You love me, I'm perfect, now change? Do I have to?" Christianne Noll (Emma Carew, Jekyll And Hyde) joked Jan. 27 at New York's Roseland dance emporium as she read the sticker on a girl's shirt. Noll was signing autographs at Jekyll's booth. The girl had just come from the Off-Broadway revue I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change.
The Kids Fan Festival was created specifically for this reason--to allow Broadway stars and children to meet each other and interact.
"It's great--not only having Kids Night, but also to have a personal attactment to them by meeting them," Noll said. "It sets a seed for their future--if not in the theatre, then at least going to see shows."
Miss Saigon's let kids do flips, assisted by chorus members from the show. 1776 used the traditional fair dunking booth, offering children the chance to sink King George III. The King and I had an inflatible "King's Palace" for children to jump around in -- later, Marie Osmond showed up outside it to sign autographs. Others stressed creativity. The Sound of Music booth allowed children to color the show's logo. At Rent, children designed their own Rent hats and got Rent tattoos. A romantic show, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change's theme was valentine creation from provided tissue paper, glitter, and candy hearts. Scarlet Pimpernel held a coloring contest with a prize of two tickets for the winner. Everyone could take a study guide, a CD of Linda Eder and Christine Andreas, each covering a song from the show, and crayons, special crayons named by Crayola after Pimpernel characters -- Scarlet red, Pimpernel peach, Chauvelin chartruese and Marguerite cerulean.
Anne Wenger-Schulman, 12, noted, "Well, it's exciting if you're five."
Wenger-Schulman, a musical theatre student at Professional Performing Arts School, worked at the Pimpernel, Phantom, and Smokey Joe's booths. "I went to Forum last year for Kids Night," she said. This year, thanks to a program through her school, she was working for it.
The most popular booths were Cats' face painting area and the picture taking booths. For the camera, Phantom fans dressed as the Phantom, complete with mask and cape; Les Mis kids donned rags as Young Cosette or Gavroche. But the picture booth with the longest line was Forbidden Broadway's, where cast members costumed as the King and I's King and the Sound of Music's Maria invited children to put on the clothes of the actors and characters in their favorite Broadway shows. Choices included Carol Channing (Hello Dolly), Julie Andrews (Victor/Victoria), Sarah Jessica Parker (Once Upon a Mattress), Annie, Norma Desmond (Sunset Boulevard), and the ill-fated passengers and crew of Titanic.
Some shows choose to educate as well as entertain. Eyes for Consuela, the off- Broadway Sam Shepard play about an American traveler confronted by a Mexican bandit who wants to take his eyes, presented a sensory deprivation excersise. After being blind- folded, each child was led to several bowls containing various items (cooked pasta, grapes, marshmallows) and were asked to guess from feel only what each bowl held. The final item was blue paint--the child then got to make and keep a copy of his or her own handprint.
The Diary of Anne Frank gave children the opportunity to explore Anne Frank's life -- through the show's own downloaded website and Scholastic's Diary Maker, new software that teaches children about the great young diarist of this century while they learn to create their own memoirs.
On the main stage, various shows entertained the crowd. The Broadway Kids sang and signed autographs, Forever Tango gave a tango lesson, Titanic taught the audience how to signal SOS by clapping Morse Code, and Chicago's Jim Borstelmann showed some 30 bowler-ed children how to dance "All That Jazz".
The end goal of the event is to create fans like friends Anne Brenner and Sarah Motola, both 9.
"I love it!" They chorused and Motola added, "This is my second one."
They had planned to see a show that night, too.
"We were going to see Side Show, but..." Motola explained. The show closed Jan. 3.
Both quickly rattle off favorite shows: The Lion King, Grease!, Phantom... And have they seen Rent, the title across the hats both are wearing?
"No...I've seen La Boheme, though." Brenner said.
Joann Wiener brought her daughters, Suzanne, 13, and Ashley, 9. Both had only been to one Broadway show--Grease! at last year's Kids Night. This year, they were going to see Les Miserables.
Wiener especially liked the idea of the early curtain time--seven instead of eight--and applauded the Fan Festival.
"This is great. It entices them to see other shows," she said.
Admission to the Kids Fan Festival was free with the purchase of tickets for any of the four Kids Nights performances. The event was held at the Roseland Ballroom on West 52nd St. Jan. 27 from 3-7 PM.
-- By Christine Ehren