The Wiggles will bring their signature kid-oriented, high-energy personality to the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center in August.
The toughest audience in the world isn’t one filled with New York theater critics. It’s kids, especially the under-5 set. For the Wiggles, these youngest theater-goers are their VIPs.
Getting — and keeping — their audience’s attention isn’t a challenge for the Australia- based musical group. The group has been engaging and enchanting youngsters since it was founded in 1991 by university friends with training in preschool education and children’s theater and entertainment.
“When we started all those years ago, we made sure we were child-centered in all areas,” said Wiggles Co-Founder Anthony Field.
“What I mean by ‘child-centered’ is this: We think about the child, the preschooler who is coming to the shows or listening to our music. We have children with special needs who come to the shows as well.
“For a lot of children, it’s their first experience with a live show and the first time they have ever been amongst an audience of so many other children and adults.”
Every piece of the Party Time Tour show coming Aug. 19 to the Cobb Energy Centre illustrates how the Wiggles pay attention to a young child’s development. Primary colors rule everything from the simple set design to costumes and even the main characters’ names.
The pacing is child-friendly, too — the mood is upbeat but never frenetic, with short songs, whole-body dances without tricky steps and skits featuring characters like Wags the Dog, Dorothy the Dinosaur and Captain Feathersword.
And the Wiggles know that little kids get the wiggles, too. One thing you won’t hear at a Wiggles show? “Stop wiggling!”
It’s okay to let the little ones get up out of their seats and move around if the spirit moves them, Field (Blue Wiggle) says.
“We are all about letting the children enjoy the show,” he says. “We don’t tell children to sit down. For safety sometimes, we ask the children to go back to their seats. Children can come to the show, feel very safe in a loving environment and a very inclusive environment.”
They can even exercise their outside voices, too! Keep your eyes on Lachy, the Purple Wiggle, who might nod off during the show. When he does, kids can shout out, “Wake up, Lachy!”
Even the house lights get the special Wiggles touch.
“A lot of the show is half lit, so children can see their mum or dad or grownup who
has brought them along,” Field says. “It only really gets dark for one song, and that song is ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’.
“Everybody gets a chance to turn on their cell phone lights or put on their light sticks and make the theatre look amazing like a nighttime sky.”
Field is the senior Wiggler in the four- person group, which now includes Simon Pryce (Red Wiggle), Lachlan Gillespie (Purple Wiggle) and Emma Watkins (Yellow Wiggle). He was on hand to witness the Wiggles grow from a band of buddies who launched their act playing in venues as small (but relevant) as daycare centers, play groups and preschools.
The earliest version of the Wiggles launched with record albums, concerts and home-recorded videos before landing a show with the Australian TV channel ABC. Gigs at Disneyland and on the “Barney & Friends” Barney Live Tour help the group crack the American market in 1998.
Although the Wiggles have become one of the top international acts in children’s entertainment, their audience hasn’t changed over the years, Field says.
“The only thing that has changed is the digital technology children access to watch children’s entertainment,” he says. “ We play a lot more live music than we did in the old days, but it’s just as much fun. A lot of the jokes are still the same and they are still enjoying them.”
Many of the songs and characters children will see on the Cobb stage are ones their parents might recognize, too, and they’re some of Field’s favorites.
“I really love ‘Rock A Bye Your Bear,’ one of the first songs that we wrote, because really young children do the actions, and you can see Mum and Dad singing along and doing the actions, too,” he says.
But the group also changes things up with new characters, too. “I am really loving our new character Shirley Shawn the Unicorn just to see the excitement build when she comes out for the first time on stage,” he says.
Field also has a little homework for parents or grandparents to do before they bring their kids to the show.
“Bring your cell phones and take photos of your children enjoying the show,” he says. “It’s such a special memory and such a great experience.
“Maybe get the children to watch The Wiggles and listen to some of the songs so they can dance along and know the songs before they get there, too.”
You find Wiggles videos and songs on their YouTube channel (youtube.com/user/ TheWigglesPtyLtd/featured), their website (thewiggles.com.au) and their Facebook page (facebook.com/thewiggles).
Can’t wait for the Wiggles to drive their Big Red Car to town? If you have an Android phone with Google Assistant, just say “Hey Google! Talk to the Wiggles” and see what happens!