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Do You need a theme for your show?

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Things are changing on cruise ships and it is becoming more important to have a strong theme for your show. This is for two reasons:

Getting the Gig

To get the gig in the first place you have to catch the attention of a booker - that’s the poor beleaguered soul who is bombarded 24/7 by entertainers desperate for a chance to work on the world’s largest cruise ships. Imagine that. They sift through 100s of showreels asking themselves three questions: What is it? Is it good? Do I need it? They probably allow about five seconds to answer each question. If any of them is a “no” it’s on to the next one. The more strongly themed your show is, the clearer it is to the booker what you are selling and if they like it, and need it, they‘ll book it. The stronger the theme the better your chances. 

Getting an Audience

Cruise ship entertaining is changing. It used to be simple: while half the guests were eating dinner, everyone else would watch the show (and there was only one show to see). Later, the same thing would happen in reverse. As cruise ships get larger, guests are given more options. They can eat when they like and instead of seeing the main show they could do maybe half a dozen other things. Just like on land, you’re now competing for an audience. If your show title doesn’t grab their attention, you’ll lose out. You can supplement the title with a more detailed strap-line, but let’s get the title right first.  

Let’s take the example of a female singer (the very talented Sarah Smudge) with an act of various well-known female stars. I will rate the strength each theme low, medium or high. 

1. An Evening With Sarah Smudge 

This is the kind of thing you used to be able to get away with. If you’re a star and everyone knows what you do, fine, otherwise this sort of vague title means nothing. She could be a juggler for all we know. 

Theme rating: low 

2. Diva! Sarah Smudge sings the greatest female hits of all time. 

Better. At least we know she’s a singer. 

Theme rating: medium

3. Evergreen. Sarah Star sings the hits of Barbra Streisand. 

See what I did there? If you want your show to have the highest chance of getting attention, you might decide to change what you’re doing and focus on just one artiste. It can’t get more specific than that. If you can’t go that far you might focus on Broadway, 90s rock, big band stars of the 50s.

Theme rating: high

compromise

The rub with themes is limiting your choice of material. Theme more specific the theme, the fewer songs you’ve got to choose from. If you’re an Amy Winehouse tribute you’ll have to lose your Les Miserables bit and if you’ve got a Broadway show you might have to ditch your Elton John Meldey. If you can specialise without too much comprise you could be onto a winner.

A Guide to Musical Arrangements for Cruise Ship Entertainers

A Guide to Musical Arrangements for Cruise Ship Entertainers

I get a lot of questions from singers about how to order musical arrangements for their show. I've been commissioning arrangements for over 20 years and now have had over 500 for all sorts of bands from jazz trio, big band and full orchestra. Most have been for working on cruise ships and I have learned by my mistakes the best way to go about it. Here's how I do it.