There's A Live Moon Landing Show At The Rose Bowl — Go For Space Adventure, Stay For The Giant Dome
No, the Rose Bowl's latest event isn't another Taylor Swift stadium tour (trust us, we have ticket alerts set up). It's Apollo 11 — The Immersive Live Show, a fictionalized retelling of the spaceflight that put two humans on the moon for the first time. Guys, the moon.
A custom "Lunar Dome" theater was built on the Pasadena grounds specifically for the show, opening Wednesday night, just ahead of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing later this month.
"We are literally taking audiences with us to the moon and returning them safely back to earth," show producer Nick Grace said in a press release.
Despite this assertion, LAist does not think they're literally taking you to the moon. However, if you attend and learn otherwise, please let us know.
Inside the dome, expect 360 degrees of video projection, life-size (!) rockets and a cast of 20 actors. The show has been double cast, allowing them to put on a lot of shows.
The performance is a different approach to the moon landing than most outer space true stories — rather than focusing on the astronauts, the centerpiece here is on everyone who had to come together to make the landing possible. Those 400,000 people are represented by retired NASA aerospace engineer Ben, telling the story from the perspective of mission control.
"It's not a documentary — that way we don't have to just speak the words that were spoken," the show's director, Scott Faris, said. It's "told through the eyes of [Ben], who is trying to pry his teenage [granddaughter] out of her iPhone."
Despite the shot at young people and their phones, the show does try to capture the authenticity of what actually happened. They watched every documentary about Apollo 11 recommended by people connected with the space program. The story was crafted around all the major players in the real events, and especially the final perilous moments before Apollo 11 landed, according to Faris.
Former NASA engineer Gerry Griffin served as a technical advisor on the show. He worked there throughout the Apollo missions, including serving as a mission control flight director during the Apollo manned missions. He worked as a consultant on Apollo 13 and Contact, as well as appearing on screen in Contact and Deep Impact.
When Apollo 11 was close to landing, alarms went off and they were getting low on fuel — according to Griffin, Neil Armstrong was having a hard time finding a place for the module to land that wasn't in a boulder field or a crater.
"So the tension even got a little higher, right at the last moments," Griffin said. "And when he touched down, and there was a moment of silence — everybody was probably throwing a couple of switches. And then he said, 'Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.'"
But the atmosphere that followed wasn't what you might think.
"Everybody breathed a bit of a sigh of relief, but at that point, there was no big celebration in the control center. Because we had some important decisions to make over the next three minutes," Griffin said.
That big celebration didn't come until everyone came home to Earth, giving Griffin a feeling of pride that he still remembers.
You can experience moments like that and much more in the show, which Griffin said captures the spirit of his experiences.
"The underlying theme, and the excitement, the sense of accomplishment, actually a lot of the technical stuff is very, very close to what we did," Griffin said.
They worked on the script to weed out obscure names of maneuvers, as well as making sure that any acronyms or other insider lingo were quickly explained, Griffin said.
He described the atmosphere working on a fictional project as similar to the team vibe he felt at mission control.
"It was kind of eye-opening. I had always had a bit of a jaded look when I looked at Hollywood. I thought well, you know, easy-going, make a lot of money, don't work too hard — wrong. I was wrong on all accounts," Griffin said.
Griffin had video conference calls with Faris and the show's writer going over the details of the script. Faris also spent time with Charles Duke, who walked on the moon in 1972 as a module pilot for Apollo 16.
"He was on capsule communicators talking to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Armstrong as they landed on the moon — he was the sole voice from mission control speaking to the astronauts," Faris said.
Faris picked Duke's brain to find out the actual experiential details, from what it was like when the rocket took off ("quite smooth") to how comfortable it was flying to the moon (pretty comfortable).
Both Faris and Griffin said that they hope the show inspires people.
"Perhaps the most important thing is that it will inspire young kids, and young adults even, to embrace the idea of space technology and what it might mean — not only to us on this planet, but maybe somewhere else," Griffin said.
The show's grand opening is Wednesday night and runs through Aug. 11. Tickets start at $25. After its L.A. run, the show's 18-city tour moves forward, heading to Orange County in October and Houston in December — where the show will be produced just outside mission control at the Johnson Space Center.
Watch a trailer for the show here: