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A day at the theatre with the original toy fashion doll diva

Barbie Live... through the eyes of a grown man (and a four year old)

Words by: Geoff Ferres
Photography sourced from barbielive.com

This weekend I did something new. Something that I had never done before and, truth be told, may never have the opportunity to do again. It changed me, as a man and as a human being.

It was a BARBIE THEATRE SHOW for kids!

This was not a mission to be attempted solo and I came prepared. With a four year-old. For my young companion to this extravaganza, Barbie Live represented a lot more than casual entertainment to kick off a quiet Saturday – this was an adventure of truly epic proportion. As a first time theatre goer, wonders were everywhere: a gigantic dark room, hundreds of people sitting attentively, moving curtains, the intermission rush and applause after every song! There’s no doubt about it, life is great when you’re a tiny tot … but more of that later, let’s get back to the story …

Arriving at St Kilda’s Palais theatre, parking was truly crazy. As far as the eye could see, mums, dads and grandparents were tumbling out of 4wds and station wagons, led at full speed by little girls in Barbie-esque outfits, scrambling towards the theatre fun. As the usher shepherded us to our seats a few minutes after the curtains opened, we encountered a medieval stage scene, a grumpy wizard and some bow and arrow action well underway. Could this be Barbie or did I wander into the wrong theatre? I needn’t have worried – Barbie Live mixes the audiences’ visual experience up with more scene flashbacks than your typical who-done-it murder mystery – we’d been lucky enough to just catch scene / time/ parallel universe switch #1. I’ve since learned these scene changes pay homage to the rich and extensive Barbie back catalogue … but I secretly suspect only the die-hard fans would appreciate this depth of narrative continuity. I was confused, but everyone present under the age of 7 was nonchalantly unfazed.  ‘Go with it’ I told myself.

As the show moved on my little-girl-talk interpretative abilities slowly kicked in and the key messages of the show, friendship, individuality, positive thinking and personal potential began to emerge (and, indeed, are strongly reinforced throughout the performance). I was surprised that the show’s namesake, the eternally blonde one, is actually not the main character. While Barbie plays a necessarily omnipresent role, it is Theresa, Barbie’s BFF who drives the dialogues and rides the highs and lows of life as a teen dancer in the showbiz world (complete with Hollywood vistas, sequined divas, wannabe sequined divas, rock star directors and misunderstood choreographers).  Looking at the attentive little faces around me I could see that this character reversal was key, a great vehicle to quickly build resonance and empathy with a young but perceptive audience.

Having learnt everything I can from Theresa (I’m a slow learner) I turn my attention to the rest of the cast (there’s lots of them). These performers are young and energetic with super lush costumes and attitude to match – this crew can turn on the volume to get the youngsters bopping, turn out some decently choreographed sequences, coax the audience into a roaring chorus of ‘yesss’, ‘nooo’ or ‘over there’,  effortlessly generate slapstick laughs and mix in a healthy dose of parent-directed gags.  What more could you ask for?

As we return to the car, chatting about the excitement just concluded, I discover that a new theatre lover has been minted. Barbie Live may not be deep.  It may not be nuanced and it may not be brand agnostic.  But .. if Barbie Live can open young minds to the joys of the performing arts, bring it on I say.

For fun times at the theatre with your little princesses, the Barbie Live show is well worth a look.

Barbie Live’s national tour runs till April 26, concluding in Western Australia.  For more information, please visit BarbieLive.com and for tickets please visit TicketMaster.

Food in pictures

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