High above a haunted galleon, a vampiric pirate dangles from blood-red silks. He and a companion spin faster and faster above the cursed ship, performing masterfully crafted aerial stunts for the benefit of entire families. Bloodthirsty swashbucklers watch from the wings, in the midst of a thrilling musical adventure. These are the titular heroes and villains of Vampirates, a Halloween-themed seasonal event located at Buena Park’s Pirates Dinner Adventure, one that provides laughs, songs, and action for kids and adults alike.

The spooky tale follows Captain Sebastian the Black and a cast of nefarious rogues as they struggle for power aboard a massive ship, fighting tooth and nail for power and entertaining guests all at once. The show is an interactive family show that’s light on scares but high on audience participation. Adults sitting in the first few rows will almost certainly get pulled into the proceedings, whether it’s hauling treasure or hoisting flags, and lucky children will get to board the ship and interact with the pirates themselves. The performers playing the titular “vampirates” are not only expertly trained in stage combat and various types of aerial apparatus, they’re also endlessly charismatic, extracting cheers and applause from their respective sections of the audience so that they might come out on top at the end of the show.

Vampirates at Pirates Dinner Adventure
On a deeper level, Vampirates also works as a classic Halloween tale, providing the older members of the families in attendance with more to think about than what is on the surface. There are elements of a dark love story, but also elements of family ties, and the fact that, fittingly, blood is often thicker than water. The themes at work enhance the show altogether making it more engrossing and engaging than a traditional dinner show. Of course, these themes and scenes of intrigue and drama wouldn’t work without a supremely talented cast. The pirates in the show know exactly when to chew the scenery and when to pull back, flawlessly delivering lines between fight scenes and stunt work.

While the pre-show holding area contains a modest stage on which the prologue is delivered, the theater itself is absolutely gorgeous. The pirate ship commanding attention in the middle of the room is enormous and beautifully crafted, providing the perfect stage for the yarn being spun. It’s even surrounded by a massive moat, making for a slight chance of getting wet if you’re seated in the first few rows.

The show feels appropriately spooky thanks to fantastic technical design, as well; the lights illuminating the deck of the ghastly ship are dim and moody enough to lend to the aura, while still showing off the costumes and makeup. Fight scenes are washed in red, communicating a sense of wrath even when blood and gore are kept to a minimum. More emotional scenes, like the methodical aerial silk routine, are bathed in a contemplative blue hue.

Vampirates at Pirates Dinner Adventure
Vampirates also has plenty to offer the kids in the crowd, not only making the show accessible to all ages, but even pulling them up and making them a part of the show. “I liked when we went on stage, and I liked the parts that the mermaid was in,” said 8-year-old Layla Lessard, who prefers the Halloween version of the show to its year-round counterpart, which she’s also seen. “Well, it’s got like more theme to it.”

“I like this one better because it’s scary,” added her brother, 12-year-old Ryan Lessard. “I liked the part where they battled to see who would be the main pirate.”

The acrobatics employed in Vampirates are on a smaller scale compared to something like Cirque du Soleil, and understandably so considering they take place on a giant pirate ship surrounded by water. That said, it’s still enough to infuse the show with a sense of wonder in between brief riffs on pop culture and growling fight scenes. Aerial silk routines and a trampoline competition, sometimes set to anachronistic covers of contemporary hits, pepper the show, making its runtime fly by.

Vampirates at Pirates Dinner Adventure
Not many Halloween shows offer dinner along with their frights, so it’s worth noting that the food available at Pirate’s Dinner Adventure is absolutely worth the price of admission, offering a fantastic roasted chicken and shrimp dinner, with squash ravioli serving as a vegetarian choice (vegan and gluten-free meals are also available).

Ultimately, Pirates Dinner Adventure has crafted a genuinely charming Halloween adventure with Vampirates. Adults will be wowed by the stunt work on display, and the entire family will be entertained by pirates like Cutthroat Jack and Andre Baptiste. The show’s interactive nature also means that a large portion of the audience will get a chance to participate in the proceedings, rounding out one of the more well-rounded offerings in the way of Halloween entertainment. Guests might not be absolutely terrified, but they’ll leave with smiles on their faces.

For more information on Vampirates and Pirates Dinner Adventure, visit www.piratesdinneradventure.com. Make sure to subscribe to our Event Calendar for more immersive entertainment throughout the year.

Musicals Performance Theater Review