February 2010 Archives

What Are They Teaching My Three Year Old

So it's been a while. For a variety of reasons, mostly sloth, I haven't written reviews of the last few things we saw. In fact, since my last post my child has lived a sixth of his life. Goodness. I can sum them up quickly though, Zach Scott Children's theatre is um, bad. Since my last post we've seen two shows there, Farm to Market and Holiday Heroes. Both of them featured the same problem: derivative and uninspired songs (did you really get the rights to those Beatles' songs you used the music from??), over reliance on body function jokes, gender stereotyping, and adult actors falling on the wrong side of the childlike/drunk acting continuum. On the plus side, Farm to Market had a really cool ant puppet. I am actually baffled about the quality of the shows there, given the status of that theatre and its relative wealth. We won't be going to see anymore shows there, for the simple fact that you were trying to teach my kid that a girl wanting a football is heeellllarrrius. Jerks.

Anyway, the bulk of this post is actually going to be about the show we saw today. Which, honestly, was so far out of my expectations and comfort zones that I felt like I had stumbled into a foreign country. When I go see theatre, really, I don't expect dudes wandering around attempting to sell me and my child thousands of calories on a stick. I don't expect a kid behind me to repeatedly bash me in the head with a pennant. I don't expect them to think I would actually pay ten dollars for parking. At some point I finally realized: this is not a play. This is is a rock concert for the toddler set. Yes, we went to Sesame Street Live: 1-2-3 Imagine!

It is creepy to see adult sized versions of the Muppets. You slowly start to realize that without camera work, the unblinking eyes are really pretty unnerving. And everyone looked a bit off, and a lot cheap. It was sort of like going to see U2 in concert, but having the show performed by the Madame Tussuad Wax Dummies of U2. And, given that there was one random Muppet we had no idea who she was, I guess it was like having the Wax Dummies of U2 performing live in concert with "Bob" or something. It turns out her name is Roxy Marie. She doesn't add anything. 

The actual plot itself was relatively harmless, a postal worker named Sam (Samantha) comes to deliver postcards and convinces the denizens that they can have a good time using their imaginations to pretend they are visiting the places the postcards are from. Oddly, Bert, usually the most buttoned up of the muppets, was working blue in this show. He was responsible for both the poop and the vomit joke as well as the line in Surfin' Safari about "honeys coming along." I forget who asked if the content of postcards "was always so steamy" after a weird sketch about geysers set to the song, "Hot, Hot, Hot." There was a fair amount of culturally problematic content, a visit to Mexico (which apparently all looks like the San Antonio River Walk) where they "taught" a Texan audience that "hola" means hello in Spanish. Really? You don't say. And a trip to "Africa" characterized by some strange Afro Cuban jazz moves, some non-specific monkey masks, and some odd "tribal" costuming.

As for the performing, my eyes kept getting drawn to Grover, who managed to dance his/her part so ironically that I could clearly see the message being sent (I am too good to be inside a blue furry suit). Whenever a kick was called for, this dancer delivered the highest and craziest grand battement possible (yes, I looked the name for that term up). Everything was done at the fullest possible extension. Any leap was done a full foot higher than the other puppets. I'm not usually called upon to critique dance, so I hope I'm doing sort of ok here. The point is: while the other muppets just danced, the person inside Grover wanted you to make sure you knew "I AM A DANCER." So, to the person inside Grover, dude, in this economy just be glad you have a job and simmer down. Grover is actually pretty klutzy, you know? The only other person on stage indistinguishable in any way was, of course, the girl playing Sam. She was fine. She's just there to get the plot going, really, and none of the kids seemed to pay her any mind. She's the opener to the main act, so to speak.

I have to say, I found this one hard to sit through. Until about halfway through, when all of a sudden Ollie relaxed and got into it. The problematic African segment? Ollie's favorite. He got off my lap and boogied to the beat. He danced and participated and sang and answered questions for the rest of the show until the very end, when he was growing very tired. Seeing him have a good time always trumps any of the other thoughts I have about what I'm seeing. I always find myself grinning a huge grin at his enjoyment and I watch him instead of the show. When we left he said goodbye to an usher and informed him, "That was a really great show!" I wish I had the ability to get into things as much as he does. It has been a long time since I've been at a piece of theatre that I found just sucked me in completely. While I know Brecht would like that, Ollie gets more joy out of theatre than I do and that makes me sad. On the other hand, going to theatre with Ollie gives me more joy than about anything.