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A larger-than-life African lion roared from the Spreckels Organ Pavilion stage Saturday evening (May 14, 2016) — and the crowd of over twenty thousand roared back! The 11-foot-tall, 15-foot-long lion operated by four puppeteers, was the king of the 30-minute theatrical production commissioned by San Diego Zoo Global for its Centennial Community Celebration, held at Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama and open to all San Diegans.  The spectacular performance paid tribute to the lion that Dr. Harry Wegeforth heard roaring in Balboa Park 100 years ago, which inspired him to found the Zoological Society of San Diego in 1916. Today, the “roar” symbolizes the conservation work of the 100-year-old organization, as San Diego Zoo Global continues to call for everyone to join its fight to end the extinction of animals, plants, and habitats.



The production on Saturday night opened with presentations from San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, San Diego City Councilmember Todd Gloria and San Diego Zoo conservation ambassador Joan Embery, honoring the San Diego Zoo and thanking the San Diego community for their support throughout the years. The speakers shared the stage with three large gift boxes that were delivered earlier in the week to Balboa Park.










When the gifts were opened, they revealed an Asian elephant, a California condor and an African lion. The extraordinary pageantry puppets also included two orangutans, a Northern white rhino, seven giraffes and a flamboyance of 11 flamingos to life before the audience’s eyes.  The puppets are symbols of species that San Diego Zoo Global has worked with for much of its history including the California condor, which once numbered only 22 and now numbers more than 400 with more than half of the population living in the wild.


A 53-piece orchestra, accompanied in parts by a 130-person choir and 8 principal singers played the all-original musical score, composed to represent each animal species featured in the show.  The show included over 60 performers and 2 actors. Ten different habitat scenes were projected onto the walls of the pavilion during the performance, providing a stunning backdrop for the featured animal puppets.





The musical headliner of the show, Tony- and Grammy-winner Heather Headley, wowed the crowd with a song whose lyrics encourage everyone to help make the world a better place and echoes San Diego Zoo Global’s goal of saving endangered species around the world from extinction, one species at a time. Headly is currently performing in The Color Purple at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater in New York City. 


“This spectacular live performance celebrated a century of the San Diego Zoo’s passion for life and the courage to defend and protect wildlife,” said Mark Howell, President of Mark Joseph Creative and Executive Producer and Sr. Creative Director of the Centennial Celebration. “We are honored to design and produce such a historic event honoring the San Diego Zoo and their efforts toward conservation and education over the past 100 years. Partnering with Brite Ideas and Spangler Event Productions, ensured that creating this historic affair was executed beautifully.”




In addition to creating and producing the spectacular live show at the world-famous Spreckels Organ Pavilion, Mark Joseph Creative produced both the Pre- and Post-show activities at the Centennial Community Celebration. Entertainment included live music from five different bands, including “The Koalas,” “The Chameleons” and “The Kangaroos,” as well as performances by the dance group “The Funky Monkeys.” San Diego’s official civic organist Carol Williams, will also give a 20-minute concert at the Speckles Organ Pavilion, the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ. 


Food trucks served up a variety of different cuisines, and guests explored a wide array of tents showcasing activities and spotlighting the Zoo’s conservation work, both locally and worldwide. Kids and their parents could create a lion hand-puppet in one craft booth hosted by the Zoo’s Education department, and learn about the Zoo’s accredited botanical collections in another tent. One of the most popular areas was the tent where Rick Schwartz, San Diego Zoo Global ambassador, presented Zoo animal ambassadors, including a three-banded armadillo, a skink and a great-horned owl. Partygoers also took the opportunity to visit the San Diego History Center, the Museum of Photographic Arts and the San Diego Museum of Art to see their “Part of the Pride” exhibits, as they stayed open late for the Zoo’s centennial community event.

San Diego Zoo Centennial_Mark Joseph Cre


Client: San Diego Zoo Global

Date: May 14th, 2016

Details: 25-minute stage spectacular that included a 53pc orchestra, 130 person choir, Tony- and Grammy-winner Heather Headley, 8 principal singers, 2 actors, and over 60 performers and puppeteers.

Services: Creative Consulting, Show Creation, Scripting, Music Scoring, Show Direction, Casting, Choreography, Costuming, media and Technical Production


  • 2017 Special Event Gala Winner - Best Theatrical Entertainment Production for the San Diego Zoo Centennial Celebration

  • 2017 Stevie Awards - Best Brand Experience Event

  • 2017 Lux Hospitality Award Winner - Best Event Entertainment

  • 2017 Nominee for the Special Events Gala Award - Nominated for Most Outstanding Spectacle

  • 2017 Nominee for the Special Events Gala Award - Nominated for Best Event Entertainment Concept and Execution: Entertainment Budget Above $100,000

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Contact us now and see what we can create for your next event!

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