The Stories Behind Epcot’s New Entertainment

Epcot , Orlando , Expert View Column
The Stories Behind Epcot’s New Entertainment
Forrest Bahruth, Show Director, Creative Development Resources at Walt Disney World, takes us on a journey around World Showcase, highlighting how—and why—new entertainment is chosen.

We recently visited World Showcase with Show Director Forrest Bahruth for a tour of the park’s new entertainment. Our first encounter was with Sbandieratori di Sansepolcro, or, as they have been dubbed, “the Italian flag-wavers”.  An enthusiastic group, the flag-wavers do just what it says on the tin: they wave flags. But this isn’t just any old flag-waving. In keeping with the traditional art form from Tuscany, dating back to the Renaissance, their performance is a peace-time adaptation of the standard-bearers’ role in times of war. Accompanied by a three-piece band of two trumpeters and a drummer, the performers twirl, juggle and toss brightly coloured flags in choreographed segments during the 12-minute show, then happily pose for pictures with guests afterwards.

Bahruth told us their story: “The Italian performers of Sbandieratori di Sansepolcro all hail from Central Italy, where the group has been performing since the 1950s. They are the real authentic perfomers who we discovered and persuaded to come and perform here at Epcot. They will add more elements to their performance in time, but they have that genuine Renaissance touch we were looking for.”

Voices of Liberty have been long-time Epcot favourites for their exceptional a capella renditions of patriotic American songs such as America the Beautiful and Oh! Susannah, interspersed with occasional “special event” tunes, including an exceptional version of A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes. Dressed in period costume, the group’s harmonies blend beautifully, amplified by the ideal acoustics of the rotunda inside the American Adventure pavilion. But with such talented performers, it only made sense that Disney would branch out a bit and expand their repertoire, moving the group lagoon-side twice a week, where more seating is available. And their new show has been a big hit with park-goers.

Bahruth filled us in on the details: “With the new Voices of Liberty show at the America Gardens Theater, we wanted to do something that would add to their range and appeal, so we added some classic Disney songs. We especially wanted to add Let It Go from the movie Frozen, Seize the Day from the musical Newsies, and then Somewhere Over The Rainbow from the Wizard of Oz, with a great arrangement for those great voices.”

Guests who have been lucky enough to see Voices of Liberty when they’ve done non-traditional shows are blown away by the immense range this superb group has, but Bahruth let us in on an little secret. “The one difference with their show in the Theater as opposed to inside the Rotunda is that they have to have microphones on stage and they had to work on their microphone technique, both for the group songs and how they use it as a soloist.”

A brand new addition to the American Adventure pavilionis American Music Machine, and we were lucky enough to see their debut performance at a media event for Disney’s Coolest Summer Ever. They were our breakfast entertainment, and to say we were stunned by their incredible talent is an understatement. It’s not often we see a tired, over-worked and over-partied group of journalists and travel industry people jump to their feet at 9am, but the standing ovation American Music Machine received was well deserved.

“American Music Machine came together from a series of auditions we held all over the US,” Bahruth said. “We were looking for specialised vocal parts and vocal talents, and I think we found something really special here. The vocal rhythm track holds everything together but they are totally a capella, even if it sounds like there’s more there!”

The group’s sound is such an unlikely one for Epcot, different to anything we’ve heard before, and that’s partly why we love it. “The creative team here and in California worked really hard to pull it all together,” Bahruth told us. “It all came from a collection of ideas. We said ‘We need to do something new.’ And I think we came up with a real gem with this group. They only had two weeks of full rehearsals before they started, so it all came together very fast, but we are very proud of the talent on stage, and the talent that helped to put it there. Tim Davis was the vocal coach from Glee and he worked with the writers and producers to get the story and presentation right. The setting is ‘The Rooftop’ to try to get that music video effect. They will also add more material as they go and develop.”

Morocco’s new folk music and dance group, B’Net Al Houwariyate was not performing during our tour with Forrest, but we have seen them several times since and this ensemble’s music and interactive style adds an authentic Moroccan sound to the pavilion, and children love dancing along with the performers. Plus, there is delicious ice cream at the nearby Juice Bar. Try the Pistachio with Orange Blossom Water and enjoy it while you watch the show.

Paul McKenna Band has joined the United Kingdom pavilion entertainment line-up, with a distinct folk-music sound from their native Scotland. They’re only in Epcot for a short time, so you’ll have to hurry if you’d like to see them (they’ll be touring the U.K. and Europe after their stint in Epcot).

Long-time park goers howled in misery when the immensely popular Canadian group Off Kilter did not have its contract renewed, and were instead replaced by Canadian Lumberjacks, based on the popular lumberjack competitions found all across Canada and in America’s mid-western states at summertime carnivals and fairs. Burly men chop, climb, log-roll and saw their way to the grand prize, keeping their skills sharp during logging’s off-season. But here in Epcot it’s all about friendly competition.

“With the Lumberjacks, we really wanted to showcase something that was typically Canadian but also had a real show element to it,” Bahruth said. “These guys are all from solid professional backgrounds in different parts of the country and we brought them together for this particular show. It’s also worth noting that a log-rolling act was originally supposed to be part of the Epcot line-up in 1982, so we have finally brought that on board. There are twelve different events and they incorporate three or four of them in each show. There is also a great photo op with the performers afterwards!”

All of Epcot’s entertainment is free with admission, and, if you take time to meet the performers after their shows they add a wonderful, memorable touch to the day, and some terrific pictures for your photo album!

To explore Epcot's wonderful entertainment shows for yourself, check out the range of great value tickets from Attraction Tickets Direct. To get the best value, combine your tickets with our other Orlando parks and enjoy anything from 2 (limited time only!) to 21 days of magic! 

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Epcot , Orlando , Expert View Column