With the potential funding loss and privatization of NPR and PBS, Saturday’s performance of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood at Mahayla Jackson had an unintended nostalgia to it. Fred Rogers, aka Mr. Rogers, was the face of PBS and a champion for equality and friendship. His kind demeanor was refreshing and an encouragement through rough times. His words post 9/11 still ring true today–now more than ever.
As he said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
After his death and the end of a PBS staple, Blue’s Clues stopped production and an idea was formed to honor Fred’s legacy. The framework was already in place, and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood spawned from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. It features other children as the characters from the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, such as Katerina Kittycat (daughter of Henrietta Pussycat), Miss Elaina (daughter of Lady Elaine Fairchild and Music Man Stan), O the Owl (nephew of X the Owl), and Prince Wednesday (King Friday and Queen Sara Saturday’s youngest son and Prince Tuesday’s little brother). The main character, Daniel Tiger, is the son of the original Daniel Striped Tiger on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The only character to make the full transition was Mr. McFeely as the neighborhood mailman. Other aspects that were carried over include the trolley and Fred’s signature red jacket, which Daniel wears.
Translating a cartoon to the stage can be awfully tricky, but for the most part, this production was spot on. The two-act musical centered on a day in the life of Daniel Tiger, much like the way the show would run. All the musical numbers, except the last one, were straight out of the cartoon and were mostly centered on a few episodes of the show. The songs are very simple in nature and all carry the same tempo and tune–making them very easy to memorize and sing along to.
The production clocked in around an hour and a half with a fifteen minute intermission and was paced wonderfully as to keep the attention of all the little ones in the audience. The sets were amazing and looked exactly like those from the show. The scene changes were made easy with the additional neighbors moving set pieces around while the principal cast was on their way to their next destination. All the characters in the show couldn’t be present at one time, as many of the actors played several different parts. Katerina, O, and Daniel’s parents’ costumes were designed so that the actors face could be seen, while Daniel was a full blown mascot type of costume. It did take a bit to get used to, but made sense in the greater scheme of the production.
It was great to be able to surprise my daughter and son with a gem of a performance. Delilah, four, knew the show well, so she sang and danced along. She enjoyed the little trolley that went across the front of the stage and the moving trolley light that bounced all around the auditorium.
I was fortunate last year to be able to take her and her brother to the circus, and now Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood can be added to the list. I only hope this experience won’t be the last of its kind too.