Monday, May 5th, 2008
Review: Red Grammer in Concert
[Has your toddler sat through an entire concert before? Share your experiences below.]
Red Grammer came to town this past weekend. Despite his singing almost none of our favorite songs, we had a complete blast.
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.
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.
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 Amazon.com 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?