Saturday, March 14, 2009

That Ubiquitous Blue Train, Live and On Stage

I went to Disneyland for the first time when I was six years old, probably at the height of my princess-love phase. Seeing Cinderella and Snow White in person was a dream come true. I bought the notion that they were fairy-tale characters come to life, hook, line and sinker.

Fast-forward four years to our next Disneyland visit. This time all I saw when the princesses passed by were ordinary, costumed people wearing tacky makeup and bad wigs. I was the ripe old age of ten and reality had overpowered the magic.

I was remembering that as I watched my three-year old positively beam in his auditorium seat the other weekend. Like so many pre-school aged kids, my son adores all things train, including Thomas the Tank Engine. When we were offered tickets to see a local production of Thomas & Friends Live! On Stage, I knew it would be a treat for him.

Looking with my adult eyes, the show was light on plot and featured several actors playing multiple roles (and a twenty-something trying to pull off playing Sir Topham Hatt). They did a good job of gearing the performance to little kids, with a ton of audience participation. They sang almost every song we had heard in the TV episodes and paraded through most of the popular characters, although some were cardboard puppets. In a move I really appreciated, they kept the overpriced merchandise confined to a fairly small booth in the lobby (where the venue also offered up cocktails to the parents--at a matinee. Heh.)

Looking through my son's toddler eyes, it was pure magic. He saw his favorite trains moving and talking right in from of him (the big moving engines were pretty neat), heard the familiar songs, and got to peep peep along with his beloved Thomas. During the intermission he and the little boys sitting around us pulled out the toy engines they had all brought along and pushed them along the seat backs together. And his favorite part? A brief segment featuring a cardboard cutout of Gordon stuck in the mud.

If you have a young Thomas lover in your family and some cash to spare (ticket prices vary by venue; at our show they were $25-40), check to see if it's coming through your area between now and the end of July.


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