Bob the Builder, wow, Bob the Builder. So yesterday afternoon I took my newly turned two year old son and my wife to see Bob the Builder: Spuds Big Mess at the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts center on the UNI campus, and boy was I not prepared for what I was about to witness. Having a degree in theatre helped me maintain interest in the show, but I’m afraid it didn’t help my son or my wife get through it. For those of you unfamiliar with Bob the Builder (hey I know there are some out there that have no idea about this show, I didn’t until I had a child) he is a friendly sort of chap that helps people build things while promoting teamwork and self esteem. Can we do it? Yes we can, is Bob’s mantra that is shouted loudly and often through out the performance. Bob can also be seen locally on Iowa Public Television, though I’ve never actually seen an episode since my son usually naps through Bob’s time slot. So there is a little bit of background for you on Bob, so how was the show?
Well the show was OK. I’m sure there were many parents and children that enjoyed Bob and his crew of builders, but I, and my family unfortunately got a bit burned out on Bob, and most notably Spud who could have the most grating voice on the planet next to Fran Drescher. So before the bad, I should probably talk about the good. First off, the songs are fun and catchy and have a positive message of teamwork and recycling to save our environment as well as the value of alternative energy. I know what you’re thinking; pretty heavy stuff for a two year old, but really it’s all about the visuals. Bob has friends like Dizzy who is a cement mixer that spins around the stage and a front end loader whom I’ve now managed to completely forget for some reason. Any way, Bob with his builder friend Wendy set out to make a recycling center and set up wind turbines to power the recycling center. As they do this they get Spud the scare crow involved who manages to take things to irritating levels of annoyance by being the intrusion to the stasis. For those not hip to that theatre term, Spud is the one who brings about the conflict to cause the drama, thus creates the story for the show. Bob’s mechanical friends were awesome to watch though as they motored about the stage and sang and interacted with the live actors. While the singing and dancing where great, there really wasn’t a whole lot else going on, so I guess I should talk about the bad.
First off, it was loud. I know we were pretty close to the stage, but it was extremely loud. That probably makes a lot more sense in hindsight since the audience was filled with screaming children, but geez, it was loud like Metallica loud in the front. I even thought on several occasions about covering my son’s ears! The other thing that I had a lot of problems with was the dead time between songs. We would have a song with lots of moving and singing and dancing and then it would just be static for ten minutes. My son needed more action to keep entertained and from the looks of the kids around me he wasn’t the only one. Also it was terribly hard for me as an adult to stay engaged with what was going on. So much so that I started to watch the lights for the cues as opposed to watch the show for the fun. I started thinking about the flats on the side of the stage and how if they are 4×8 flats then the actors were really short but if they were say 8×12 flats then the actors where about the right size. Wow, I guess I was getting a bit bored. Speaking of flats, I know this is a touring show, with lots of moving machines but I would have liked to have seen a bit more of a set. I know that’s probably asking a lot and they probably blew their entire budget on those fancy remote controlled machines, but really, I could have used a bit more something something on a visual level.
But other than those problems the experience was great. The Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center really is a wonderful place to see a show, and I’m hoping to take in more and more shows as they become available.
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