I’m a dad of a 3-year-old whose 2nd birthday party was Wiggles-themed, so you can rest assured that I was anxiously sitting at my desk, mouse hovering over the Ticketmaster link in the sweaty seconds before sales for the group’s first US tour of her lifetime went live. Months later, here we were: her in her yellow bow-and-tutu combo and me lugging my camera gear, both of us almost equally excited to finally witness the spectacle of these international superstars live and in-person.
Hailing from Australia, the current iteration of this world-renowned children’s music group is in its 6th year performing together, but I would believe you if you told me they’d been doing it since they were children (that’s actually a spin-off series, but I digress). Through what had to be a grueling 90-minutes of acrobatics, singing, instrument swapping, costume donning and child entertaining, Anthony, Lachy, Simon and Emma Wiggle never seemed to break a sweat through their blue, purple, red and yellow outfits (respectively).
The Wiggles crossed the Pacific to kick off the Party Time Tour! at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Seattle on Saturday, July 27th in support of their newest release of the same name. Their 17th album together, Party Time! is an excellent compilation of new tracks and fresh, Wiggly takes on some classics. It’s all of the regular high-energy stuff we’ve come to expect from the group, with a fun familiarity that promises to keep the kids engaged as well.
While we weren’t sure what to expect from their traveling performance, my family has been exposed to many a live recording of the group, as those videos made up a significant chunk of their first big series together Ready, Steady Wiggle!, which is nearly all of the Wiggly content we were able to get our hands on, aside from a couple more recent (and dare I say, Avant Garde) releases: Wiggle Town and Carnival of the Animals.
Turns out, they are nearly identical.
In a lot of ways, seeing the Wiggles live is similar to watching Taylor Swift or any other pop megastar on an arena tour. You immediately get the impression that every single second of the performance is perfectly scripted and choreographed, and that the well-oiled machines that these artists have become are just running on auto-pilot, cruising through their massive sets with the muscle memory of a professional that has already put on a hundred shows this year.
Where the experience differs from artists like Swift is when, surprisingly, each member of The Wiggles let their polished façade slip, if just for a second, to make a quick joke, play a lighthearted prank on one another, or be caught up in the emotion of a sentimental letter from a fan as they read it onstage.
When Anthony asks Lachy to do a “Seattle accent” right in the middle of a skit, it’s immediately clear the purple wiggle did not see that request coming, his uncontrollable giggles growing with each failed attempt at masking his thick Aussie accent. Another time, Simon employs a favorite Wiggle game, “Simon Says”, to request the Paramount staff raise house lights so the group can see the fans that dressed up in costume for the show. Unprepared, the staff takes a bit longer than expected, which kicked off a reoccurring bit between them and the Red Wiggle that brought laughs from kids and parents alike. And of course, there was the lovely middle section where the other three Wiggles not so subtly lamented Emma’s popularity with the fans during a segment where they brought up gifts and signs from the crowd to show off on-stage.
These human moments introduced a level of intimacy to the performance that eased one of my bigger concerns about the show, that it would essentially be just a live-action Xerox of the content that most of the parents in the room have likely seen and heard on repeat for years now. Yes, their robust setlist covered dozens and dozens of their hits, and they made sure to include all the important Wiggle skits (“Wake Up, Lachy!”) and characters (Wags the Dog, Dorothy the Dinosaur, and newcomer Shirley Shawn the Unicorn), but the joy that radiated from the group throughout the entire 90-minutes meshed so well with the skill and polish we’ve come to expect from these consummate professionals, that I would have believed that this was their single Stateside performance and it was curated just for this audience.
But nope. Seattle was just the first date on this massive tour, and they’ll be pulling out all the stops to give additional costume-changing, cardio-heavy, multi-instrumental performances across North America before heading home to pick up right where they left off,. If this performance was any indication, I believe every child in every one of those shows will be treated to the same polished-yet-personal production that my daughter got.