Super Why and The Wiggles in Miami Beach for the kids

 

Super Why and The Wiggles take over the Fillmore.

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By Michael Hamersly

The Fillmore Miami Beach, the city's hip haven of live rock shows that has brought Sting, Lenny Kravitz and Guns 'N Roses to town over the past year, will be taken over by little ones over the next week, as two children's favorites hit the stage, representing both old- and new-school entertainment. 
 
On Sunday afternoon, the relatively recent PBS smash-hit show "Super Why" takes kids on an interactive learning adventure, with the characters Alpha Pig, Wonder Red, Princess Presto and their puppy pal Woofster teaching them the power of reading.
 
And on Aug. 3, children can bid a fond farewell to three of the four original cast members of The Wiggles, as the veteran Aussie show that combines catchy rock music with child development tactics undergoes a changing of the guard. It's the last time to catch what's dubbed as the kids' Fab Four, with Red Wiggle Murray Cook, Yellow Wiggle Greg Page and Purple Wiggle Jeff Fatt deciding to hang up their trademark colored jerseys (founder and Blue Wiggle Anthony Field will soldier on with three younger replacements).
 
"It's a celebration, not a sad sort of thing," says Cook about his farewell tour. "There will be a new Wiggles next year, but we've been going for 21 years and we're pretty much touring all the time, doing gigs like some bands do. ... I really just wanted to spend more time with my family - I've got teenage children and I don't want to miss them growing up. And we'll still be involved behind the scenes - we're not leaving altogether, just finishing up the performing."
 
Even when the hand-picked replacements settle in, Cook says kids shouldn't miss a beat.
 
"The general spirit of it will still be the same," he says of the show that features '60s-based rock-'n'-roll music inspired by TV series such as "The Monkees." "But we're hoping that the new people will bring their own personalities to it. One thing that The Wiggles do is our characters onstage are pretty much an extension of their true personalities."
 
"Super Why," which aspires to develop a passion for reading in children, was actually created by a college student.
 
"It was my master's thesis at Teacher's College at Columbia University," says series creator Angela Santomero. "I really wanted to find a way to bridge the gap between reading and television and create role models that children can aspire to and see the power behind reading. So we created these superhero characters that each represent an area of what the National Reading Panel deems critical for reading success. If you watch the show, it's surrounded in literacy - there's so many little nuances that we do that continue to promote books and storybooks and thinking about text, and basically feeling like a superhero when you can read."
 
Transforming "Super Why" from TV to the stage wasn't an easy task, however.
 
"The goal was to embody all of the things that make the TV show great, and just to give it a bigger-than-life feel," says director/producer Glenn Orsher. "Obviously, it's a different medium. Kids aren't sitting in their living rooms - they're sitting in a theater with thousands of other kids. So it has a different look, a different pace, a different feel, but what we try and do is present the kids with the same kind of structure that the TV show does, so they get to find "super letters" and shout out when they find them."
 
That interactivity "allows kids to fall in love with the magic of theater, and fulfills that fantasy of meeting these characters that visit you every day and that you love," says Santomero.
 
Then there's the music - no doubt parents familiar with the show have the "Super Why" theme song running through their heads as they read this.
 
"I feel strongly that music is a great driver of live entertainment, so we have terrific music in the show, and a lot of it," says Orsher.
 
"It's like a rock concert for kids, in that you sing the words that you know and then you're also interacting," says Santomero. "So it's like a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" for kids meets a U2 concert."

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