Dot & Ziggy, theater for babies and toddlers, surprises and delights

I have a confession to make. When I first heard about Chicago Children’s Theatre’s new production for babies and toddlers, I scoffed.

I spend a lot of time with my 17-month-old nephew, Aidan, and if he’s taught me one thing, it’s that the under-four set never sits still.

So I figured Aidan, with all his toddler energy, would be the perfect person to try out “Dot& Ziggy,” the interactive show at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater (along with his mom, of course).

My conclusion? For all my skepticism, the production is a little one’s dream.

The folks at Chicago Children’s Theatre – and their colleagues at Seattle Children’s Theatre, who created the show – certainly know their audience. From the pied-piper-style entrance to the space where the show is staged to the brightly colored carpets that designate the seating space, kids are top of mind.

The show itself, a charming story of a ladybug, Dot (Roni Geva), and a skunk, Ziggy (Don Darryl Rivera), who learn to be friends, plays like a live-action television show. The plot is simple and emphasizes elements being taught at home – shapes, opposites, parts of the body – through repetition and interaction.

Mom and dad will also be happy to note that sharing is a major theme of the show, perfect for little ones just starting to grasp that concept.

The interaction includes things like clapping, exploring basic movements and singing along to favorite songs like “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” and “The Hokey Pokey,” as well as at least one original song. Adults will recognize the motifs of “The Blue Danube” and other classical favorites, played live on an upright piano.

And when CCT says that little ones can cry, jump around or explore the performance space, they’re telling the truth. Although there’s an on-floor seating area, little wanderers invade the action without fuss – although more than one mom intercepted her child before too much time passed.

The recommended age range for the show is right on-target, although the 45-minute running time feels a bit long for the youngest kids to stay attentive. An older preschool-aged boy seemed bored out of his mind – and bolted as soon as the show was over.

The theater provides “stroller parking” on the ground floor, where child-sized tables invite pre-show coloring. Kids will also enjoy spotting the ladybug and skunk hats many of the staff members wear.

Logistically, the audience is required to climb two flights of stairs to reach the performance space. They also request that diaper bags and larger packages be left under the watchful eye of staffers. Food and drink aren’t allowed in the performance space, although an exception is made for bottles.

Tickets are $16, $18 on weekends and include discounts and offers at nearby family-friendly partner restaurants.

As for my little critic, the always-moving Aidan sat transfixed by all the activity, but ventured off Mommy’s lap before long. By the time bubbles made their appearance, he was sold. And after the show, the normally shy boy even ventured to see Dot and Ziggy and their ladybug and skunk puppets a little more up-close-and-personal. He’s not much of a talker (that we can understand, at least), but I did get the impression that he had a good time.

And his aunt stands corrected. It seems that at Chicago Children’s Theatre, you’re never too young for a play.

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