Get your Wiggle on

Australia-based band sails into Chicago this month


If you have preschool-age kids, chances are, you’ve heard of the Wiggles—the four-man traveling band from Sydney, Australia, which has been dancing and singing silly songs on TV and video for more than a decade. 

“Their songs are infectious,” says Westchester resident Michele Gobber, mom of Katie, 4, and Eddie, 2. “My brother, who has no kids, downloads the songs to sing to my kids.”

And Aug. 13 and 14, the Wiggles’ “Sailing Around the World Live” tour drops anchor at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.

The group is popular and marketed well. After their first album, “The Wiggles,” was released in 1991, it went platinum. it was followed by 17 videos, 17 albums, (three holiday ones as well,) a TV show that airs 17 times a week on the Disney Channel and countless pieces of merchandise from backpacks to guitars that play familiar Wiggles tunes. 

But they are not top on everyone’s list. Chicago Parent children’s music critic Fred Koch says while he enjoyed the group’s first two CDs, the later stuff is the musical equivalent of sugar-coated cereal. “Just because it’s on TV, everybody thinks it’s got to be good. I’ve seen videos of their live show. It doesn’t impress me,” he says, adding, “but I’m a tough sell. ”

Still, this new show will probably attract crowds, bringing into the spotlight the friendly pirate Capt. Feathersword, who brandishes a feather for tickling instead of a sword for slashing. There will also be a catwalk into the audience, four 15-foot Wiggle balloons, new songs and old favorites says Wiggle Jeff Fatt in an e-mail interview.

But the Wiggles aren’t just goofy entertainers. Three of the four—Anthony Field, Murray Cook and Greg Page—met while studying early childhood education. Their song writing began as a school project, and they soon brought in Fatt.

“With children in a concert situation, it’s so important to maintain their attention, that’s why everything you say and do must be at their level of understanding. … Because three of the Wiggles are preschool teachers and have an understanding of child behavior, we mostly hit the mark,” Fatt says.

Tracy Iammartino, Elmwood Park mom of Grace, 2, says the Wiggles captured her daughter’s attention immediately. “Grace was just drawn to them. Every time she hears the music, she’s tapping her feet and nodding her head,” Iammartino, a teacher, says. “Almost every single song they sing has a rule,” she adds—which helps kids remember lessons, such as looking before crossing the street  and eating fresh fruit. Iammartino also appreciates that the Wiggles don’t use a “squeaky voice.” Perhaps that’s because Fatt says he grew up listening to the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Ray Charles and other classic rock and soul artists.

The Wiggles perform four shows at the Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim Rd., Rosemont, 1:30 and 5 p.m. Aug. 13 and 14. Tickets are available at (312) 559-1212, and Ticketmaster outlets. Prices range from $17.50 to $32.50 plus handling fees (about $5 per ticket). Everyone ages 1 and up needs a ticket. Paige Fumo Fox


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