As far as theatrical arena shows go, Dreamwork's "How To Train Your Dragon Live" makes the top of the list for those worth seeing, and arena shows are growing in number (case in point, the rather boring, but visually interesting, Batman Live arena tour).
"Dragon" suffers from all the typical translation to Arena Stage issues, but the spectacle and the overall story telling of the tour easily overrides these problems, especially for children in the audience. The narrative and transitions are sometimes lost in the grandness of it all, and the noise and distractions from the arena make it difficult to focus on the show, but the show also features gorgeous lighting (including some laser lights and strobes), creative use of the stage, and, of course, those giant dragons.
The story follows the young Hiccup, a Viking's son who longs to prove himself. But his father's expectations of him as a dragon killer are tested when Hiccup meets and befriends a night fury dragon, which he names Toothless. It's then up to the unexpected hero in Hiccup to reveal the truth about dragons and start a major change in his village.
The arena show closely follows the plot of the film it gets its name and basis from. It's first half goes on a bit too long, leaving adult audience members confused and unsatisfied with a finale lacking in many things, including dragons, at one point. But kids love the action as actors take a few moments out to interact with the audience. And for once, audiences are treated to actors in an arena show who can actually act. Not to mention incredibly life-like dragons that walk and fly around the arena. The show is set up perfectly so that any person in any seat can have the perfect view. Those lower down will feel the dragon's breath, while those higher up get the best vantage point for all the floor lighting, which helps set the scene and often moves about to make the dragons' flying more realistic. Meanwhile, a number of hidden doors in the backdrop and various bungee lines add to the theatricality of it all.
And the theatricality of "How To Train Your Dragon Live" does match its "Live Spectacular" subtitle rather well. All the factors combine to create a visual feast for adults and a fantastic experience for kids. There's something for everyone.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON LIVE SPECTACULAR
Fresno Save Mart Center
Through Dec 22
San Jose HP Pavillion
Dec 26 - 30
Sacramento Sleep Train Arena
January 3 - 6
Anaheim Honda Center
January 17 - 20