SeaWorld Orlando: Fresh details about new Christmas show
SeaWorld Orlando has shared more details about its new seasonal show, "O Wondrous Night -- The Greatest Story Never Told." It debuts Friday alongside other returning holiday shows as part of SeaWorld's Christmas Spectacular programming.

+ The 30-minute show will feature puppetry and dance, backed by a collection of traditional music. The plot is the Christmas story, told from the perspective of the animals present.

+ The puppets will be replaced -- at a key "magical moment" -- with corresponding real animals. Look for sheep, doves, an alpaca, an ox (actually, a zebu) and three camels on stage. "Kids in the audience will begin to ascribe the personality of the puppets into the real animals once they are on stage," says show director BT McNicholl.

+ A favorite fact: The live animals were "cast" early enough that the puppets could be designed to more accurately represent the on-stage menagerie.

+ Working with the animals hasn't been too tough, McNicholl says. "They are unique animals. They needn't do tricks," he says. After making their entrance, they are walked from spot to spot by handlers. "We did think of the end of the show as a pageant, with a lot of majesty," McNicholl says.

+ More than 35 songs are woven into the show, says musical director Ben Cohn. The goal was to "make it young, contemporary, sort of 'Glee' style -- a pop sensibility," he says.

+ The different styles of music naturally lead to different styles of dance. There will be somber, etheral, pretty parts as well as lively stretches. "We get a little funky, which is fun," says choreographer Wendy Seyb. During the gospel set, "we just bring down the house," she says. "We have some tambourines. Need I say more?"

+ The show will be produced twice per evening on the select nights of SeaWorld's Christmas Spectacular. It will be staged in the 2,500-seat Nautilus Theater, home of "A'lure -- The Call of the Ocean" show, which will continue to be staged during the day throughout the holiday season. "Hopefully, this big, humongous set will surprise people," says McNicholl. One of its tricks: going from small puppet-scaled manger to manger big enough to accommodate camels.

+ The story is obviously biblical in nature, "the themes are very universal," say Michael Fletcher, SeaWorld's vice president of entertainment. He lists faith, hope and comfort as among those themes.

+ Manhattanbased Cohn and Seyb say their biggest surprise about the production was the mere size of the camels. "We don't get that in New York," Seyb says. "It's pretty fantastic."

+ SeaWorld's Christmas Spectacular operates Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 11, then it assumes a nightly rotation from Dec. 16 to Dec. 31. "O Wondrous Night" and other holiday shows are included in regular theme-park admission.