Dora will be live, and the audience will be animated

Family: events, activities

April 22, 2004|By Elizabeth L. Piccirillo | Elizabeth L. Piccirillo,SUN STAFF

Preschoolers are notorious for changing their minds. The thing they absolutely, positively, could not live without on Monday usually becomes passe by Wednesday. But when animated series Dora the Explorer debuted on Nickelodeon in 2000, it defied the standards of picky preschoolers. Kids and parents across the nation recognized the 7-year-old Latina star not as a trend but as a best friend whose popularity has never faltered.

Today, Dora's face is on everything from toys to TV to Band-Aids, and on stage in the theatrical show "Dora the Explorer Live!: Search for the City of Lost Toys," which premieres at the Hippodrome on Wednesday.

The interactive stage show takes audiences on the quest for Dora's lost teddy bear, with numerous opportunities for participation along the way. Kids can expect to use many of the skills they've learned from watching Dora on television. This includes problem-solving with words and numbers and, of course, their knowledge of the Spanish language.

The actress who plays Dora on stage, Christina Bianco, says the kids get really excited about letting her know the Spanish they have learned, and she attributes much of the character's success to the fact that she is bilingual.

Also featured in the live show are Dora's trusty pals: Boots the monkey, Benny the bull, Tico the squirrel, Map, Backpack and Swiper the sneaky fox. There is also plenty of dancing and an array of familiar songs.

"They are all singing out loud, and a lot of the kids try to copy the dance moves," Bianco says. "It's great to see."

It's easy for children to relate to Dora. "She's just like them: She likes to explore, but she's not afraid to ask for help," she said. "She likes to have fun while she's learning, and she's not afraid to get her hands dirty."

Valerie Walsh, co-creator of the television series and consultant for the live show, seems to agree with Bianco. "There is an immediate connection to Dora," she said, adding that it's a smooth transition taking the show from the television to the stage.

However, both note there is a different experience provided to children when seeing Dora in a theatrical environment.

"It's such a great interactive experience," Walsh said. "It's special for them to be in a place where they feel Dora is really talking to them."

Even Bianco, who's 22, gets energy from performing as Dora. "I feel like a celebrity at times because they're all chanting `Dora! Dora! Dora!'," she said. "It's a real boost."

"Dora the Explorer Live! Search for the City of Lost Toys" will be at the Hippodrome Theatre, 12 N. Eutaw St., Wednesday at 7 p.m.; April 29 at 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.; April 30 at 7 p.m.; May 1 at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.; and May 2 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tickets are $15-$33. Call 410-481-SEAT.

For more family events, see Page 45.

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