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Evolving entertainment

Courtesy Tommy Bartlett Show

Tommy Bartlett Show
Wisconsin Dells
Visitors to the Wisconsin Dells have enjoyed thrilling water-ski antics since the Tommy Bartlett Show opened in the popular tourist destination in 1952. Today, the show is still going strong, featuring signature skiing and other daredevil performances.

“Tommy always wanted to incorporate things that couldn’t be seen anywhere else, even on TV,” said Jill Diehl, the show’s vice president and assistant general manager. “The first part of our show has a lot of classic water skiing tricks, like barefooting, building a pyramid and jumping. But we also have things like the ‘flyboard,’ a water-propelled jet pack that propels performers out of the water 30 feet into the air.”

In response to modern trends and tastes, the crew has incorporated new ski equipment, such as hydrofoil skis that performers sit on. New tricks and flips have found their way into the show, too, reflecting the current popularity of extreme sports.

In addition to the water skiing, the show features a segment of land-based acrobatics, juggling and other stunts. Evening shows end with the Entrancing Waters — a series of large water fountains and colored lights choreographed to accompany patriotic music.

Groups can arrange to have a catered meal served in a covered pavilion at the site before the performance. The show runs twice daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend.

Cirque du Soleil
Since it burst onto the national scene in the 1990s, Cirque du Soleil has become synonymous with mystifying, otherworldly entertainment. This company from Quebec has taken the United States by storm, establishing numerous resident shows in Las Vegas and other cities around the country. The company estimates that 15 million people will see their shows in 2013.

Cirque recruits some of the best acrobats and performers from around the world. More than 5,000 people work for the company worldwide, representing more than 50 nationalities and 25 languages.

Many people recognize Cirque shows for their imaginative costumes, new-age music and aerial acrobatics. That tradition continues in Las Vegas with shows such as “Mystere,” “KA,” “O,” “Zarkana” and “Zumanity,” and in Orlando, Florida, with “La Nouba.” In recent years, the organization has also begun partnering with well-known performers to present more mainstream programs: “Criss Angel Believe” features popular magic, and “The Beatles LOVE” combines popular Beatles tunes with colorful costumes and dance sequences.

If your 2013 travel plans don’t include Las Vegas or Orlando, you may be able to catch one of the touring Cirque shows, which include the fanciful “Alegria,” “Dralion” and “Quidam,” as well as “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour.”

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.