Review: Red Grammer in Concert

[Has your toddler sat through an entire concert before? Share your experiences below.]

A 2 by 3 inch concert bill reading: Red Grammer with special guests Kira Weiss and Katri Pitts. Live in concert. Fun for the whole family. Saturday, May 3 at 4 p.m. Arkley Center for the Performing Arts. Advance tickets $7. Fourth and Fifth Graders Free. At the door general admission $15.

Red Grammer came to town this past weekend. Despite his singing almost none of our favorite songs, we had a complete blast.

Concert Prep

The first rule of bringing a 3- or 4-year-old to a sit-down theatre concert is… go with a friend. Our almost-4-year-old was bouncing off her seat excited because she was sitting with a buddy and had two more friends seated in front of her.

We previously watched Grammer’s Hooray for the World concert DVD to set her expectations. It was her first exposure to video entertainment of any kind, making the build-up to the real concert all the more powerful.

That morning we dressed in red to seal the deal, I in a red shirt, her a red dress, red undershirt, red tights and red shoes. Our baby boy was in red too, but he urped on himself on the way there, so we settled for a Maya wrap with hints of red. Having the whole family wear special clothes is a simple way to cast an event in a special light.

Once at the theatre, I spied a parent who placed his child in a car booster seat on top of the theatre seat. Smart. Very smart. It beats the heck out of our Strap-A-Lap.

The Concert

Grammer performed 14 songs over 70 minutes, some with an acoustic guitar, some a capella. It was the same good quality as his concert DVD, minus an on-stage sign language assistant. Grammer appeared to be selecting many of these songs on-the-fly and at one point realized he hadn’t signed any songs, so we all learned how to sign the next one.

During several songs, Grammer stepped down into the audience, to which my daughter would declare, “Where is he going? The stage is that way!” The concert was engaging and fun because of its complete participatory nature. Most of the songs involved the audience singing parts of the songs and performing mannerisms with our hands and bodies.

As Grammer said at one point, “Isn’t that beautiful? Group singing. We don’t do it enough in America.”

On two songs Grammer performed with local musicians… a fifth grade flutist, seventh grade cellist and an elementary school choir teacher, all from different schools. I don’t know how he prearranged that. Red has a posse.

Down by the Sea
was the song most fun to act out, with Grammer soliciting extra beach activities from the audience to add to the song (making sand castles, swimming, playing volleyball and surfing). Each person who proposed an action had to also provide a way to act out the activity with their body… with the exception of surfing. For that one Grammer told us a personal story and then we acted out flailing our arms while falling off a surfboard.

My daughter later said that her favorite part of the concert was when Papa got up on stage. Grammer began by asking the kids, “Okay, who came here today with a crazy grown-up? Point to them!”

Grammer then began plucking parents out from the crowd, ushering them onto the stage. It would seem that the kids weren’t outing enough parents, so Grammer began press-ganging people.

While I was looking conspicuously not in Grammer’s direction, he tapped on my shoulder and said (into his mic), “You’re crazy, aren’t you?”

I feverishly pointed to my daughter’s friend’s mother. “No, no, no, no, that woman over there is bonkers!” I was sure to be loud enough that his mic picked me up.

Much to my delight, I successfully redirected Grammer’s attention toward Mrs. Bonkers, but then Mrs. Bonkers’ 4-year-old daughter launched into an impromptu meltdown, jumping onto her mom’s lap and clutching her at the thought of Mommy leaving.

Rats! I was sent in her stead.

Photo of a portion of the stage with Red Grammer beginning to bow and a bunch of parents and a few children standing behind him clapping.

This is the best image my wife captured of a small portion of the stage, the only one in which she didn’t decapitate Mr. Grammer. But in her defense, she was holding our baby boy in her other hand while he breastfed. It’s called multitasking.

Our 1-month-old was awake for the whole concert and well behaved. A boy who is a month younger than our daughter and known for being can’t-keep-still hyper slept through most of the concert. Go figure.

So, with some 40 parents on stage, Grammer divided us into three groups as back-ups singers for Wimoweh. You may know the song better as The Lion Sleeps Tonight. The audience was similarly divided into three groups.

I’m accustomed to this song as a lullaby. Grammer’s version is an uplifting interactive piece with people singing, “Weem-oh-way,” “Hey, hey, hey, or “Way up boys.” Our group had a good share of women, so we alternated with singing, “Way up girls.”  And of course, each group had mannerisms which were organically developed by each group of parents (ours raised our hands, alternating to the left and right).

[Here's a small audio snippet that gives you half an idea of what I mean.]

Together, our voices weaved a foundation for Grammer’s singing of the song. It was a lot of fun.


After the concert, Grammer posed for photos and signed autographs in the lobby. His own photographer snapped shots for everyone with the promise of their appearing later on his website. In person he is exactly how you want any performer to be who visits your hometown… genuinely friendly.

I made the mistake of trying to take my own photo which resulted in four shots of my wife, my daughter and Red either looking at me or at Grammer’s photographer, but never all three of them focused on me. D’oh! Here’s hoping I didn’t ruin the official shot, too.

We bought the one CD we don’t have yet, BeBop Your Best: Music to Build Character By. This one netted Grammer a Grammy nomination. It’s a theme CD with each song about a personal quality: truthfulness, responsibility, fairness, trustworthiness, perseverance, kindness, caring and compassion, gratitude, citizenship, respect, integrity, patience, etc.).

All in all, it was a fun family outing. Grammer gets around to both coasts, so you might check on his whereabouts now and then.

So… For those of you who have dared a theatre performance (of any type) with your toddler, how did it go?


6 Responses to “Review: Red Grammer in Concert”

  1. Kristin says:

    My son (3) and I went to the Dan Zanes concert in April. He was a little star struck and spent the entire time in his seat with his popcorn. I think he was a little overwhelmed to see a person that he sees on TV and hears on the radio in person. He also didn’t like that the music was so loud. He did actually enjoy the concert, but I think that he needed a better understanding of what the concert would really be like before we went. He can be a bit sensitive and doesn’t always do well with surprises, so I think he would react a little better if we were to go to a concert again. I really enjoyed it though and I can’t wait to take him to another.

    May 5th, 2008 at 6:07 am

  2. Lindsay says:

    We went to see Disney’s Lion King Broadway production around Easter time. Our daughter is almost 4 in a couple of weeks and she loved it. It was so amazing to see her so enthralled in something. It brought tears to my eyes to watch her concentrate on every detail of the show. From the percussionists on each end of the stage to the animals coming down the isle. We loved it. It was also emotional because we saw it for the first time while I was 7 months pregnant with her. And now here she is watching it with us.

    May 5th, 2008 at 7:54 am

  3. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    You may have caught your infant at a good time in his life for going to outings like this. I can not imagine going anywhere with my 9-month-old. He can’t sit still long enough! Nor is he old enough to get up at suitable times.

    May 5th, 2008 at 8:16 am

  4. Michelle says:

    We took our daughter to see “The Nutcracker” put on by the local ballet company when she was 3 and also at 4. Both times we chose the special matinee show for kids, so there were mostly children in the audience. She did very well, even at three years old. She asked a lot of questions throughout, so we were giving her a running narrative of the story.

    This past year (when she was 4) she was more entranced by the dancing and costumes, but towards the end she did ask “Is this almost over”.

    We also had her dress up for the “special event” and also brought some snacks for her to munch on during the show.

    May 5th, 2008 at 10:06 am

  5. Jeff in NJ says:

    We took our 2 older sons to a concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center 2 summers ago. Son #1 was almost 4, and son #2 was 2.

    Saw the Philadelphia Orchestra playing “Finlandia” by Sibelius, Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, and Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto with none other than Van Clyburn playing the piano. The boys loved it! We had lawn seats, so we set out a blanket, chairs, and snacks. The best part was the video screen in front of us, so the boys could get a really good view of what was happening on stage.

    The nice part was that since it was outdoors with lawn seating, we could make a hasty exit if we had to, which we didn’t.

    Expose your kids to live music! Expose them to any music, as long as it’s good music!

    May 5th, 2008 at 1:28 pm

  6. Allison (CodeCrafter) says:

    I have taken my son to several local live theater productions in his short lifetime. We are lucky that my Mother, who lives close by, is the executive director of a company that does theater for young audiences. This has given us the chance to take my son to a lot of live theater with out much risk since I know those involved with the production are welcoming to children of all ages. They do 3 to 4 shows a year. All the shows are musicals and feature both adult actors and children. The shows are 60 minutes in length so don’t demand as much attention span as a full theater production. Many area preschools bring classes of 4 and 5 year olds to see the show and they really enjoy it.

    The first show I took him he was 3 months old and I remember about half way though I had to put him in the sling and stand in the back where he eventually fell asleep. Other then that time he has watched all the shows happily which is kind of not what I would have expected since he is a bouncing-off-the-walls kind of kid most of the time. We went to shows when he was 7 months, 9 months, 12 months and 14 months. He is now almost 17 months and we are planning to go to another show this weekend. I am interested to see how it will go since I have a feeling that he may no longer be as dazzled by the bright lights and music as he once was and he may still be too young to be entertained by the story.

    May 5th, 2008 at 2:28 pm

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