Beloved characters based on the popular PBS award-winning show, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, brings social themes to the stage for a young audience, as adults also get a dose of “do better”.
Seeing the favorite children’s character Daniel Tiger and all of his friends live on stage in the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood LIVE production of “King for a Day” at the Weinberg Theatre in Frederick, Maryland, was enchanting to say the least. It was a perrrr-fect way to introduce young children to live theatre. The grr-ific musical for little tigers and grown-ups took children, parents, and yours truly to the neighborhood of make-believe seeing familiar characters including Daniel Tiger, Katerina Kittycat, Miss Elaina, O the Owl, Prince Wednesday, Chrissie, Mom Tiger and more, taking them to the neighborhood bakery, music store, and castle.
With upbeat music, lights, and creative sets, along with quirky and adorable colorful costumes, the entire stage experience brought the familiar character of Daniel Tiger and all of his neighborhood friends to life. The audience children and most parents knew them immediately, clapping every time a familiar character came onstage. It reminded this critic of being at a football game, with the crowd roaring as their favorite players run onto the field. There was even the cherished bright red neighborhood trolley, when upon entering the stage, chiming its familiar “get on board bell”, there was a roa-rrr of applause (no pun intended).
Embracing the theme “King for a Day”, the musical took Daniel on a journey to discover that friendship, helping others, and being sensitive to other’s needs is an important life lesson. Cleverly camouflaged through imagination, creativity, and music, Daniel and his friends learn key social skills necessary for school and for life in the much-loved Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Adults were also able to pick up a few of the character-development tips in, dare I say, self-improvement.
With lead roles Daniel Tiger played by Amanda Leigh Lupacchino; Brandon M. Weber as O the Owl; and Candice Haynes as Miss Elania, all doing a commendable job, however, it was Emma Cop as Katarina Kittycat who stole the show. She was believable and fun to watch as Daniel’s “friend” Katerina, often twirling around with glee on her tippy toes (paws). Side note: her name rhymes with ballerina because she loves to dance. For this performance, she must have also channeled her adorable dimwittedness from a combination of Betty Boop and Olive Oyl. Cute.
Now in its fourth year of touring “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood LIVE!” based on the #1 PBS Kids television series, the hugely popular Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, tells its engaging stories about the life of a preschooler using musical strategies grounded in Fred Rogers’ landmark social-emotional curriculum. However, it was the theatre, this writer found, was also the attraction.
In 1926, the Tivoli, now Weinberg, opened its doors for the first time at a cost of more than $350,000, and was, at the time, the second largest structure ever built in Frederick. Designed to comfortably seat 1,500 people, the Tivoli not only had a sixteen-foot movie screen, but it could also accommodate live performances with an orchestra pit, a large stage, 50 sets of pulleys for scenery, and a full complement of dressing rooms. Over the years, it went into other phases, but in the late 1950’s, local businessman Dan Weinberg and his wife Alyce took an interest in restoring the Tivoli to its past grandeur and was renamed. Classic and silent movies are still a crowd favorite, accompanied by the beloved Wurlitzer organ, which comes out of the floor! Take note if you want an experience over and above “neighborhood” fun and excitement; visit the theatre for a show…for a grrr-ific time.