‘Storytime’ unites Nick Jr. superstars Dora, Kai-lanWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
Grown-up music fans may consider this summer’s Lollapalooza tour, with its rumored lineup of Lady Gaga, Green Day and Soundgarden, to be 2010’s hottest ticket, but the preschool set has its own superstar tour to look forward to.
Nickelodeon and Broadway Across America have teamed-up to present “Storytime Live!” a stage show that unites Dora the Explorer, The Wonder Pets!, The Backyardigans, Kai-lan and hosts Moose A. Moose and Zee. The show will stop at Toledo’s Stranahan Theater at 7 p.m. Feb. 22 and 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Feb. 23.
The 70-city tour is described as a stage performance that “takes kids and their families on brand-new adventures, from leaping into Fairytale Land with Dora and Sleeping Boots, journeying through Filthingham with The Backyardigans, hopping into Wonderland with the Wonder Pets! or jumping on clouds with Kai-lan and the Monkey King.”
In anticipation of the show, Dora will be at Imagination Station from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and at Books-A-Million in Levis Commons from 2 to 3 p.m. on Feb. 20.
Two of the shows actors, Peej Mele, who plays host Moose A. Moose, and Laura Dadap, who portrays Kai-lan, took a break from rehearsals Feb. 12 to speak by phone with Toledo Free Press from a York, Pa., coffee shop. Both young actors have appeared in several regional theater productions, and were excited about embarking on their first national tour.
Toledo Free Press: Kai-lan is a pioneering character for Chinese culture, much like Dora was for Hispanic culture. Moose is the main teacher on Nick Jr. How familiar were you with the impact of these characters when you took the role?
Laura Dadap: I have a lot of little friends who love Kai-lan, friends’ kids who are so excited to see it. This format is like a rock concert that brings all the kids’ favorites together. You can’t make an exact replica of what you see on TV, but it’s close. Chinese was my first language, so I know how authentic the show is with the Mandarin language and culture. My grandmother loves that I am using my Chinese skills.
Peej Mele: I am starting to realize how big a star Moose is. Kids just jump up and down for him. Moose is a wonderful, unique character. The role is exciting and funny for kids and parents. They do a great job with the songs.
TFP: It must be a physical challenge, acting, dancing and singing as you work through the choreography with actors in full costume and the puppets.
Dadap: We are very aware of their presence; a lot of the actors communicate through their voices and body language. It is amazing how intricate the costumes are. My parents say I’ve been singing since I came out of the womb, so this is my love.
Mele: Most of the animal characters are wearing suits perfectly adapted from the cartoons; the engineering is amazing. It’s not as overwhelming as one would think, because it’s so well choreographed. As actors, we assimilate into the characters and it becomes real while we are on stage.
TFP: Kai-lan is a preschool age girl. How do you inhabit that on stage and still play to parents in the audience?
Dadap: There’s something in the show for everyone. This is important, because it will be the first many of these kids have seen any kind of theater, and we want to inspire them to go again. We are careful to be real with the kids; we don’t talk down to them. Parents know we are trying to respect the kids.
TFP: How are you getting along with Zee? Any diva action backstage from The Wonder Pets! or The Backyardigans?
Mele: Working with Zee is like being on ‘Sesame Street.’ The puppets really take on a life of their own and are wonderfully expressive. I love being onstage with Zee. All the characters get along well.
Dadap: Everyone in the show has been wonderful. There haven’t been any backstage issues; we all know the mission is for the kids.
Tickets for “Storytime Live!” in Toledo can be purchased by calling (419) 474-1333, visiting the Stranahan Theater Box Office or ordering online at the Web site www.ticketmaster.com.