AMPHITHEATRE

Some of the biggest names in show business have created a two-million-dollar extravaganza, "Wonder World," in the only permanent open-air auditorium on the fairgrounds. An international cast of 250 includes singers and dancers, swimmers and divers, comedians and acrobats; the visual effects range from a giant waterfall, which pours 22,000 gallons of water a minute onto the stage, to the launching, in a cloud of smoke, of a "lady astronaut" in a "moon rocket."

The Amphitheatre, site of Billy Rose's famous Aquacade at the 1939 World's Fair, has been completely refurbished. The new production takes place on a turntable 75 feet in diameter, one of the largest in the world; in a swimming pool in front of the stage; and on moveable platforms that shuttle back and forth over the pool. On either side of the stage are acoustical shells for an orchestra and choral groups.

Originally built as the New York State pavilion for the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair, the Amphitheatre had been the home of the Aquacade, one of the most popular shows at that Fair. Between the fairs it was sometimes used as a local swimming pool. (CD #42 Set 201 #28)


 

"Wonder World" was an ambitious show with elaborate sets and hundreds of performers. Unfortunately for its backers, it was a costly flop and became one of the first shows to close during the 1964 season. At times it must have seemed that there were more people on stage than in the audience. (CD #29 Set 156 #9)


 

It looks like he got a good seat. (CD #29 Set 156 #8)


 

After "Wonder World" closed the Amphitheatre was used briefly for "Summer Time Revue", a rock and roll show featuring Clay Cole. A display for it can be seen behind the General Foods Arch. Supposedly Robert Moses hated the show and it too closed quickly. The Amphitheatre then sat empty for the rest of the season. (CD #38 Set 190 #37)


 

The stage area was completely rebuilt for the 1965 season and the Amphitheatre became part of the Florida exhibit. A free show featuring water skiing and high speed boat demonstrations was a huge success, with the once empty bleachers often filled to capacity. (CD #11 Set 57 #34)


 


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