Performer Mark Ruegg came up with the idea for his interactive rock concert, "Party Animals" while trying to coax smiles from one of the toughest audiences imaginable — children of celebrities.
Ruegg was hired to provide the youth entertainment for such Hollywood celebrities as Barbra Streisand and Steven Spielberg, and was determined to reproduce the over-the-top extravaganzas in which he participated for everyday kids.
"You can't imagine what birthday parties in Hollywood are like," said Ruegg's wife, the dancer and aerialist Buffy Hornung.
"They're these big, crazy, fun events with things that ordinary kids don't normally get for their birthday parties. Mark wanted to take these big, crazy parties and bring them to the masses. We started to ask ourselves how we could do that."
The result, for children ages 2 through 10, combines a carnival with a rock concert that features performers costumed as animals. Kaila the Kangaroo is the bubbly keyboardist; surfer dude Lance the Lion plays the drums; Brandon the bear, on the bass guitar, is klutzy and lovable; Walter, the guitar-strumming fox, dislikes his name and prefers to be called "X."
The show includes original, rock versions of such nursery classics as "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider," and the audience is invited to sing along.
Almost as soon as Party Animals staged its first concert, the group was booked by Armed Forces Entertainment to entertain the offspring of U.S. troops who are living abroad. The company has been to military bases in Norway, England, the Netherlands, Japan, Bahrain and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"These people really sacrifice a lot for their country," Hornung says, "not just the troops, but their families as well. It's the best audience we'll ever have. They're so grateful for anything we do. It's been a wonderful experience, and we're so happy we've been able to perform for them."
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