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Medieval Times’ new spectacle: more action on Astini News

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Jousting is the main event at the Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament in Schaumburg. A new show that debuted March 21 features more action. | Davis Barber Productions Inc.

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Medieval Times
Dinner & Tournament


† 2001 N. Roselle Road, Schaumburg

† Tickets: adults, $59.95; kids 12 and younger, $35.95; younger than 3, free; check website for special deals

† (888) 935-6878;

Updated: March 29, 2012 11:23AM

Endeavoring to give the public what it wants, Medieval Times in Schaumburg has created an all-new show replete with more horsemanship, jousting, swordplay and falconry. Unveiled with much fanfare this month, the show succeeds on all levels.

Two years in the making, this is the first new show in five years at the recently renovated castle. But not to worry, many traditions remain, including the pre-show knighting ceremony, cheering for one of six knights, and eating with your fingers. And yes, the castle still boasts its museumlike display of weaponry and instruments of torture (which some guests might find disturbing) tucked at the end of one corridor.

The show opens on a stunning note. The arena fills with fog and as the tempo of the percussive music quickens a stunning white stallion with a silver mane bursts in, mesmerizing the audience as the narrator talks about the importance of the bond between horse and knight.

The steed leaves and the heralds introduce the Lord Chancellor. While this may be the king's castle, the Lord Chancellor runs the show — beckoning guests when it's time for the knighting ceremony, explaining the rules of the house (no banging of bowls; it disturbs the horses), serving as narrator and running the tournament. Shawn Block embraces the role with authoritative relish, from his booming radio-quality baritone to his sword flourishes that start each contest.

As guests enjoy meals of garlicky focaccia, spicy tomato bisque, half a succulent roasted chicken and large spare rib (vegetarian entrees available upon request) finished off by a delicate apple strudel, they're treated to an eight-horse dressage segment (Medieval Times employs Andalusians, quarter horses, Friesians and Menorcas) that's beautifully choreographed and executed. Falconer Kirk Williams follows, setting loose a bird of prey to swoop over the audience as he tempts it with a lure. You can feel the rush of the wind the bird creates as it passes by.

Set in the 11th century, the plot for this show has been simplified. King Carlos (the charming and dignified Dave Gordon) is hosting a tournament featuring six knights from different provinces; the winner will become champion to the king. A sinister stranger (played with convincing menace by Robert Idrizi) arrives claiming to be a herald from Lord Ulrich, the king of the north. He promises King Carlos a gift if only he will make his daughter, Princess Catalina (the graceful Kari Schumann), the bride of Ulrich. A modern man for the medieval era, Carlos says he does not barter his children and that only his daughter can choose her husband. The herald leaves threatening doom to the kingdom and the games begin in earnest as the audience is left to speculate about Catalina's future.

The six knights are introduced and engage in several quick challenges to get the crowd revved up. When they leave to prepare for the main event — jousting and sword fights — horse master Mario Contreras (an award-winning dressage competitor) enters the arena and offers a dazzling dressage demonstration; it's evident that both man and horse are enjoying themselves immensely.

The knights return for the jousting segment, which skillfully weaves together horsemanship, stunts and fights with authentic weapons in believable nonstop action. These knights — Keith Nadel, Garrett Cornman, Eddie Maciejczyk, Scott Madden, Adam Jaecks and Travis Frerichs — and their horses are superb athletes who practice daily, and it shows. They may not speak, but they don't have to because their actions speak volumes.

Authentic, rich-looking costumes for humans and horses; composer Daniel May's (of IMAX film fame) fast-paced, dramatic and percussive score and atmospheric lighting all serve to transport the audience to an era where honor and chivalry reigned. There's also not a bad seat in the house. It's hard not to have a jolly old time at this castle.

Note: Last year's popular knights-in-training pre-show sessions will be offered again this summer. Geared to 5- to 12-year-olds, the sessions take place one hour before the first Sunday show each week. Details forthcoming at


♦ The National Hellenic Museum, 333 S. Halsted, hosts a family day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 1. Explore exhibits and make crafts. Children 12 and younger admitted free; adults, $10. Call (312) 655-1234 or visit nationalhellenic

♦ Bikes! The Green Revolution — exploring the past, present and future of bicycles — opens March 31 at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon, and runs through Sept. 9. Admission is $9 for adults, $6 for kids 3 to 12. Call (773) 755-5100 or visit

♦ Chicago Kids Company presents The Three Little Pigs April 4 to 13 at the Metropolis Performing Arts Center, 111 W. Campbell in Arlington Heights. Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for kids 12 and younger. Call (847) 577-2121 or visit

Jennifer Burklow is a local free-lance writer.

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