Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Last weekend we were given a real treat: we got to see Thomas and Friends Live! On Stage: A Circus Comes to Town, a new musical show featuring Thomas the Tank Engine. As soon as the tickets arrived, the kids went into throes of delight, but I must admit I had a couple of questions. First, how on earth would they bring the trains to life? Kids these days are pretty sophisticated customers, and a guy dressed up in a train costume just might not cut it. And second, would my kids -- ages 7, 5 and 5 -- be too old to enjoy it?
Turns out I had nothing to worry about. Although the overwhelming majority of the kids in the audience were 3 and 4 year old boys (Thomas' fan base -- duh!), there were quite a few older children as well, and little girl power was definitely present (in fact the little girl in front of me was proudly dressed in her Thomas train costume and train engineer's hat, so cute!). From the ooh's and ahh's during the show and the happy looks afterwards, I'd say kids of all ages had a great time. Mine certainly did!
The show features Thomas and some of his most popular friends -- Percy, James, Gordon, and Sir Topham Hat (played, rather inexplicably, by a thin-faced man in a fat suit), all working together to prepare as the circus comes to Sodor. Eager to help, as usual, Thomas makes a big mistake and must prove to everyone once again that he is a Really Useful Engine.
Given that the show is called "A Circus Comes to Town", I was kind of hoping they would have real circus performers do a short circus-y, acrobat-y kind of act, a la Cirque du Soleil, but was sadly disappointed. Not that anyone else was complaining. The show is fast paced and entertaining enough to hold preschooler's attention for almost 2 hours. They did all the well-known and well-loved songs like It's Great to Be an Engine, the Engine Roll Call and the Thomas Theme, as well as lesser-known ones and songs created especially for the show. Actually, they seem to break into song every 3 minutes or so (at least it seems that way to the grownups), but the music is simple, infectious and very interactive (the audience is constantly encouraged to peep, chug and toot, much to the delight of the little ones), so it all adds to the fun.
The biggest attraction, of course, is just seeing Thomas come to life on stage. Every time a new character came onstage, you could hear all the kids in the audience gasping with delight. No cheesy train costumes in sight -- the trains were real vehicles that rolled around onstage looking just like they do on tv, complete with rolling eyes, moving mouths and expressive eyebrows.
Unfortunately it's too late for kids around Northern California to see Thomas on stage; performances in Cupertino and San Rafael ended yesterday. However, the show will be playing in 35 more cities across the country, with dates ranging from tomorrow through the end of July. Go see it -- and if you don't want to take my word for it, maybe you'll listen to 3Po's endorsement: "This was Great. It was the Best. Show. Ever. Ever!!!"