Las Vegas has become known for its opportunities to gamble, eat, drink, shop and see world class entertainment. Two of the most popular shows on the Strip are the water shows, ‘O’ at the Bellagio and ‘Le Reve’ at the Wynn. Though very different productions, they share common elements of exciting aquatic entertainment in spectacular swimming tanks and include fantastic casts of divers, synchronized swimmers, gymnasts and other incredibly talented performers.
They also share a rich history of water show based entertainment that dates back to the ancient Greek and Roman empires. This is where ‘SPLASH’ begins and through its first eight chapters in Part One, titled ‘Aquatic Spectaculars Past and Present,’ the history of water shows and aquatic entertainment is superbly chronicled and illustrated.
Annette Kellerman, Commodore Wilbert Longfellow, Beulah Gundling, Esther Williams, Johnny Weissmuller, Stubby Kruger, Eleanor Holm, Buster Crabbe, Marjorie Gestring, Virginia Hunt Newman, Sammy Lee, Mickey Reilly and Adolph Kiefer are among those who performed in some of the early water shows and pageants throughout the United States. All are inductees of the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Some of the more prominent productions during this era were the Billy Rose Aquacades in Cleveland (’37), New York (’39-40) and San Francisco (’40), the Aqua Follies of Seattle, Minneapolis & Detroit, Elliot Murphy’s Aqua Show in Flushing Meadow, New York, Henry Seff’s Aqua Show in London and Sam Snyder’s traveling Aqua Follies.
Chapters on the development of Synchronized Swimming and Aquatic Art, Men in Synchro; Collegiate, High School and YMCA shows; Amateur Shows, Water Ski Shows and Foreign Shows complete the first part of this book.
The second part of ‘SPLASH!’ is a guide to producing Aquatic Shows. Chapter content includes planning; organizing; content; the recruitment of the show cast; venues including pools, lakes and rivers; lighting and special effects; sound systems and the use of music, costumes, makeup, props, scenery, rehearsals and promotion. A ‘do-it-yourself’ manual towards the creation of a Water Show.
‘SPLASH!’ concludes with its third part on Aquatic History. John Kelso of British Columbia, Canada provides a strong chapter on the History of the Art of Swimming from around the world. A brief chapter on the YMCA and the American Red Cross lead into a very interesting chapter on Military Aquatics reprinted by the late Dr. Thomas K. Cureton, author of Warfare Aquatics, 1943.
The final chapter of ‘SPLASH!’ on Aquatic Events and Personalities is very informative and could very well be expanded into a book itself. It is a nice addition to this fine text on Aquatic Shows including historical perspectives on a wide variety of Aquatic Competition, Recreation, Water Safety & Entertainment.