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Universal Studios Orlando stuffs holidays with familiar festivities

Florida resort offers Grinch, Mannheim Steamroller and more favourites for the season
Hogwarts Castle at the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey amusement ride in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Islands of Adventure amusement theme park at Universal Orlando in Orlando, Florida, illuminated at night. (David R. Tribble photo, Wikimedia Commons)

By Dewayne Bevil Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. —Universal Orlando is going with a sort of comfort-food approach to its holiday programming in 2019.

Its Christmas shows, parades and concerts —spread throughout Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure theme parks —will have familiar feels to folks who have attended in the past. They again will be able to get their Dr. Seuss fix with Mr. Grinch, get merry with Mannheim Steamroller and admire big ol’ balloons above the streets of Universal.

There are tweaks, though, says Lora Sauls, senior manager of creative development and show direction for Universal. The “Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular” show, which debuted a new set last year, has a new director this year. Blake Braswell has taken over.

“He’s bringing his, you know, thoughts on the show to life, and there are some unique character-choice changes. And there’s a diverse group of Who-Villans,” Sauls says. There’s also new choreography in the stage show, which is produced multiple times daily at Islands of Adventure.

“Just every once in a while, we like to bring a different viewpoint on that show,” Sauls says. “I think you will see a few little changes that are new for the ‘Grinch’ show this year.”

Fear not, Max the dog is still there, and there’s a happy, if somewhat green and fuzzy, ending.

Braswell, the new director, has just wrapped up duty on the scare zones for Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. There were two weeks between HHN’s final night and the holiday kickoff. It may seem like a jarring contrast, but it’s not unusual for Universal workers, some of whom already are working on Horror Nights’ 2020 edition.

“We love it so much. I mean, in one day, you’ll go from a Halloween concept meeting to a Halloween production meeting to a holidays production meeting to a holiday rehearsal,” Sauls says.

“We don’t mind living in both those worlds. It kind of balances us, if you will,” she says. “You can’t be in horror mode all the time. You’ve got to have a little bit of holiday there.”

Other returning holiday fare at Universal Orlando includes:

—”The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle,” a projection show on the centerpiece of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure. Also on the Hogsmeade side: Holiday songs performed by the Frog Choir.

—·The holidays carry over to the Diagon Alley side of Wizarding World with concerts by Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees.

—Mannheim Steamroller, the holiday supergroup, takes to the Music Plaza Stage at Universal Studios on Saturday and Sunday evenings through Dec. 15.

—Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s comes with themed balloons (some with intellectual properties such as the “Despicable Me” minions, some more generic) and floats. As usual, Santa brings up the rear.

Universal theme parks’ holiday festivities are included in regular admission. For more information, click here.

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