Are you ready to roll with the PAW Patrol?
PAW Patrol Live! “Race to the Rescue” is coming to the Johnny Mercer Theatre for two shows Jan. 18. The show is based on the hit Nickelodeon preschool series “PAW Patrol” that features pups Ryder, Chase, Marshall, Rocky, Rubble, Zuma, Skye and Everest.
Performer Olivia Washington, who plays Mayor Goodway, has seen audience members of all ages get excited when they see PAW Patrol Live! on stage.
“This show is aimed primarily to a younger audience, ages 2 to 6, but will entertain the entire family,” Washington says. “I’m not kidding when I tell you that I see 9- and 10-year-olds up cheering and dancing in the audience and having the time of their lives.
“My favorite is when I see the parents up and just as excited as their kiddos,” she says. “It’s truly a family affair.”
Much of the excitement is due to the show’s lifelike four-legged heroes. The musical incorporates Bunraku, an ancient Japanese form of puppetry, to create life-sized pups that wag their tails, blink their eyes, move their mouths and interact with the audience.
Puppetry elements are built into the costumes, which are worn by the performers. Each of the pups has a Pup Pack and vehicle, which also will be seen during the show.
The storyline features up-tempo music in two acts with an intermission. The production offers lessons of citizenship, social skills and problem-solving, showing that “no job is too big, no pup is too small.”
Locations from the TV series are featured, including Adventure Bay, the Lookout, Seal Island, Farmer Yumi’s farm and Jake’s Mountain. Interactive video is used to let the audience participate via interviews, solve clues with the Pups, follow Mayor Goodway and much more.
“The pup costumes have four legs versus the usual two-legged walk-around costume characters,” Washington says. “It truly is incredible and breathtaking.
“The show’s plot centers around the day of the Great Adventure Bay Race at Foggy Bottom. Mayor Goodway is supposed to run the race, but she is nowhere to be found.
“They need the PAW Patrol to save the day,” Washington says. “This show is so much more than a sit-and-watch type of production — it really engages the crowd. Little ones will be cheering and dancing along with their favorite pups and characters.”
Adults need not worry about being bored themselves.
“Due to the amazing puppetry, top-of-the-line technical aspects and incredible music and engaging storyline, adults will be thoroughly entertained,” Washington says. “Not to mention they will light up just seeing their little ones so engaged and having the time of their lives.”
There are 12 performers in the cast.
“We all come from many different places and have different backgrounds in the arts,” Washington says. “We all are true entertainers.”
As Mayor Goodway, Washington says her character is “melodramatic, yet lovable.”
“From her exaggerated voice to her groovy dancing, playing this character is the most fun I have ever had on stage,” Washington says. “Everything about this character is honestly just a heightened version of myself, which makes it all the more fun to break the fourth wall and step off the stage to interact with the kiddos in the audience.”
Washington is an award-winning performer.
“I have been performing my whole life, but it wasn’t until middle school when acting became a serious craft of mine,” she says. “During high school, I won the Shuler Hensley Award — the state of Georgia’s high school Tony awards honoring excellence in high school musical theater — for Best Featured Performer in a Musical for my role as Motormouth Maybelle in the musical ‘Hairspray.’
“Last year, I received a conservatory degree in music theater from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City,” Washington says. “Performing for me is my passion and what wakes me up in the morning.”
Washington’s favorite part of the show is also her most challenging.
“I go out into the audience and interview the kiddos, asking them who they think will win the Great Adventure Bay Race,” she says. “Most of them say PAW Patrol or the names of their favorite pups, but my favorite is when they say Mayor Humdinger, the opposing competitor.
“Getting answers like that always keep me on my toes because I never know what the kids will say. I have to stay focused on the show, but the excitement of me being so close to them has kids and their parents in the audience calling me from all different directions.
“I can’t always rely on just saying my lines; I have to use my improv skills to ensure everybody feels acknowledged,” Washington says. “Being able to actually interact with the audience and seeing how excited they are that Mayor Goodway is standing right in front of them inspires me to do the best show I can do no matter what.”
The show is enjoyable from start to finish, Washington says.
“If you have young ones at home who are glued to the TV whenever ‘PAW Patrol’ is on, then this is a show for your family,” she says. “Even if your kiddos are not familiar with the show, they will absolutely be engaged from start to finish. This is a Broadway-quality show – it really is a treat.”
Preview night was the most memorable performance, Washington says.
“When I thought of all the amazing cities we have toured and the huge audiences we have performed for, still nothing compares to the very small audience we had of about 150 people in Evansville, Ind., on our preview night,” she says.
“We had two weeks of rehearsal in Minneapolis and the next two weeks were spent in Evansville putting the show together on the stage. There were a lot of long nights and sweaty rehearsals.
“Before we set out on the road to 90 different cities, we invited friends and family in the area to sort of be our test audience and to see how the show reads with actual children,” Washington says. “At the beginning of the show, Ryder steps on stage and asks if the audience is ‘ready to roll with the PAW Patrol?’”
Washington was backstage, watching from the wings.
“I hear an overwhelming ‘YEAHHH!’” she says. “I immediately start tearing up.
“I was so used to hearing the lines projected on stage out into an empty theater, but to actually hear human responses to my fellow actor’s presence on stage filled my spirit with immense joy,” Washington says. “Since then, we have performed for tens of thousands of people, but there is something about that night that warms my heart in a really special way.”
The show has been selling out since the start of the tour, which will extend to Mexico, Canada and Australia after the U.S. run.
“There has been an incredible amount of excitement around this tour, and the fun part for us is seeing strong audience enthusiasm,” says Eric Grilly, chief executive officer of VStar Entertainment Group, which is bringing the show to Savannah. “Behind the scenes, a tremendous amount of preparation goes into a production like this, and it’s wonderful to receive this kind of reception so early on in the tour.”
Audiences are enjoying the show everywhere it goes.
“PAW Patrol Live! ‘Race to the Rescue’ brings an exciting original story to life through unique costumes, dynamic staging and original music compositions that have the audience out of their seats and singing along from beginning to end,” says Gerald Raines, senior vice president of Nickelodeon Global Recreation Business Development. “We are thrilled this production is resonating with audiences and that kids and parents across the U.S. and around the globe are clamoring to have the beloved pack of PAW Patrol pups visit their hometown.”
IF YOU GO
What: Paw Patrol Live! “Race to the Rescue”
When: 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Jan. 18
Where: Johnny Mercer Theatre, Savannah Civic Center, 301 W. Oglethorpe Ave.
Info: savannahcivic.com, 912-651-6550