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July 24, 2021

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Take a hot-air balloon ride around the world in immersive theater show

PICTURE yourself in a hot-air balloon ride around the world, surrounded by masked dancers, clouds and a table laden with elaborate dishes.

This isn’t a dream.

It’s a special experience in the newly opened immersive theater — The Grand Expedition — which is running from July 23 to August 22 at Fosun Foundation.

Since its debut in London in 2018, the show has received rave reviews because of the addition of food into the program.

It’s a multi-sensory experience where you “go on” a journey around the world and enjoy food while seated at your dining table, surrounded by performers. This is an all-round show that will awaken your five senses.

The immersive theater

The Grand Expedition is produced by Gingerline, a UK company dedicated to combining dining with immersive experiences since 2010. Its tour in Shanghai is joining forces with Drama Plus Entertainment, which performed “Alice’s Adventures Underground” in 2019 and also cooperated with the immersive show “The Great Gatsby” in London.

Inspired by children’s books, the 90-minute experience involves a fusion of dancing and live animation, along with global cuisines. Guided by a bunch of “pilots,” your gastronomic adventure happens in a room full of interesting installations such as oil lanterns and hot balloons.

You can interact with the cast and the environment, as well as socialize with other guests at your table. A three- or five-course meal will be prepared to match the storyline and ultimately fill your stomach.

The immersive experience starts with a “check in” counter where staff affix a seal to your ticket with a “basket number.” After a “security check,” you get an “explorer’s equipment bag,” including a pilot’s hat and glasses. Crossing a magic corridor, there is a swarm of huge hot air balloons waiting for you. A bunch of pilots will help to find your basket and remind you to put on the pilot’s hat.

The balloon journey

My lunch-journey departed from Greenwich, England, beginning with a cup of classic English afternoon tea. The surrounding performers were putting on a show featuring preparing the hot-air balloons.

Taking off! The magic scene during the “flying” experience is presented by the all-around 360-degree 3D screen. The music, light and shadow will take you on a dream-trip.

There are four stops on the 90-minute journey — Japan, Russia, Brazil and outer space, each with a local cuisine set. In Japan, I was offered a Kobe salmon salad with authentic saba noodles, served with Kyoto sunset sticky rice cake. The Russian dancers brought me a glass of Kvass, while the amazing braised meat and cheese ball were served in Brazil. At each stop, the menu was delivered in the form of a postcard by the “local dancers.”

As a highlight of the show, do not miss the interactive sections. The performers will invite guests to take part in the dance, but taking the initiative is also welcomed. I was invited to go “fishing” in Japan, do the Russian Cossack move, and samba in Brazil. They will teach you how to dance, then start the interactive show. Don’t be shy, just enjoy.

A secret badge will be put into your hand by “local dancers” after completing the moves. The dancers are talking in a strange language (sounds like Minion’s language but not), and they even answer your questions in it.

The journey ends in space with the elves’ performance and a cosmic floating ice cream.

The pop-up art store

Back to the departure area after the show, there is a pop-up store to buy souvenirs of the just finished hot-air balloon journey, such as the pilot uniform and belt. A more affordable choice is a notebook decorated with gears, priced at 148 yuan (US$22.9).

During the period of the immersive show, a hot-air balloon is displayed in the front of Fosun Foundation, replacing the award-winning Japanese architect Tadao Ando’s “green apple,” and offering a wonderful picture with the building’s stunning, moving facade.


Date: Through August 22 (Each session lasts 90 minutes. Audience members should be over 4 years old.)

Venue: Fosun Foundation (Shanghai)

Address: 600 Zhongshan Rd E2


Lunch: 598 yuan (Tuesday-Thursday); 698 yuan (Friday-Sunday) for three courses, three non-alcoholic drinks and one set of explorer’s equipment):

Dinner: 898 yuan (Tuesday-Thursday); 998 yuan (Friday-Sunday) for five courses, four alcoholic/non-alcoholic drinks and two sets of explorer’s equipment


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