Calling all Octo-Cadets — it’s time to Explore. Rescue. Protect!
Yes, for the first time, children who love watching “The Octonauts” can see the hit Disney Jr. TV show come to life onstage, when “The Octonauts and the Deep Sea Volcano Adventure” wraps up its first U.S. tour Sunday at the Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theater.
The action-packed, interactive musical theater show features beloved characters from the eight-man crew, including Captain Barnacles, Lieutenant Kwazii, Dashi the Dachshund and Medic Peso, taking the audience on a high-tech, underwater quest through a world full of adventure and plenty of sea-life surprises.
“It’s a chance for children and their families to come and have an experience at the theater together,” said tour producer Jonathan Shank, senior management executive at Red Light Management, “and be exposed to traditional as well as educational elements, and of course lots of sing-alongs and interactivity.”
Shank – who produced the “Peppa Pig” show at the Fillmore in January, and whose previous clients include such diverse artists as Eve, Paul Oakenfold and the Grateful Dead - says kids who love watching “The Octonauts” on TV can expect more similarities than differences from the live show.
“It’s adapted and based on the TV show,” he said. “It’s a unique adventure that takes the cast and the crew through the various layers and zones of the sea, and they are headed to a deep-sea volcano and they help rescue some SPLOD fish along the way, and that’s really what ‘The Octonauts’ are all about, so it’s really close to the TV undertones.”
The show is also really awesome, according to the actor who portrays Captain Barnacles, the brave polar bear and leader of The Octonauts.
“It’s very high-tech, and there are a lot of cool UV light sequences,” said Daniel Hersh, 26, who before being cast for this tour was performing in local musical theater productions around Southern California. “It’s a really cool show for kids who love the TV show already.”
Hersh admits he had never heard of “The Octonauts” before auditioning for the part (“I don’t have kids, and I don’t nanny or anything”), but quickly fell for the sheer fun of the production.
“Something that surprised me in a great way is how much I actually really enjoyed the show, even as an adult,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun – I kind of think of it as ‘Star Trek’ underwater for kids. It’s a perfect parallel: Captain Barnacles is exactly like Captain Kirk; Kwazii is just like Spock; and Dashi the Dog is just like Uhura. There are so many cool parallels to the show.”
And the kids go nuts.
“The shows have been going great,” Hersh said. “Sometimes there have even been, like, kid ‘mosh pits’ at the front of the stage where they’re jumping and dancing. It’s really fun. I still remember on our opening night [Sept. 22 in San Diego], the first moment that you see Captain Barnacles is at the very beginning of the show – the curtain comes up on just me alone onstage. And when the kids saw me, there was a thunderous amount of screaming, and I wasn’t really anticipating that, so it really took me off guard. It was just so awesome. And to see them dancing in the aisles when we’re singing the songs and calling out words to us – they get so involved in the show.”
Hersh said his role has not been without its challenges.
“We wear full body costumes, including our character heads, so our vision gets limited,” he said. “In our callback, they actually had us do exercises where they could see how well we could deal with the limited vision. And you have to make sure your body movements are clear with how you want the lines to come across to the kids. And we have to change our voices to sound like the cartoon, so that took some practice. My character has a very deep voice and he’s British.”
“The Octonauts” is part of a recent British invasion of sorts in children’s TV programming, with shows such as “The Octonauts,” “Sarah & Duck,” “Chloe’s Closet,” “Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom” and “Peppa Pig” beginning to rival the popularity of American mainstays like “Dora the Explorer,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Bubble Guppies” and even “Sesame Street.”
So what’s attracting kids to shows produced across the pond?
“I think part of it comes back to theming and simplicity,” said Shank. “And I think that these shows have all tapped into the simple nature of children’s minds and imagination. For instance, with ‘Octonauts’ it’s tapping into the underwater theme and exploration and imagination. With ‘Peppa Pig,’ it’s a lot about friendship and togetherness. And the other element is the humor. I think the children love British humor.”
If you go
▪ What: The Octonauts and the Deep Sea Volcano Adventure
▪ When: 5 p.m. Sunday
▪ Where: Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theater, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach
▪ Info: LiveNation.com; $26.50-$42.50