Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy – Awesome Mix Live’ at Epcot

A walk through Epcot these days feels a little … off. The theme park currently is between festivals, so the marketplaces/outdoor kitchens are mostly out of sight. I find myself thinking “Why is there so much elbow room right here? Oh, there’s usually a barbecue pit, right?”

It was surprising to realize we’re a solid two months from the next extended event, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. I’m not complaining, honest. I mean, one can’t complain about too many fests then complain when there’s not one running. Anyway, waiting in the Florida heat for food seems like a bad idea during the summer.

A better idea is the new musical offering at Epcot’s America Gardens Theatre. Running daily through Aug. 19 is “Guardians of the Galaxy — Awesome Mix Live!” I’m finding that fans of Disney’s “Guardians” movies are enjoying the 20-minute experience, but you need not have seen the big-screen versions to dig it.

The production is fronted by the film’s Peter Quill/Star-Lord character, who talks — but does little if any singing. His mission, of sorts, is to teach more Earth-friendly tunes (and dance moves) to the Xandarian Chamber Orchestra, basically a six-piece alien band. He also interacts with the aggressive and impatient Gamora character.

I found the soloists to be strong, and the five-song playlist is gold. They had me at “Don’t Stop Me Now.”

I was glad I stayed and watched “Awesome Mix Live” a second time. The audience in the first show wasn’t exactly into it, and my seat wasn’t great. (Pro tip: You can be too close to the stage for this show). On my second go-round, the people around me were more enthusiastic, particularly in the dreaded crowd participation stretch when Quill led the group in dance moves. The bench in front of me relished the “ooga-ooga-ooga-chaka” part of “Hooked on a Feeling.”

Even the appearance by an on-screen Groot garnered bigger awwwwws during the second show. (Groot is charged with filtering the audio directly into band’s headsets. Don’t overthink this.)

I give points to Disney for basically dressing up — and, in the process, owning — a pop-music show. There is a lot of theming sprinkled around, right down to the please-no-flash-photography spiel. “This is for the safety of the performers and the safety of your planet,” the disembodied voice warns.

In the second show, I found myself watching individual performers more and mentally working up a spinoff featuring the saxophonist and the trumpet player. That’s how these Marvel things work, right?

Odds and ends:

— Our Gamora was impressive with a couple of leaps and bounds in what must be challenging footwear. You go, Gamora.

— Although you can’t see it from the theater, construction is visibly going up for the Guardians of the Galaxy ride underway in the Future World side of the park.

— “Awesome Mix Live!” is scheduled to be staged five times daily, starting with a 1:30 p.m. performance.

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