Curiouser and Curiouser

An insatiably curious monkey named George is staging a double-barreled assault on Baltimore this weekend

  • "Curious George Live" at the Lyric
"Curious George Live" at the Lyric (Photo courtesy of VEE Corporation )
April 30, 2010|By Chris Kaltenbach, The Baltimore Sun

If you're a Man with a Yellow Hat this weekend in Baltimore, chances are you'll have plenty of company.

The Man with the Yellow Hat, as everyone past the age of 3 probably knows, is the best friend of a curious little monkey named George. And with two shows featuring George entertaining Charm City kids this weekend, the little guy might be tough to escape.

April 30 at the Lyric Opera House, " Curious George Live!" opens its three-day run, offering Broadway-style musical entertainment for the decidedly younger set. And for those who can't get enough of the little monkey (or who can't get songs like "Go, Monkey, Go" or "The Golden Meatball" out of their heads), the interactive exhibit "Curious George: Let's Get Curious" continues at the Port Discovery Children's Museum through June 6.

"Curious George, I really believe, is a multigenerational figure," says Michelle Winner, Port Discovery's vice president of marketing, trying to explain the enduring popularity that makes such a one-two punch of George-mania possible and profitable. "Many grandparents grew up with the books, and they pass those books on to their children. And parents of today, their children are growing up not only with the book, but with the television show and the movies. It just has that cross-generational appeal."

George, a good-hearted little monkey whose incessant curiosity is always getting him into trouble (and straining the patience of the Man with the Yellow Hat), has been around since 1941, when "Curious George" was published. Written and illustrated by the husband-and-wife team of Hans Augusto Rey (usually credited as H.A. Rey) and Margret Rey, the first book detailed George's capture in Africa (a happy experience for all, apparently) and first trip to the big city zoo where he would live.

In the Reys' second book, George escapes the zoo and goes to live with the Man with the Yellow Hat. Adventures ensue (the Reys collaborated on seven "Curious George" books), during which he gets a job, rides a bike, is awarded a medal, flies a kite, learns the alphabet and goes to the hospital. The supply of "Curious George" books has continued, even after H.A. Rey's death in 1977 and Margret Rey's in 1996. And he's even become a multimedia star, appearing on TV on PBS, in the movies and, now, onstage.

"It's basically musical theater for kids," says Elle Krause-Lyons, spokeswoman for VEE Corp., producers of "Curious George Live!" The 90-minute play centers on George's efforts to help his pal, Chef Pisghetti, win The Golden Meatball Contest and save his restaurant. George, for all the mischief he's continually getting into, is one of the world's true altruists.

"It's just nice to have someone so innocent and so willing to help," says Krause-Lyons, who has watched the show attract audiences young and old in 42 cities since debuting in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in October. "I think it's his impish nature that people find so appealing. He has all these adventures, and he really discovers the world. He just wants to discover why things happen, or what's going on."

That curiosity is something children can readily identify with, says Port Discovery's Winner. And it's something they display on a daily basis within the 2,000 square feet of space the museum has handed over to "Let's Get Curious." There on the museum's third floor (a space awash in yellow, naturally), children can play a single hole of miniature golf, make shadow puppets, turn a crank so foam blocks run up a conveyor belt, maneuver a window-washing George around the exterior of an office building, even use a computer to have their pictures taken next to the Curious One.

All the while, she notes, kids are learning some rudimentary concepts of art, science and math. "It's showing them, very early on, the basics of physics," she says. "We're looking to instill that interest in children early on, so that as they get older, they can continue to pursue those interests."

Education, of course, is fine and good. But for Mohab Hanna, visiting Port Discovery from Lutherville with his son Luke, 2, the important thing is to have some fun in the meantime. "I like the fact that he can just run around and enjoy himself," Hanna says, as Luke makes for the foam blocks, blissfully unaware that he's about to endure something of a physics lesson, "without me having to worry about anything."

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

If you go
"Curious George Live" runs at the Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave., through Sunday. Tickets are $12-$60. Showtimes are 7 p.m. Friday (when all but a limited number of seats are $12), 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday. Call 410-685-5086 or go to lyricoperahouse.com. "Curious George: Let's Get Curious" will be at the Port Discovery Children's Museum, 35 Market Place, through June 6. Museum hours are 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday (closed May 2). Tickets are $12.95, free for children under 2. Call 410-727-8120 or go to portdiscovery.org.

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