Theatrical Fantasea Worth the Trip to Shedd

| January 8, 2010 | 4 Comments

Audience-shot-with-FantaseaWith sub-zero wind chills nipping your nose, visiting the Shedd Aquarium might not be the first thing on your mind. But the Shedd’s new Fantasea multimedia aquatic show is such a delight, it’s worth heading out into the wintry weather, especially if you need a respite from holiday madness. Set in the Shedd’s recently reopened Oceanarium, Fantasea is more like going to the theater than to the same old dolphin show. This surprising production is a unique Chicago experience, and (perhaps best of all) the show is included in the price of admission to the Shedd.

Fantasea is an inspirational show designed to capture the wonder of the natural world and its inhabitants. Combining the excitement of modern theater technology (from flying rowboats to “dolphin guides” who drop from the ceiling), an original score, and evocative lighting in the soothing Oceanarium, Fantasea captures kids’ attention and imagination. My kids wished they could trade places with the main character in the story, a young girl who interacts with the Shedd’s beluga whales, sea lions, penguins, birds of prey and Pacific white-sided dolphins. All these animals get a chance to exhibit their natural behaviors, putting on a great show of their own. Seeing three dolphins gracefully arc out of the water in unison is dramatic in itself, and penguins add their own innate comic relief. Hint: If your kids love penguins, try to sit in the front row!

After the show, be sure to explore the rest of the Oceanarium for some up-close encounters with sea lions and belugas. On our visit, one friendly beluga posed endlessly for photos! On the lower level, the recently added Polar Play Zone is irresistible to kids. In this “set under the ice” adventureland, they can put pretend to nest and ice-slide like penguins, watch the real penguins play, and even grab a snack while they watch the belugas gliding underwater.

Details: Shedd Aquarium is located at 1200 South Lake Shore Drive on Chicago’s Museum Campus and is served year-round by the CTA’s #146 bus. Tickets can be purchased in advance. Fantasea performances run several times a day. Be sure to plan your visit around one of the show times, which change depending on the day. For show times and more information, visit

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Category: Featured, See & Plays

About the Author ()

Born and raised in the Chicago area, Dawn Williams Bertuca is a freelance writer and editor. She is co-founder and Girlfriend-In-Chief at Follow Dawn on twitter at

Comments (4)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, but this show is TERRIBLE. Read every other review in Chicago from publications that aren’t tied in with them somehow. It takes all of the emphasis off of the animals and places it on cheap costumes, weird graphics, overly long videos, cheesy music, and AWFUL actors “picked” out of the audience at random. Parents leave annoyed and kids are bored. I am not panning the idea of adding theatre to the mix and making it interesting, but it can be done without the cheap wanna be Cirque-de-Soleil/SeaWorld crossover. This needs some serious re-imagining in order to work. This show is embarrassing for both the audience and the trainers. If you want to see penguins get herded across some concrete, some boring videos, a hawk fly once off of the arm of a disgruntled trainer in a Peter Pan costume (poor guy), and some dolphins finally do a couple of flips at the end…um…this is the show for you. I understand that some people have to say that it’s good for the sake of ticket sales and tourism and whatnot (oh and the 14 million they spent on this crap), but NO ONE likes it. Every kid I’ve talked to is either bored or annoyed by the obvious plant in the audience , and every parent is pissed that they bought a membership….for this?? And everyone else will throw up in their mouth a little. At least the rest of the Shedd is interesting. Skip this sad excuse for a show. Really. Go upstairs and see the dolphins do flips on their own time,…without the strobe lights.

  2. Gus says:

    Haha, I saw Fantasea today, came home, and googled “fantasea, cheesy” to see what would come up. Everything the above person says is 100% correct. If the pre-show video featuring animal trainers who have apparently just chugged no-doz and redbull doesn’t clue you in to what you’re in store for, then the opening with three women dressed like goddesses who have nothing to do with the rest of the show and are never seen again probably will. This show includes waddling, beaked actors in penguin suits whose only job is to prod 4 penguins across the room. The black girl who was “randomly” picked out of the crowd while her white “mother” watched from the stands was icing on the cake. There are 5-10 minutes of good beluga and dolphin tricks, but you have to wade through some serious cheese to get to them. That said, the show basically costs 2 bucks, and the rest of Shedd is awesome.

  3. Symxfan says:

    Oh yeah … this show is a major bore. It’s so silly I can’t imagine anyone but the smallest of childred enjoying it.

    Anonymous has just about everything right … couldn’t agree more.

    Here’s another tip for you …. come into the show kind of late … you will get a better seat.

    If you show up early the security cronies will continually ask you to move over closer to the rock wall as the late arrivers get rewarded with closer to the aisle seating.

    You don’t want to be next to the rock wall .. you cant see a third of the show. In the end though I was too unhappy about the rock wall because the show isn’t really worth seeing anyway.

    Avoid at all costs !!

  4. skammer says:

    Saw Fantasea this weekend – it was truly, truly awful. Cringe-worthy.

    I love the Shedd and worked there when the Oceanarium first opened in 1991. I was excited to see the updates — and all the new exhibits are fantastic. But they really blew it with this show. I was embarassed for them.

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