Now celebrating its 14th season, The Shedd’s Magical Moombah serves up vaudevillian romps for kids as well as kids-at-heart.
I chased down two of Moombah’s illustrious founders, Judith “Sparky” Roberts and Scotty Perey, to see what makes Moombah tick.
“The main idea is to share songs — American standards — from the popular awareness,” Roberts says.
In a Moombah show, those songs are packaged in a way that’s kid-centered and fun.
Perey, owner of Madison Meadow Music and longtime performer with The Sugar Beets, says he’s best known in the community for playing Moombah character Mumbles “Dog Breath” Hangnail, a bumbling, immature cowboy bent on perpetrating one half-baked scheme after another.
“Dog Breath is a nickname,” Perey explains.
Writer, director and cast member Roberts adds that, despite her decades teaching and performing theater, in the eyes of the Moombah audience, “I’m just Gloria’s friend.”
Gloria, it should be noted, is a 2-foot tall puppet who is “not always pleased that I’m with her,” Roberts says. “She’d rather do a solo act.”
Four times a year, Mumbles, Gloria and a cast of first-rate Moombah musicians and actors performs songs, skits and schtick.
Moombah sparks plenty of audience interaction, with jolly sing-a-longs, parades, onstage contests and oodles of good-natured yelling, like when the aforementioned Mumbles gets too close to the pie he’s been forbidden to touch — a leitmotif, if you will — invariably inspiring the mass of kids and their parents to chant “Pie!” until onstage help arrives.
“We’re loose with the fourth wall,” Perey adds of the relationship between audience and performers. “Talking to them, interacting with them. At the end of the show, we go sit at the edge of the stage and the kids come up and we talk and answer questions.”
And in every show, sight gags abound, as the creative cast, crew and the administrative folk at The Shedd offer collaborative suggestions. In recent years, favorites have included a series of blow-up bubble suits.
In fact, there is nothing this audience member relishes more, pretty much on planet Earth, than Moombah co-founder Sylvain Duplant in a blow-up ballerina suit, shooting looks at the audience for laughing at him, which of course only makes the audience laugh more.
Magical Mommbah’s Dancing on the Moon! plays 10:15 am Friday, May 27, and 10 am and 1 pm Saturday, May 28, at The Shedd; $5, tickets and info at 541-434-7000 or theshedd.org.