On Saturday, we had a chance to see one of two shows The Wiggles did in town, at 1st Mariner Arena. If you're not familiar with The Wiggles, they're four grown men from Australia who wear colorful shirts, sing songs, and entertain toddlers. Our older son Jack went through a serious Wiggles phase, where all he ever wanted to do was watch The Wiggles on-demand. The men of The Wiggles—Anthony, Jeff, Murray, and Greg (who is replaced by Sam at some point in the series)—are charming and well-mannered enough, promoting things like fruit salad, baby kangaroos (joeys), and didgeridoos, so we were happy to oblige. Jack has since aged out as a member of The Wiggles' target audience (2-3, I'd say) and they haven't really gripped his brother Benny in the same way, but the TV episodes always featured clips of the quartet's live shows, and i always imagined that, if they came to Baltimore, we'd go. So, we did.
I'm not sure why, but I assumed that the real, actual Wiggles from the TV show wouldn't be on-stage. I just assumed there was some traveling version of the guys and that it would be fun to see that this Anthony was bald or this Murray was Latino. I mean, they've been doing this for 19 years and besides, when a Broadway show like The Producers comes to town, you don't expect to see Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane up there. But sure enough, the music came on and there they were, the real guys, driving on stage in their Big Red Car. Soon, they were joined by Captain Feathersword, Wags the Dog, Dorothy the Dinosaur, Henry the Octopus—the whole mishpucha! I have to admit, I was a little star-struck. At one point, Jeff came out into the crowd to collect roses for Dorothy the Dinosaur (she loves her rosy tea!) and when he got close to our section, I actually got butterflies in my stomach. For Jeff the Wiggle.
And I have to say, despite the fact that these guys have basically been putting on the same show for 19 years, they still do it with brio and joy. The guys are clearly very comfortable up there and not worried about maintaining order—they often broke into stage patter amongst themselves, jibing Jeff for turning 57 or Murray for putting on a few pounds. There was one time where Anthony asked Ringo the Ringmaster to dance in a "Hairspray" style—an ode to local hero John Waters—only Ringo had no clue what he was talking about and sorta flailed in confusion for a minute trying to figure it out. The whole interlude clearly flew over the mop-topped heads of the under-5 audience members and might've been considered a significant flop, but the Wiggles just laughed it up and kept referencing it throughout the show. Clearly these guys know their hold on the audience.
Toward the end of the show, it became clear how these guys maintain their interest and energy for every show. They went out into the crowd to read all of the handmade sings—a lot of "We LOVE you Wiggles"— and collected presents for the men's real-life children and bones for Wags the Dog. The kids' reactions, ranging from emotional adoration to awestruck amazement was so genuine that I imagine these guys—mostly former musicians who met while training to be pre-school teachers—can't help but love their jobs.
Oh, and WHILE YOU'RE HERE, Learning to Crawl has been nominated for a "Mobbie" award from The Baltimore Sun for best blog in the "family" division. Vote here! And, while you're there, please vote for my other Bmag blog, Press Check in the "news" category and Bmag managing editor Max Weiss's pop culture blog Max the Girl in the "pop culture" category. Thank You! And vote again tomorrow!