For the past 35 years, Schoolhouse Rock (a Saturday morning cartoon series that
teaches history, grammar, math, science and politics through clever, tuneful
songs) has been entertaining and educating kids of all ages. More recently, the
stage version, Schoolhouse Rock Live!, has become a favorite production of
middle and high school drama departments.  Now, Los Angeles is being treated to
its first professional production of Schoolhouse Rock Live!

Professional, of course, means a cast made up of some of the best musical theater
talent around, an inventive director with a list of credits a mile long, and a top-
drawer design team.  The result is a fun 90 minutes of music, laughs, and a bit of
useful knowledge thrown in.  Though its main target audience is the 12 and under
crowd, this is a show that audiences of all ages can enjoy.

The “plot” is simple: Tom (Eduardo Enrikez), a young school teacher nervous about
his first day in the classroom, is trying to relax by watching TV when various
characters suddenly emerge from the set and show him how to win his students
over with imagination and music. Tom’s five “friends” are Joe (Chad Borden), Dori
(Tameka Dawn), George (Antoine Reynaldo Diel), Dina (Elaine Loh), and Shulie
(Susan Rudick).

Schoolhouse Rock highlights include:

•        Songs about all the different parts of speech including the country music
flavored “A Noun Is A Person, Place Or Thing,” “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly” (a song that’s really
truly honestly about adverbs), “Conjunction Junction” with its Andrews Sisters
harmonies, and “Interjections” (Hey! Ouch! Yeah!).
•        “Three Is A Magic Number,” which features Diel as a cuddly human pyramid.
•        Dawn, Loh, and Rudick wearing huge bouffant wigs a la those 60s girl groups
in “Sufferin’ Till Suffrage.”
•        Diel, funny again, dressed as “Just A Bill” (on its way to becoming a law), a
costume cleverly designed to look just like the original (see above cartoon).
•        “Ready Or Not, Here I Come,” which teaches multiples of five with cast
members playing Hide-And-Go-Seek among the audience.
•        “Great American Melting Pot” which has cast (and kids from the audience)
projected onto the upstage screen while getting “blended” in an actual sauce
pan (a very clever visual effect!)
•        The bluegrass “Elbow Room,” about westward expansion and Manifest
Destiny, which features choreographer Brian Paul Mendoza’s “elbow dance,” one
of the many bouncy numbers inspired by the original cartoons.

Director Mark Savage has come up with idea after idea to bring Schoolhouse Rock
the animated series to human life on stage.  The six energetic, enthusiastic
performers sing and dance nonstop, triple-threats all of them. The production
design, by Ray Camaioni and director Savage, incorporates images from the
cartoon series, e.g. the train tracks and conductor of “Conjuction Junction,” a
doctor cut-out giving a live character a shot in “Interjections,” and the westward-
expanding U.S. map for “Elbow Room,” the latter designed by Patrick O’Connor.  
The show’s art is by Mark Longo, Kerry Hennessy designed the colorful costumes,
and Jim Hickcox’s sound design mixes voices, the live band, and cartoon-ready
sounds.  Jeremy Pivnick’s lighting is topnotch, as always. (The musical direction
and band are uncredited in the program.)

Schoolhouse Rock Live! is a great way for parents and their children to bond over a
show which is both entertaining and educational. For those no longer kids,
Schoolhouse Rock Live! offers a fun and nostalgic trip down memory lane. And
even for those of you too old to have enjoyed Schoolhouse Rock on TV, if you enjoy
musical theater, you’ll most likely have a fine time becoming a kid again.

Greenway Court Theatre , 544 N. Fairfax Av., Los Angeles.

–Steven Stanley
December 23, 2007
Photos: Ed Krieger

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