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Wednesday, March 14, 2007 - Page updated at 02:00 AM

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Entertainment

Hey, kids! It's fun — and you may even learn something

Times Snohomish County Bureau

Theirs was a wiggly romance.

Sam Moran, from Australia, was understudying with The Wiggles. Lyn, from South Carolina, was a dancer in the show, sometimes taking the role of Dorothy the Dinosaur.

Friendship happened first, then love.

Then marriage.

Then a honeymoon in Fiji.

And then Sam became a Wiggle!

Moran is the newest Wiggle, donning a yellow jersey and joining the Australian preschool entertainers of Disney Channel fame.

The Wiggles


What, when: The Australian children's entertainers present "Racing to the Rainbow Live!" at 3 and 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Where: Everett Events Center, 2000 Hewitt Ave.

Tickets, information: $19, $24, $29, $36 at the box office, 1-866-332-8499, or everetteventscenter.com.

For the past 16 years, these Aussies have thrown in early-childhood lessons with their zany fun, and the live show returns with new sets, costumes and routines to the Everett Events Center on Friday — minus longtime Wiggle straight man Greg Paige, who left the show in late November when he discovered he had a balance disorder.

The Wiggles characters reflect the actors' personalities.

Moran, for example, loves to sing and have a good time. Jeff Fatt, the purple Wiggle, sleeps all the time and needs the kids to help wake him up. Anthony Field, the blue Wiggle, loves to eat, and Murray Cook, the red Wiggle, plays the guitar. Their guests include Captain Feathersword, with his magic buttons.

"Children love pirates, but there's no violent theme," Moran said. "They replace the sword with a feathersword."

Dorothy the Dinosaur, the girl in the cast, loves to eat roses and dance the ballet — "Lots of people bring roses to the show and give her gifts," said Moran.

Henry the Octopus likes to sing and break-dance with his eight legs. Wags the Dog loves to sing and dance and kids bring "bones" that the Wiggly Dancers collect from the audience. One recent papier-mâché "bone" was the length of four theater seats.

Kids get a range of music genres, too, including Dorothy's classical-ballet number, classic rock and even Motown in the 70-minute show.

The more than 200 shows they do a year are physically demanding, and for Moran right now, it's an emotional challenge as well because of the loss of Paige, his good friend.

"It's exciting and a challenge for me, and something I'm looking forward to. At the same time, it's bittersweet having the opportunity to do this."

Moran met "the guys" nine years ago, doing a musical Field's brother, John, had written. John Field writes a lot of songs for The Wiggles, and Moran, from a town of about 60,000 called Wagga Wagga, had been touring "the smallest towns in Australia" with a show.

For the past four years, he had been Paige's understudy — a vantage point from which to study their unique appeal.

"The guys were originally early-childhood teachers," Moran said. "They learned to connect one-on-one with children, even in a large group."

They started doing birthday parties and songs as part of their preschool teaching, and out of that evolved a show. The goal of Wiggles performances, said Moran, is that children "have to feel connected to the show in a way that feels it's just for them. The Wiggles, with their educational background, understand that. The TV aspects are the same as the live show: Keep it engaging for children — and empowering them also.

"Everything we do, whether it be on stage or TV — we might be talking to each other, but we deliver everything to the children. The one thing I've learned from working with the guys is that a conversation is not interesting to children unless it's directed to them."

And they know their audience: "Our audience is up to 5 and 6 years old. Really, a child's perspective is how we try to address everything. A child's world is egocentric. That's the way we try to address the show."

It's education through repetition. This year, when they drive on in big red cars, new songs get added to favorite tunes like "Hot Potato," "Point Your Fingers" and Fruit Salad," whose lyrics are "Fruit Salad, yummy-yummy," over and over.

"Basically, the songs we write about are important to children," said Moran. "Food is important, a lot of songs are around food. We try to encourage healthy habits with songs like 'Fruit Salad.' "

The Wiggles has been a passport to the world for Moran. "I've been to the U.K., every corner of America. We have traveled to Japan, China and Hong Kong. We did American Navy bases in Japan; in China, we did the show to non-English speaking audiences. They got up and danced and loved it just as much."

Not to speak of the foreign-language Wiggles in Latin America and Taiwan.

"There is no way they would have anticipated the show being accepted in so many countries," said Moran.

Diane Wright: 425-745-7815 or dwright@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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