‘Absolutely Wow” is how one of the guests from Tuesday night’s performance described the latest WOW to the Future extravaganza at Eilat’s Isrotel Royal Garden Theater.
World renowned artist and director Hanoch Rosenn’s variety show did just what it set out to do – leave people’s jaws dropped. If you could steal a moment to look away from the acrobats and dancers on stage, you’d see senior citizens smiling as wide as the Kool-Aid guy, and small children with their eyes wide.
“I think it was wonderful, it could be any big international show. I think it was done in a very high level. The outfits were amazing. I have a lot of pride. This is such a small country with such a big and good show. I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Moshe Cohen, a tourist from Jerusalem.
The Vegas-style show is upgraded every year and performed in the theater of the luxury Eilat hotel, and focuses on bringing entertainment to families. The show features almost 25 performers from around the world including Cuba, Mongolia, Brazil, Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Australia. Many of the performers come with their act already in tow – like in a circus – and then integrate their routines into the production with the help of Rosenn. Rosenn’s role is to take all the dance, acrobatics, unusual talents and ideas and bring them together in a way that makes sense and has a theme.
This year, viewers were taken to exciting moments throughout history. Some of the places were The Garden of Eden, China, Turkey, the Roman Empire and even America’s Cabaret scene. Each of these time periods came equipped with special choreography and routines to fit the culture.
The most suspenseful and nerve-wracking moments were during an act in which a woman balanced upwards of 15 boxes stacked up on her feet while she laid on her back. The crowd was anxiously waiting for one of the boxes to fall off the top. It never did.
The current WOW Festival has been performed about 15 times so far and many viewers we spoke with from the crowd said they come back time and again.
“We have seen it now three times and we think this is the best one so far. The screen at the back was amazing and the outfits were fantastic and it had humor apart from interest,” said Sarah from Beit Shemesh.
She’s talking about the set design, which was extremely modern. Instead of rolling furniture and different items on stage for decor, the whole theater was engulfed in lights and digital displays. The designs were immersive. When Rosenn wanted the audience to feel they were flying, the stage turned into blue skies with clouds passing by. That’s all thanks to stage designer Michael Kramenko, as well as Shay Bonder, who Rosenn called a genius for his work in creating the videos for the show along with his team of 30 designers. The goal was to make the experience 3D.
“That was a real, real challenge and we are developing. In the show last year we used holograms as well,” Rosenn said. “Of course it has to be modern. We have to use technology because in a show like that – in an entertainment spectacular you can’t just do what we did 25 years ago, and in Israel there’s a lot of talent and people know technology. They can do it.”
The show cuts across language barriers and was mostly executed without any dialogue. Rosenn has experience in this, as he spent much of his artistic life working as a mime. All the humor was slapstick, bringing laughs to everyone in the theater between acts, regardless of their native tongue.
Saeda Maete, a petite, impressive dancer from Cuba, performed as Eve in a romantic routine with her partner on both the stage and in real life. Saeda said she “always, always” performs the act with her boyfriend, who is also from Cuba. The two met while Maete was in circus school in Cuba. She began teaching him her routine and he used YouTube videos to learn technique. Now they travel the globe using their act.
“We feel so very good. So many people are watching,” Maete said. We are starting to know Israel. It’s an interesting country and the people are like us. They’re funny, and it’s like Cuba here because it’s hot and it’s by the beach.”
Rosenn says an extravaganza is a unique type of show. It’s not meant to be Broadway theater, because people are on vacation and want to be easily entertained. But at the same time, it’s important to pull the show together with a meaningful theme and, of course, to touch the audience.
“Usually my shows in Israel are known to be very entertaining. So there’s no doubt you’ll get your money’s worth in the show. But I try to go beyond that. The story that has a beginning and an end that take it one step further,” Rosenn said.
The approach worked. The Moore family from London comes every year, and spoken like a true Brit, the patriarch of the family called it “brilliant.”
“We’ve been to shows in Vegas and I think this is better. The theme – you could understand it. The kids could understand it,” said Danny Moore.
Well Mr. Moore was on the right track. Rosenn’s been successful enough to bring the show from Israel to the center of the entertainment world in Las Vegas, where one of his WOW shows is now playing at the Rio Hotel Casino. Another show, he’s directed, called the Extravaganza, is about to open again in Bally’s within a month’s time.
The WOW show is meant to entertain the whole family. Rosenn says he has many beautiful women in the cast, but costuming isn’t too sexy as to not offend religious families. The humor? Funny, but not insulting.
This year, the biggest challenge for the director was making a vision he had come true. While watching a show in the UK, he saw a flying bus come through the theater. It inspired him to bring in a flying red car to the show, which is the vehicle used to take the audience through the centuries.
You would think the show had been in rehearsal for half a year, but in fact, all the acts come together and get one month of practice time. Everything is pre-organized so that when the talent shows up, the lights go on.
The WOW to the Future show runs for the next year and a half every day at 8:30 p.m. at the Isrotel Royal Garden, except for on Sunday nights. Tickets are 129 NIS each, 99 NIS for hotel guests, 119 NIS for senior citizens, soldiers and students and 109 NIS for residents of Eilat and those that are handicapped.The writer of this article was a guest at the Isrotel Royal Garden.