Schoolhouse Rock Live! – A rockin’ show for Chicago kids

“Here are the rules, Andy,” I told my3 1/2-year-old as we pulled up to the theater. “You go to the bathroom before we sit down. You stay in your seat. No talking or yelling. You pay attention to the show and mind your manners. Now . . . are you ready to have some fun?”

“Yes!” Andy yelled, pumping a celebratory fist. “Let’s go!”

Andy and I were having a Saturday morning date. We were seeing “Schoolhouse Rock Live!,” as presented by the Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences in Lincolnshire. This was Andy’s first time seeing a live production and I was both excited and nervous about the event, as the website had stated that the musical was best geared towards ages 5 and up. Sure, Andy is super mature when it comes to such tasks as ordering his own food at restaurants and responding well to bribes. But would “Schoolhouse Rock Live!” capture his interest even though the songs were about grammar, math and American history? Could he sit still for the full hour without demanding to go get a snack or trying to slip away in the darkened theater to start his own rogue game of theater tag?

Not to worry. My preschooler (who did not stay in his own seat but instead chose to sit in my lap as to see the stage better which I decided this was an acceptable compromise) kept his eyes on the show from beginning to end, clapping enthusiastically after every song and declaring the “train one” his favorite when it was all said and done.

Conjunction Junction . . . what’s your function?

Of course, I fondly remember the “Schoolhouse Rock” videos from when I was a kid. Who can forget that sad, sparsely animated rolled up wad of legal paper sitting on Capitol Hill lamenting that he’s only a bill? I definitely wasn’t the only adult in the audience bobbing gently in my seat while recalling Saturday mornings in front of the TV and the nerdier parts of my youth. When one of the actresses on stage donned a pink wig and wings and they started singing “Interplanet Janet” (She’s been to the sun – It’s a lot of fun!), the memory of the song came rushing back to me as if traveling on a rocket with Janet’s team.

The show is high on energy with few props and the brightly clothed and costumed actors bound around on a mostly bare stage. The songs and dancing are the show, and this was plenty of entertainment and stimulation for even the youngest of kids, my Andy included. Even though his favorite, “Conjunction Junction” didn’t actually feature a train but more the idea of one, the essence and suggestion of the choo choo was surprisingly enough for my little guy, who generally thrives on sensory overload and over-stimulation. I appreciated the fact that the talented cast could help stretch out his imagination a little.

Right around the 45-minute mark, however, I could sense Andy getting slightly antsy as he leaned back and asked me, albeit politely, for some chocolate. I could also see a few of the younger kids ahead of us starting to fidget as well. Fortunately, it was at this time that they bust out “Ready or Not, Here I Come!”, a song about multiplication by fives that revolves around the cast playing a spirited game of Hide and Go Seek.

Instantly, the audience was reined back in. Andy strained in his seat (my lap) to find the hiders and I could see that he had the biggest grin on his face. The request for chocolate was forgotten, or at least delayed.

The hour long performance ended up being the exact perfect length, and as we gathered our coats and left the theater, Andy had a bit of dance in his step. Of course, Andy did not learn a thing about interjections, adverbs, nouns, verbs or the nineteenth amendment. He may or may not have learned a little about counting by threes or fives. I, however, definitely had a bit of a refresher course in the various parts of grammar. Go ahead, ask me about interjections.

All in all, our Saturday morning date was a success. “Schoolhouse Rock Live!” at the Lincolnshire Marriott Theatre is a great presentation for the inner child, the school-aged child sitting next to you and even the slightly younger one perched in your lap.

Schoolhouse Rock Live! runs through May 4.

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