‘Dora the Explorer Live!’ will be at Tucson Music Hall Friday through Sunday.
By LORRIE COHEN
For some, it’s the first family theatrical show to star a Latina heroine. For parents, it’s an educational but entertaining children’s TV show. And for Nickelodeon, it’s the No. 1 children’s television show for preschoolers.
And for kids? Well, it’s just Dora the Explorer, the 7-year-old whose adventures take place in an imaginative tropical world filled with jungles, beaches, rainforests, chocolate lakes, an island of ice cream and strawberry mountains. Alongside her are pals Boots, Backpack, Map and Tio. And don’t forget Swiper who’s always trying to, well, swipe things from her.
Tucsonans will be able to see Dora and her friends when “Dora the Explorer Live!” comes to the Tucson Music Hall Friday through Sunday.
Dora and best friend Boots will invite the audience to join in each step of their journey, helping Dora solve a problem or puzzle to move on to the next challenge. Since Dora is proudly bilingual and uses that knowledge to communicate with her friends and overcome obstacles, she will teach Spanish words and phrases to the audience as well – just like she does on the TV show.
While “Dora the Explorer” has been praised by adults as an educational show addressing the need of Latinos, the children don’t seem to notice. Since the live show began touring the country in April, all the kids care about is where Dora is going next and what they did to help her along with her adventure.
“Dora crosses all boundaries. The audiences are the same everywhere, from San Antonio to Birmingham,” said Christina Bianco, who plays Dora in the live show. “I know Dora being Latino is very important, but it really doesn’t have a great bearing on the show. All the kids want to do is to see Dora.”
In fact, Bianco, who has some Spanish in her, says she sort of resembles Dora because she’s just under 5 feet. But in reality, Bianco is 21, born in Suffern, N.Y.
She began her career while singing “Tomorrow” at age 3 on top of a restaurant table. While in high school Bianco received the Hayes Award as leading actress in a high school musical. She graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree in drama and journalism from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. During that time, she took lessons in acting, voice and dance.
Bianco can sing a variety of styles, from rock to pop and opera to jazz. She also can do voice imitations, including accents and dialects and even something she calls “eyebrow acrobatics” – all helping to prepare her for her role as Dora.
“I’m having the greatest time as Dora,” said Bianco during a sound check before her Portland, Ore., gig last week. “After the show they all want to give me a hug and tell me what fun they had and how they helped me through the show. It’s funny how accepting children are. When I come out of the stage door dressed differently and their mom says, ‘There’s Dora,’ they just buy it . . . but they want to know why I’m dressed differently.”
And sometimes, Bianco said, she even feels like Christina Aguilera or Madonna.
“It’s amazing. It feels like a rock concert for kids and I’m this big pop star,” Bianco said. “At Radio City Music Hall we sold out and my being from New York, well, I’d take the subway to work everyday. After a show the security guards asked, ‘Are you coming down? There’s a mob of people.’ I thought just a couple of families, but there were 50 to 60 families out there.”
Bianco said her heart is in musical theater, but she’d like to write and record her own music, all types from country, and rock and jazz.
“But as an actor, I have to take the work that comes in front of me and right now, I’m enjoying it,” she said. “Dora teaches lessons of adventure and friendship. I want the kids to look around for a little extra adventure in their lives . . . and the adults . . . they sing and dance just like the kids, so we know we’ve doing our jobs correctly.”
Dora – an adventurous bilingual Latina heroine.
Backpack – goes everywhere with Dora and provides anything she might need.
Boots – Dora’s best monkey friend.
Map – funny, rolled-up friend who always knows where to go and how to get there.
Swiper – sneaky fox that tries to swipe things from Dora.
Tico – Spanish-speaking squirrel and good friend to Dora.
Benny – comical bull and loyal friend to Dora.
Señor Toucan – dignified Spanish-speaking bird who helps young explorers.
The Fiesta Trio – musical combo pops up to play a celebratory song whenever Dora overcomes an obstacle.
What is “Dora the Explorer Live!”?
• It’s a new touring production of the No. 1-rated Nickelodeon television program for preschoolers. Dora is the 7-year-old Latina heroine who leads the audience through an adventure to the “City of Lost Toys,” teaching Spanish phrases along the way to help them forge ahead.
What is the show’s running time?
• Total running time is about 80 minutes, ot two 30-minute acts with a 10-minute intermission.
What will Dora and the other characters look like?
• Dora will be played by a costumed actress. The other characters will be in all forms of puppetry, including shadow puppets, marionettes and “walk abouts.”
Which Dora characters will be in the live show?
• Of course, Dora and Boots, all of their friends – Map, Backpack, Benny, Tico, Swiper and some brand new characters as well.
How interactive is the show?
• The audience is strongly encouraged to participate from their seats and help Dora find the “City of Lost Toys.”
Is the show in Spanish?
• No, but Dora leads the audience on an adventure that introduces Spanish words and phrases.
Is it a musical?
• Well-known songs from the TV show are performed as well as brand new songs created just for the stage show.
IF YOU GO
• What: “Dora the Explorer Live!” by Nickelodeon, Clear Channel Entertainment and presented in Tucson by Theater League.
• When: 7 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m., 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday
• Where: Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave.
• Details: Tickets are $25, $21 and $15.25 not including service fees. Call 321-1000 or go online to: www.ticketmaster.com
PHOTO CREDIT: Joan Marcus
Christina Bianco is Dora (center), Greg Kata (second from left) is Boots and David Michael Roth is Swiper in this production of Dora.
Christina Bianco as Dora and Greg Kata as Boots.
Christina Bianco is Dora and Greg Kata is Boots in the production of Dora.