Barney, the friendly purple dinosaur who has entertained a generation of kids, is bringing his birthday party to Northern Illinois University’s Convocation Center.
The Daily Chronicle recently spoke with Jennifer Margulis, who plays Jessie in “Barney Live in Concert: Birthday Bash!” The show has made stops across the country and will hit the Convo in DeKalb on Sunday.
What’s the premise of the show?
It’s Barney’s birthday bash and he said from the beginning that he’s taking his birthday party all across the country so he can celebrate with all of his friends. The dinosaurs are there to make the party really special with different games and songs and dances. The humans kind of function as a link between the dinosaurs and the kids, so we get the kids’ ideas in there, too. The whole time we keep asking Barney, ‘What’s your birthday wish?’ And he’s very coy. Only at the end, he says, ‘My birthday wish has already come true. It was that all of our friendships would last forever.’
Barney’s been a popular children’s character for many years. What’s it like to extend that to the next generation of kids?
It’s actually a much hipper Barney than I remember growing up. My brother and sister were kind of growing up at the time, so I was always in the room with them while the TV was on. As an adult performing in this show, it’s actually a lot of fun. And I think it’s geared toward the parents, so that they have a good time, too. I would also say that what’s really exciting about our show is that it’s live. Barney is so big and enthusiastic in person that it totally exceeds everyone’s expectations from what they see on the little screen.
What’s it like to see the reactions of children in the audience?
A lot of our venues are arenas and the human performers do a lot of dancing on the floor, so we get really up close with the kids. We see them singing along and dancing and having a blast. That’s probably one of the best parts of our job. I also take up one child toward the end of each show to sing “Happy Birthday” to Barney. These kids are so, so happy to be there, so it makes our job feel more like fun than work.
Though the show is geared toward children ages 1-4, what’s the age range you see at shows?
We do get kind of a wide age range. I would say anywhere from tiny, tiny babies to I’ll see 9- or 10-year-olds dancing along in the aisles.
How did you get involved with the show and why do you enjoy it?
I auditioned in New York and the audition was a lot of fun. We actually had to sing a song as if to these little children and that process was really exciting. They told us from the beginning, you’re going to be really close to the kids, so you want to really bring them in with everything you have. With your singing, with your dancing, with your acting. At most theater shows, you won’t get that close to your audience. But in this one, you do.
Why do you think Barney has been so popular over the years with kids and with parents?
Barney encourages politeness and good friendship skills and sharing skills in every episode of the TV show, but also throughout our show. “Please” and “thank you” are very important and working together. These are great lessons for kids to learn, and they enjoy all the fun and the magic of the show, and the parents are glad to see that there’s a kind of strong-morals underlying theme.
If you go
What: "Barney Live in Concert: Birthday Bash!"
When: 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Northern Illinois University's Convocation Center in DeKalb
Cost: $17 and $22
Tickets: Purchase at the Convocation Center box office, www.ticketmaster.com or by phone at 800-745-3000
Information: The show is 70 minutes long, with a 15-minute intermission.