The Dallas Morning News

Purple reign

Barney and friends celebrate his birthday with a kids’ rock concert

- NANCY CHURNIN nchurnin @

Local dino makes good.

Barney, the big purple dinosaur who was shepherded into this world by a pair of Dallas moms in 1987 and continues to star in Barney &

Friends on PBS, is coming back to town in a new interactiv­e stage concert.

It’s called Barney Live in Concert — Birthday Bash! and opens this weekend at Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie.

Antwaun Steele, 39, who last played Barney in Barney’s Musical Castle about a decade ago, says he’s been having even more fun performing in this show.

“Barney’s caring and sharing and friendship and imaginatio­n are the same, but the difference is the dancing — the hip-hop, the jazz and the music that gives this more of a feeling of a kids’ rock concert,” Steele says on the road from a tour stop in Independen­ce, Mo. “The kids are in the aisles, just jumping around, and they’re trying to do everything I do. Some of the kids can really throw you off because they look so cute trying to do the routines. But it’s so rewarding. They bring me so much energy that it makes me want to give them more.”

The show celebrates Barney’s birthday with a big concert featuring Barney’s friends Baby Bop, BJ, and Riff. It marks four years since Barney’s last live outing and the first time that a Barney show has been produced by Minneapoli­s-based Vee Corp. Vee was founded in 1980 to produce live stage touring shows for Sesame Street Live and

has gone on to produce and tour live

shows for Dragon Tales, Bear in the Big Blue House, My Little Pony, the Care Bears, the Muppets and Curious George.

For the Birthday Bash show, the challenge was to capture the essence of Barney and update the music in a production that showcases what kids love about the dinosaur but also has something to offer parents, Jim Waters, senior vice president of production and producer of the show for Vee, says by phone from his Minnesota office. Working with Crocker Carter, one of the writers on the Barney & Friends series, they came up with the idea of using back-to-back songs as the kids help Barney celebrate his birthday. The show features close to 30 singalong tunes, as opposed to the usual 12 to 16 numbers for Vee shows, with old favorites “Mr. Knickerboc­ker,” “Dino Dance,” “Baby Bop Hop” and “Rock ’n Roll Star” mixed with new songs, such as “Someone to Love You Forever” and “Together With You,” all in a 70-minute performanc­e (plus 15 minutes for intermissi­on).

Keeping things moving, profession­al young adult performers encourage the kids in the audience to sing and dance. They replace the kids who played the parts of the Backyard Gang in previous tours. But kids still see children’s faces — and some of their own in the audience — on giant screens. And while the chorus keeps things moving along, the focus stays on Barney and the dinosaurs (whose voices are pre-recorded) — and the kids in the audience who are made to feel like party guests, Waters says.

“They’re participat­ing in planning the party, from what games to play to what treats to have — talking about all the things that would make a great party.”

Julie Freeland, director of Live Events for Hit Entertainm­ent, which brought Barney into its fold in 2001, says she is invested in the show not only profession­ally, but also as a mom.

“I’ve always understood the appeal of Barney, but now that I have a 21⁄ 2-year-old of my own, I really understand it,” she says by phone from Toronto. “It’s funny, I didn’t show her anything about Barney. She found out

 ?? Hit Entertainm­ent ?? Barney Live in Concert — Birthday Bash! will be onstage for several performanc­es this weekend at Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie.
Hit Entertainm­ent Barney Live in Concert — Birthday Bash! will be onstage for several performanc­es this weekend at Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie.
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