Seductive and cheeky, but never vulgar or sleazy

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It was conceived as a special show, an onboard extravaganza for adults only. That, as might be expected, takes some explaining.

“I’m really at a loss to say ‘for adults only’ because the minute you say that people think it’s sleazy,” says Becky Thomson-Foley, Celebrity Cruises’ associate vice president for entertainment. “It’s far from sleazy.”

It’s called “Elyria,” and is one of 18 all-new live shows that Thomson-Foley and her team produced in only 18 months for ships across the Celebrity fleet. It was the first one, and the most atypical for cruise fare.

“The only kind of show that any cruiseline had that adults could go to after the kids went to bed was a comedy show,” she says. “Then they would just call it ‘adult comedy,’ and they would add adult content.

“I saw there was really quite a gaping hole for putting on something other than just a comedian.”

To get a feel for what was trending in live theater, Thomson-Foley canvassed venues from London to Las Vegas and found that “immersive” experiences seemed to be drawing the most attention.

When it came to adult content, however, some of these shows went beyond what would be acceptable in a Celebrity show. The difference, she says, is the difference between “vulgar” and “a little bit tongue-in-cheek cheeky.”

After much back and forth about exactly what this meant, Thomson-Foley and her production team came up with a tale set on a mystical island and told in song, dance, aerial acrobatics and miles of flowing silks. It is, as described in promos, a “fashion-forward fairytale with a sultry late-night vibe” set in Elyria, “a land where temptation and darkness are transcended only by a force much more powerful – love.”

The onlookers’ immersion in this tale is accomplished largely by a specially designed stage extension that’s set up for the performance, broken down afterward, and takes the story’s action out into the audience. Further, backlighting visually pushes the story out into the audience with methods perfected in live shows by Prince, Kylie Minogue, Beyonce, Britney Spears and many other marquee performers who benefited from the work of Nick Whitehouse, a Los Angeles-based creative producer and lighting designer who was brought in to bring “Elyria” out of the dark.

However the “Elyria” creative team decided where the limit – the line that must not be crossed – was for their adult show, it worked, says Thomson-Foley. There has been virtually no negative pushback from guests or Celebrity management, and the show has earned top awards from Travel Weekly, Global Traveler and Porthole Cruise magazines.

“We are Celebrity,” Thomson-Foley says. “We are modern luxury, we are classy, we are sophisticated. But just because we’re all of those things doesn’t mean we can’t be a little bit fun, we can’t be a little bit mischievous.”

With this first foray into tasteful, onboard “adult” entertainment, “Elyria” demonstrates that once the kids are in bed and the lights are low, there’s a grown-up market for something a little bit tongue-in-cheek cheeky.