“Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!”
Those lines might conjure up images of a teacher with frizzy red hair, a pet lizard and some unconventional field trip plans — all of which are elements from the animated children’s book and television series “The Magic School Bus.” “The Magic School Bus” centers around an elementary school class that learns science lessons by going on a variety of adventures to places such as to outer space and inside the human body.
Cal Poly students will have a chance to relive the memories of this series that gained popularity in the ’90s on Oct. 29. “The Magic School Bus Live” national tour, launched by Scholastic Media (a division of Scholastic, Inc.), will visit the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center.
The musical tour celebrates the 25th anniversary of “The Magic School Bus” franchise, which began with a book series and now includes a television show, computer games and even iPad applications. The performance is based on the franchise’s latest book, “The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge.”
Executive producer Eva Price said the performance is “amazing quality for a theatre show.”
“It does an excellent job of entertaining and educating in a way a lot of shows can’t do,” Price said.
Theatre of this kind is relatively new for Cal Poly Arts, director Steven Lerian said.
“We have not done many national hit tours here,” Lerian said. “It will be an interesting experiment to see how this will go.”
While he said the target audience for the show is young children, Lerian added that the name is familiar to anyone college-age or younger who watched the television show.
Scholastic Media’s Vice President of Marketing and Brand Management Daisy Kline said from a local perspective, having live shows was a great way to reach as many people as possible with “The Magic School Bus” brand.
In creating the shows, staying true to the original elements was a priority, Kline said. Every detail of the show is important, and Scholastic “takes care to ensure that all those things come together for a unique ‘Magic School Bus’ experience.”
One audience who appreciates that effort is the 20- to 30-year-old demographic, Kline said.
“There are a lot of 20-somethings who grew up with the show, and we find that they’re delighted to have it back on the radar,” Kline said.
One individual instrumental to creating the performance was director Tracy Ward, who said she worked with the actors to make sure they brought as much as they could to the show.
“I hope it will be sort of a fond trip down memory lane,” Ward said.
And she hasn’t been disappointed by the results of her work. Ward said the actors have taken on the qualities of their characters and developed the relationships the characters have.
Before San Luis Obispo, the tour was in the Bay Area.
Ward said so far audiences have been very responsive to the show. She said the audience gets involved by singing along and clapping as the live adventure takes place on stage led by Ms. Frizzle.
Jessica Payne brings this frizzy-haired teacher to life on stage.
Payne said she “loved the series” and went back to watch as many of the shows and read as many of the books as she could for research.
When she thinks of Ms. Frizzle, Payne said she thinks of someone “really crazy and larger than life.” But looking closer, Payne said she leads her students into crazy situations and then steps back and lets them experience it for themselves.
“No matter what the topic, Frizzle goes all out,” Payne said.
Her character will have signature moves that fans of “The Magic School Bus” will recognize, including catchphrases (“Wahoo!”) and even her story-related outfits: Payne wears globes on her shoes for the performance.
While the show is written for children, Payne said college students would still learn a lot about the climate change science.
The characters (like Ms. Frizzle) are ones people know and love, but Ward said the climate change science in the story “moves us forward.” The science isn’t “terribly complex,” but there are some “strong issues,” like greenhouse gases and global warming, she said.
The audience can have a more personal connection to these issues because the show is live, Ward said. And she hopes people will go find out more for themselves after watching the show.
Agricultural business freshman Brea Haller remembers “The Magic School Bus,” and said the performance sounded “kind of fun.”
“With all the stress of growing up and being in college, it’s nice to go back to childhood and innocent fun,” Haller said.
And business administration freshman Connor Owen said if he attended the performance the sets “would have to be super cool,” and he would want to see how the school bus was created and “the liveliness of the characters.”
He said he used to watch the show in class, and “it made science more fun.”