Monday, April 04, 2011

Reach High, Think Big, Work Hard, Have Fun!

Yesterday Francine, Alexander and I saw Imagination Movers on the Hamilton stop of their In A Big Warehouse Tour.

In a single word - WOW!

Photo of Hamilton show by Caitlin Gervais

In a few more words: I've been to a lot of kids shows over the years (not just from my recent parent years, but from touring kids shows that came through the Ottawa theatre I worked at when I was at Carleton University), but this has to be the most energetic and fun for the whole family that I've ever seen.

Yes, there's a lot of fun and excitement geared for the kids - but the musical styling of the group is adult-inclusive. In the same way that the old Bugs Bunny cartoons had built-in humour that only an adult could appreciate, the Movers employ a similar technique.

Many of their musical pieces include references to or samplings from songs that parents will recognize from the 80's and 90's. For example, in their stage show they made reference to Van Halen's album 1984 not just with a "Jump" reference, but also "Panama." Later in the show, they did a kids version of the Kiss song "I Want To Rock and Roll All Nite."

Also, during the show, they would make self-referencial ad lib comments. For example, during a moment where Nina got frightened and ran offstage, the sounds effect (which was the standard cartoonish sound of a character running in place for a second before zipping away) was delayed by a few seconds. She waited for the sound effect to catch up with her actions, and I believe it was Rich who quickly commented on how fast Nina was, that she was faster even, than her sound effects.

The show contained many moments like that, with the characters reacting to the audience and other elements of the show - evidence, in my mind, that they were following their motto quite wonderfully - they were reaching high, thinking big, working hard, but also having fun.

But, beyond their talent and the pure unadulterated fun, their constant interaction with the audience was amazing. I've seen kids performers go into the audience, perhaps even up and down an aisle, but I've never seen characters wade so deeply into the audience so often during a show.

And they didn't just wander down an aisle, but they even slipped between theatre seats, climbed over chairs and people to move from row to row, stood on chairs in the middle of the audience while performing guitar solos, continually giving high fives and hugs to countless delighted kids (and parents) without ever missing a beat.

There was even a moment, towards the end of the show, where Rich came up onto the 1st balcony of Hamilton Place and not only walked up and down a couple of aisles, but also waded through the crowd. It's amazing how far he had to go to get up to the balcony and then back to the stage to complete the act he was a part of, but that certainly made the day of a good number of kids who might have originally been disappointed not to be seated in the lower audience area of the theatre.

At the end, the movers brought out the folks from the opening/warm-up act, Genevieve and DC from Choo Choo Soul (another fun kids show with catchy and fun music) for the final number, making it a big fun celebratory party.

In any case, this 41 year old is certainly in awe of the Imagination Movers and if I was already a fan of them just from their half hour TV program, I'm an even bigger fan now. I'm delighted to see this group of four friends who got together with some fun ideas for a kids program started off in their own community and quickly moved on to larger venues, eventually being discovered by the folks at Playhouse Disney.

I can't resist posting this video of one of their popular recurring songs, Mover Music.  (Careful, you might find yourself jumping up and bopping to the music)

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