Children’s Live Shows: A Survival Guide

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Image: Karen Walsh
Image: Karen Walsh

No matter how amazing a live kids’ show is, it will still likely feel as though you have been thrust into the 9th Circle of Hell. Up to this point, seven years into this parenting gig, we had safely managed to skip most of these kinds of things. The year L was four and we had tickets for Yo Gabba Live!, we had a blizzard. Since then, L mostly trends towards historical re-enactments not kids’ shows. Therefore, Wild Kratts Live was our first foray into the world of live-action kids’ shows.

Now, before you think I’m maligning the much-loved brothers Kratt, I’m not. As shows go, it was worth seeing. I admit that having L as my son makes these kinds of events odd. The Saturday before seeing Wild Kratts Live, L and I had seen Titanic: The Musical. L tends to have grown-up tastes in things from art and history museums to his choices of theater. However, no little child could really help but fall in love with the superhero animal informational cartoon show. The entire concept is geared towards kids like L who love superheroes and gadgets and animals.

And so, we took the long day’s journey into the darkness.

And we came out alive. However, as one parent to another, between you and me and the wall of the Internet?

The ways of survival are arduous but manageable.

First, never go without an additional adult. This is the key. One of the things I have to admit is that as much as I found the performance overstimulating to me, I also enjoyed having another adult enduring the same performance. This made it possible for me to snark my way through it. Because, come on, when the Green Kratt Brother has to yell “woodPECKER POWER!!!!”? I need an outlet.

Second, be prepared. Walking through a lobby and theater filled with small people all hopped up on sugar and adrenaline is like walking through a forest filled with aggressive trolls hopped up on amphetamines. It’s a war zone, man. You have to have all your senses at full strength. Make sure to have a cup of coffee. If you wear glasses, get an eye exam and new glasses just prior. I kid you not, the kids are so energized, a developing nation could live for years on them if we could harness the energy.

Third, the theater’s wine bar. Now, I know. I do. This almost seems like it’s directly contradictory to the previous one, right? But wait. Once you are safe in your seat, having a slightly dulled sense of your world can’t hurt. Now, I’m not advocating an entire bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer all on your own.That would be inappropriate and negligent of me. I am, however, suggesting that prior to the start of the actual show, complete with all its noises and lights, you want to dull your senses just a bit. Just enough to dial the noise and energy in the room down to a 10 from an 11.

Fourth, ear plugs. Dude, these speak for themselves. I cannot stress them enough. At one point, even my son put his hands over his ears and whispered, “so. loud.”

Fifth, and I say this is probably most important, if you can’t beat ’em? Join ’em. I admit to being the parent who gets involved in whatever we’re doing. However, looking around the fairly staid group of parents, most of them sat still and quiet, unengaged in the interactive aspects of the show. Let’s be honest, when a show is your kid’s favorite, you know pretty much all the hooks. I know what Creature Powers are and how to activate them. I know all the characters. While sitting there, ensconced in this world, I was amazed by the number of parents who were thoroughly unengaged. One of the joys of parenting is that we don’t get to live through our children but with them. If I can’t suspend my grunkliness for 90 minutes while I countdown to the show and scream that the Brothers Kratt should ACTIVATE CREATURE POWERS? Then I am not only leaving all the fun to my child but standing as an outsider to his experience as opposed to being a part of it with him.

Despite my personal preference for Broadway musicals or other types of theater, I can admit that live-action kids’ shows are a rite of passage for both parents and children. Whether it’s Disney on Ice, Wild Kratts Live, or whatever show your children will want to see in the future, realize that part of going with them is being with them in that moment. Until the time my son tells me that I’m upsetting him and embarrassing him, part of the interactiveness of these shows is that we all get to be ensconced in the experience together. We aren’t really paying for the shows themselves when we buy the tickets. We’re paying for that magic that comes from sharing an experience. I guess, despite my general sense of horror at having an opinion regarding which Kratt Brother I found more attractive (and in case you’re wondering, it’s Chris, sorry Martin, you’re still cool though), I enjoyed the fact that for 90 darkened minutes, I was able to engage in my child’s world in a way that we don’t often get to do as adults. If I hadn’t sung the songs or yelled along with the kids, perhaps I’d have been a bit more of an adult. Unfortunately, though, I would have lost the sense of magic, wonder, and overall specialness that was the entire reason my son loved going.

So, I suppose, when you are dragged into the 9th Level of Hell, give it a whirl. The devil may have brought you there, but you probably still can enjoy the ride.

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