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Fab Four of kid rock comes to town.

Byline: Serena Markstrom The Register-Guard

CORRECTION(Ran Mar.22, 2008):A Story on Page 3 of Friday's Ticket section about the two "Pop Go the Wiggles" shows at the Hult Center gave an incorrect start time for the early show. The shows start at 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.

For the first time, Coldplay's elliptical song "Yellow" made complete sense to me when I saw a tribute to the Yellow Wiggle, aka Greg Page, set to the tune on YouTube.com.

Page had to hand over his yellow skivvy in late 2006 because of a diagnosis of orthostatic intolerance, a nervous system disorder.

To someone outside the Wiggles' sphere of influence, it's an oddly touching video montage and an efficient survey of the variety that the Wiggles bring to the family entertainment stage.

In the video, Page does a disco dance, dons a chef's hat, impersonates Elvis, wears a magician's cape, sings "underwater," rows a boat and talks on a big red phone.

Page is one of the founding members of the four-piece children's music giant. The group has been touring and recording for 17 years and is now the most successful family entertainment franchise in history, having performed for 1.5 million American children since 2005 alone, according to a news release.

The video (find a link on the Ticket blog) makes you realize what sort of passion Wiggles fans carry for the band, which has sold 22.5 million videos in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

Although people miss Page, there's no reason to worry that the two Easter Sunday performances in Eugene will be anything to wiggle a stern finger at. Fans have expressed their love for Page through tribute videos, message board posts and letters to the band's home country of Australia, but the new Yellow Wiggle, Sam Moran, also cuts the mustard with child-thrilling skill.

Moran had been a touring understudy with the group for almost a decade before Page's health started to fail. (He is doing much better now, according to media reports.)

"It was a huge decision to continue going on," Jeff Fatt, 54, the Purple Wiggle, said by telephone from Australia, where the group is based and was on vacation. "The whole process - it was just a matter of being honest with our audience."

Some fans took the news hard. But Fatt said telling everyone that Page was sick provided a teachable moment for the act, which prides itself on being good for child development and not just passive entertainment.

"It just demonstrates for you that that's part of life," he said.

"We treat children as people"

If you watch any of the Greg Page tribute videos, be sure to keep the kiddos away from the rant by "Drinkingwithbob." Seems he was very angry about news reports dominated by word of Page's departure from the group.

The angry guy says no one would have noticed if they just put someone else in the yellow long-sleeved shirt, but Fatt knows otherwise.

"We treat children as people," he said. "They notice everything."

Two of the four Wiggles have children of their own, but before they did, three of them met while studying early childhood education at Sydney's Macquarie University.

Page, Anthony Field (Blue) and Murray Cook (Red) began writing children's songs as one of their projects for school, according to the official Wiggles biography.

Fatt and Field knew each other from playing in the popular club band the Cockroaches. Fatt joined in to record the first Wiggles album in 1991, which the group self-released.

That album, a news release says, went platinum, and "the Wiggles themselves have gone on to become one of the most popular and successful performing acts in the world for any age group."

The Wiggles are on television twice a day on Disney Channel's "Playhouse Disney" block.

Since Moran started Wiggling, the group has recorded a DVD and new CD. Both are titled "Pop Go the Wiggles!," a collection of nursery rhymes, and the current live show is based on that music.

The Wiggles sing and dance in their color-coordinated costumes. They are joined on stage by a supporting cast of creatures, including Dorothy the Dinosaur, Wags the Dog, Henry the Octopus and Captain Feathersword the Friendly Pirate.

During the interview, Fatt said the group emphasizes inclusive language, for example saying "you" instead of "boys and girls" and not patronizing the audience.

"We try not to point out gender differences," Fatt said, noting when producing videos or shooting for television, the Wiggles include kids from all backgrounds. They don't draw attention to kids with Down syndrome; they just let them dance like all the other kids.

Parents of children with special needs have touched Fatt the most because they tell him the Wiggles' music really enhances their lives.

Parents have written letters or contributed to message boards saying their children with autism respond to the Wiggles and nothing else, Fatt said.

"It's so fulfilling and gratifying to know you can have an effect on people," he said. Being a Wiggle has "given me more understanding of the things that people endure and the spirit of not only children, but their parents."

The live show is also interactive wherever possible. It requires audience members to get out of their seats more than a few times.

The "wiggly pals" also come out into the audience to play with the children, some of whom make it a real event by dressing up as their favorite characters or by bringing roses for Dorothy and bones for Wags.

The Wiggles themselves live up to their name, never standing still and never allowing a silent moment.

Luckily for Fatt, he gets to work little cat naps into the show. As any Wiggles insider will tell you, waking up Jeff is one of the hallmarks of a Wiggles live show.

"The irony is I'm a very light sleeper in the nighttime," Fatt said. "I will invariably have a snooze before the show."

Of course, when he falls asleep on stage, he's just acting, but don't tell the kids. They just love yelling, "Wake up, Jeff!" at the top of their growing lungs.

Concert preview

Pop Go the Wiggles Live!

What: Music for children from the top-selling Australian group

When: 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Silva Hall, Hult Center, Seventh Avenue and Willamette Street

Tickets: $21.50 to $37; there's a special giveaway for those who buy $37 tickets, the so-called "hot potato seats" (682-5000)

On the Web: Listen to music samples and link to Wiggles-related sites at rgweb.registerguard.com/ticketfiles

Call Serena Markstrom at 338-2371 or e-mail her at serena.markstrom@registerguard.com.
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Title Annotation:Entertainment; The Wiggles, those phenomenally successful Aussies, play two shows
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 21, 2008
Words:1119
Previous Article:BRIEFLY.
Next Article:Pair of singers launch their CDs at Tsunami Books.


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