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Nostalgia Notes

[whitespace] Schoolhouse Rock Live!
David M. Allen

Capitol Investment: Two members of 'Schoolhouse Rock Live!' show audiences how laws get made in the number 'I'm Just a Bill.'

A new show pays homage to
'Schoolhouse Rock!'

By Heather Zimmerman

THEY WERE only public-service announcements, filler between all those ads during the Saturday-morning cartoon shows, when most of us would go restock our cereal bowls, but what '70s or early-'80s tot wouldn't forsake more Froot Loops for a few minutes of Schoolhouse Rock!? In sly fashion, the show made learning about social studies, grammar, math and science fun with clever cartoons and catchy songs that Gen-Xers still know by heart. Maybe that's why Schoolhouse Rock Live!, a live musical version of the series, has such appeal. Guggenheim Productions has brought this homage to the stage of the former Oasis nightclub, which the company has transformed into a veritable Schoolhouse Rock! wonderland.

The theater is adorned with cutouts of the SRL!'s cartoon character counterparts, and the theme even extends to the women's restroom, the stalls of which are painted to look like voting booths, in tribute to "Sufferin' Before Suffrage." In fact, little extra touches, such as ushers offering miniboxes of cereal to patrons, add up to a show so immersed in warm, fuzzy reminiscing that's it's more of an experience than just a musical--especially for those picked out of the audience to get onstage and take part during a number.

The ensemble cast of six boasts excellent voices all around and does justice to favorites such as "I'm Just a Bill" and "Conjunction Junction," as well as 19 other Schoolhouse Rock! selections. The staging mimics as closely as possible the antics of the original cartoons and makes imaginative use of props and sets. The cartoon originals have a charm that is pretty much impossible to replicate, but true to SRL!'s roots, the cast of this live version is brimming with an enthusiasm that's contagious.

Sure, Schoolhouse Rock Live! is gimmicky, but that makes it all the more fun and a fitting tribute to a childhood institution that itself started as an intelligent gimmick. ABC's 1995 resurrection of the original series has added to the show's continuing appeal, judging from how many children in the audience knew the words to the songs. For the grownups, Schoolhouse Rock Live! is a great dose of "lolly, lolly, lolly, get your nostalgia here," and we can even still munch cereal as we sing along.

Schoolhouse Rock Live! plays Thursdays-Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3 and 8pm, Sundays at 3pm for an open-ended run at Schoolhouse Rock, 200 N. First St., San Jose. Tickets are $25 general/$20 seniors and students/$15 children 11 and under. (408/294-ROCK).

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From the May 14-20, 1998 issue of Metro.

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