When Nickelodeon's CG-animated preschool series Paw Patrol burst on to screens in 2013, it quickly became an international hit.
Thousands of young adoring fans from around the globe — who proudly call themselves the "PAWpulation" — have lapped up the adventures of 10-year-old Ryder and his seven puppy pals Chase, Marshall, Rocky, Rubble, Zuma, Skye and Everest, who work together to safeguard their tight-knit coastal community of Adventure Bay.
From Bob the Builder creator Keith Chapman, Paw Patrol teaches as much as it entertains, with each episode underpinned by positive messages that aim to demonstrate some important life lessons, from teamwork and the value of friendship to respecting your peers and problem solving.
Now, the popular TV series has been transformed into an interactive stage production, PAW Patrol Live! Race to the Rescue, which has already taken the US by storm.
Having been involved in several live touring shows including Dora the Explorer and recently working behind the scenes on the US Paw Patrol Live! tour — which is still making its way across more than 90 American cities — Nickelodeon’s senior manager of recreation business development Thomas Kingsley was excited to bring the Paw Patrol stage experience to young Australian theatre-goers.
“This is the first live tour that Nickelodeon has done in a while,” says New York-based Kingsley, who began his career at Disney Theatre Productions and has worked on numerous Broadway shows including The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Mary Poppins.
“It has really hit the ground running and to see the children’s reactions so far has been astounding.
“People clearly love this (show), it’s been on air for four years and it just felt like a natural fit for a stage show.
“I come from a theatre background so getting to do this is truly a passion of mine.”
Produced by Spin Master Entertainment, the Australian leg of the Paw Patrol Live! tour — which kicked off in Canberra last month and arrives in Perth on Friday 28th April 2017 — has already been met with widespread enthusiasm from its child audiences, with throngs of eager youngsters rocking up to shows dressed as their favourite canine characters.
“Seeing that has filled me with joy,” Kingsley says.
“Just before I came to Australia, we had played the New York City engagement, which is probably the biggest engagement of the tour, and we had 50,000 people in the audience, it was unbelievable.
“The response around the world to the Paw Patrol brand in general has been huge ... so we’ve been really pleased with the response.”
Although based on the US production, the Australian shows are fronted by a homegrown cast led by Fremantle-raised WAAPA-trained actor/singer Jacob Darby in his biggest role to date as tech-savvy Ryder.
“I didn’t realise how big the Paw Patrol brand actually is, so it’s really cool to be a part of it,” says the 24-year-old, who is now based in Melbourne.
“I think kids are the most difficult audience but the most rewarding. They are your biggest critics because they 100 per cent believe in the character. You’re not playing that character, you are that character.”
Darby is joined on stage by Jayme-Lee Hanekom (Zuma), Liam Dodds (Rubble), Daniel Cosgrove (Marshall), Daniel Ridolfi (Chase), Kaisha Durban (Skye), Grace Rigby (Rocky) and Celina Yuen (Everest) who don the cleverly conceived canine costumes which feature built-in puppetry elements complete with wagging tails, blinking eyes and moving mouths to bring the rescue Dogs to life.
Featuring both new and original songs from the TV series, the 75-minute high-energy musical production opens with a dilemma for Adventure Bay. When Mayor Goodway goes missing during the day of the Great Adventure Bay Race, the pups must come to the rescue.
“I personally love the music in the show, it has turned out to be stunning because there is a lot of original music,” Kingsley says.
“There are not a lot of songs in the TV show, there’s like the theme song and the closing song and the Pup-Pup boogie, but so much of it was written for the stage show.”
Anton Berezin, managing director at Life Like Touring which has toured live shows for popular TV programs including Sesame Street, Peppa Pig and Octonauts for more than a decade, says he feels privileged to play a part in bringing Paw Patrol Live! Down Under.
“The Paw Patrol brand and the character ethic is really valuable for families and for kids,” he says. “It’s such a great set of stories and characters and it’s not a surprise that people love it.”
Driven by the motto “no job is too big, no pup is too small”, audiences are taken on a journey that sees the characters touch on life lessons that reiterate the importance of helping one another.
“I think it starts with the values — it’s about co-operation, courage and also that idea of ‘Yelp for help’. So there are really positive messages throughout,” Berezin says.
“The best kids’ brands for parents are the ones that help them parent and teach them and teach the kids about social interaction and how to be good people. I think that’s where it all begins, it has beautiful messages.”
Berezin says he has been blown away by widespread interest for the Paw Patrol shows in Australia, with strong ticket sales prompting organisers to add more performances to the five-city tour.
“The response to this from the audiences has actually been quite overwhelming,” he says.
“We went on sale and it became very obvious that we needed more performances . . . So we added extra shows in all the cities straight away, and we’ve just kept adding them.”
Working in children’s entertainment has been rewarding for both Kingsley and Berezin, whose wife Theresa Borg is the creative director for Life Like Touring.
“The child audiences are entirely honest, you know when they love it and you know when they don’t,” Berezin says.
Paw Patrol Live! Race to the Rescue is at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre on Friday 28th and Saturday 29th April 2017. Tickets are available to purchase from Ticketek. Visit nickjr.com.au/pawpatrollive for the latest news about the Australian and New Zealand legs of PAW Patrol Live! “Race to the Rescue”!
More Nick: PAW Patrol Live! "Race to the Rescue" Announces First Tour Of New Zealand!
Original source: The West Australian.
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