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The Sporting Scene

By Peter B. Taub

There is a water show playing at the Boston Arena. It is the first large commercial venture in this field since Billy Rose's immensely successful Aquacade, and though hardly a spectacle of the same sort it adds up to fairly interesting evening.

Buster Crabbe's Aquaparade of 1949 is frankly an experiment to see if a water show can travel from city to city successfully, an experiment to see it swimmers can crack the vast market now held jointly by the circus, the roller skating derbies, and the ice revues.

But Crabbe is unwilling to depend entirely on water events for financial success, and has therefore larded the production with a number of excellent vaudeville acts, including a juggler, four acrobats, a muscle act, and impersonator, and the traditional animal performers. It was a wise decision.

Nevertheless the burden of the show still falls on the featured swimmers, particularly the drivers.

The diving is nothing short of superb. Vicki Draves is an extraordinary performer, and her husband Lyle is almost as good. But the finest dive of the evening is performed by someone I have never heard of, and whose name I cannot remember. It is a combination backward somersault--two and one half forward somersault--full twist plunge off a board which could not have been more than 12 feet above the pool.

In addition there is some comic diving at the close of the first act which reduced the patrons present opening night to partial hysteria, and probably left a greater impression on most people than the legitimate efforts of a few minutes earlier.

Unlike the diving, the swimming could stand some improvement. It is essentially dull to watch, and the mermaids do it in a ragged and unsure manner. Successful commercial swimming' depends largely on precision and grace, two qualities which are not conspicuously present in the water numbers.

As for the vaudeville portion of the program, the acorbats, impresonater, and muscle squad, are as fine a group of performers in their lines as I have ever seen. Particularly incredible is a young blonde girl-acrobat who gets thrown around by her three male companions with such abandon that her hair is consistently dragging along the floor.

The animal act is hampered by the only human member of its cast, a shricking and billous individual who will undoubted drive his canine assistants to the A.S.P.C.A.. The chorus line is a fine group of young ladies when at ease, but when in motion these girls seem to be giving a mass imitation of the mating dance of the Kodiak bear.

Most of the weak points of the Aquaparade of 1949 can be charged up to inexperience, and insufficient rehearsing. The show is fairly interesting now and has promise of becoming better than its ice and roller skating competitors. If the excellence of the diving and most vaudeville acts can carry it through this season, it should in time become a very fine show.

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