our more than 2 million guests and 45,000 member households,” he wrote. “I guarantee you the show will continue to evolve over time, and new shows are planned for the future as well.”
I can only hope that the Shedd makes the show and future ones more about education and less about Broadway theatrics.
Photo of Fantasea from a gallery by the Chicago Tribune.