Every year seems to bring so many new amusements and original experiences to the Orlando area, and 2019 is shaping up to be no different. Aside from all the theme park updates, we continue to stress that you cannot allow yourself to overlook the expanding options beyond the big three parks. International Drive is continuing its progressive growth with new shops, entertainment, lodging, and dining options – and one that launched like a racehorse straight out of the gate is the Rock Dinner Show at The Orlando Forum. Receiving rave reviews all around, this is a venue that has absolutely earned every ounce of praise it’s received.
The background on this one is really quite interesting. It’s a surprising location and one that I know well from my days at the now-defunct CSI: The Experience. The Orlando Forum has taken up residence in a building across the street from the CSI building, in what used to be a Ponderosa Steakhouse. I know what you’re thinking because I mentally went there, too – a revamped buffet “steakhouse” as a performance venue?? Maybe not such a logical fit at first consideration, but it really works. There wasn’t a complete and total level-and-rebuild of the building, and it transformed quite quickly overall. It’s opened up to be seamlessly functional in its new purpose, and intimate enough to give the theme of the location a much greater appeal. The vibe is classy – almost like the atmosphere of a wedding reception, and moreso than the traditional dinner show. I wouldn’t show up here in my tourist garb after a full day at Magic Kingdom, in other words.
Another notable difference between Rock Dinner Show and area competitors… I often remark about the intrusion factor of a typical dinner show – the servers and guests constantly coming to and fro, consistently in your view, or interrupting the show to peddle up-sell photos, additional drinks, etc. It is probably a combination of the venue’s layout, the flawless skills of the staff, and the coordination of the specific show model, but Rock Dinner Show does not present these standard dinner show nuisances – and I love it! The meal service and clean-up were practically ninja-level in nature and wrapped up before the show kicked into gear. There was none of the chintzy money grab photo pitching going on, either – and that was so refreshing. The only “extra” we were advised of was an alcohol add-on. Although you can select from a menu of wine, beer, and liquor selections (prices on par with I-Drive expectations), you can opt for a bracelet that offers unlimited beverages from a slightly narrowed list for less than $30. If you plan to have more than two drinks, this would be a worthwhile option, so keep it in mind!
I’ve always been of the opinion that you shouldn’t go into a dinner show experience expecting the finest standard of food. Behind-the-scenes, as a former dinner show employee, I realize that it is mass-produced, to be blunt (hence the limited menu options), and you have to go into the event feeling that you are there for the show primarily. Of all the Orlando dinner shows (we’ve been to each venue), Rock Dinner Show absolutely has the BEST quality of food. There is absolutely nothing generic about the menu items, and in no way did we find the food to be lacking in freshness or flavor. Frankly, it tasted every bit as tantalizing as it sounded in its description! In fact, let’s take a look at what’s on the menu …
FIRST COURSE: FORUM’S WEDGE SALAD
Crispy lettuce wedge topped with cucumbers, tomatoes, feta and house brined olives, served with blue cheese buttermilk dressing.
ENTREE SELECTION: SCALLOPINI OF CHICKEN
Parmesan crusted chicken breast with fire roasted tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese, served with creamy Pecorino Romano risotto and Chef’s selection of market fresh vegetables.
ENTREE SELECTION: BRAISED SHORT RIB
Fork tender slow braised short rib of beef seasoned with sea salt and fragrant rosemary, accompanied with truffle mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables and a natural beef broth.
DESSERT: “SWEET EMOTIONS”
Double chocolate mousse filed cupcake topped with a creamy and rich chocolate frosting and chocolate pearls.
Vegan pasta options also available, as well as entree upgrades.
But what about the show? If I’m too be entirely honest, it was a challenge to go into this with no advance potential comparisons in mind. I really had little idea what to expect, but I knew that there was a celebrity impersonator theme to the show. A couple experiences I’ve had with this type of performance stand out a bit. One of those is a place called Memories Theater in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and the other is Mango’s – also on I-Drive. Those are both entirely different in scope, and Rock Dinner Show added yet another new layer to my celebrity impersonator experiences. Rock Dinner Show differs from Mango’s in many ways. I wouldn’t really say one is better or worse than the other – but it depends on what type of experience you seek. As I said before, Rock Dinner Show is more intimate. Rock Dinner Show also does not stray from its focus, whereas Mango’s presents a performance event with only bits of impersonator inclusions. It follows the dinner show “model” more than Mango’s does, but you still can just visit The Orlando Forum for drinks at their indoor-outdoor bar/patio. Unlike Mango’s you won’t get the full, direct stage view from that perspective, but it has a more inclusive and inviting feel than other dinner shows… sort of like an in-between venue that takes all the best aspects of everything similar!
Memories in Tennessee did not include a dinner element. It was performance only, set in a theater. One thing that Memories had that I did somewhat expect at Rock Dinner Show was diversity of performers. Unfortunately, this is the one area I was somewhat disappointed in at Rock Dinner Show. When I originally heard of it, it sounded like it would be a journey through the evolution of rock. It was not. It is worth mentioning that performers rotate, so the lineup varies, but thus far the website roster for Rock Dinner Show doesn’t show the diversity or span I’d personally appreciate. While the performers were much better than I expected, and every bit fit to their roles, I didn’t really find the “rock” in the lineup, or much of an expanse in the timeline represented. My disappointment was in the expectation more than the event, however – and I am hopeful that the show’s cast will begin to show more of an array of artists. Certainly, Orlando has a great pool of creative workers to choose from! During out visit, we caught: Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Adele, and Prince. Again… all very skilled in their portrayals, but this was a pop show, with each performer offering up three of their most recognizable chart-toppers from a pretty narrow time frame.
But don’t just take our word for it – check out Rock Dinner Show at The Orlando Forum for yourself! We’ve included a brief mashup with segments from the performances (see top of page). As you probably know by now, we do not attend these events with high-profile intrusive equipment, opting to visit and review these experiences as any other guest. While the video is not pro-level, it is a fair representation of the show. Rock Dinner Show takes place seven nights per week, with doors opening at 6:30 PM. Adult admission is $64.95, children 3-12 are $39.95. For more information, or to reserve your spot, visit http://orlando-forum.com/. Don’t forget to stick around after the show for selfies and meet-and-greets with the cast!