Review: ‘Barney Live!’

Barney live! At Radio City! I know what you're thinking: What can I do to become a theater critic!

Barney live! At Radio City! I know what you’re thinking: What can I do to become a theater critic!

These Barney people are very smart. Smart enough to keep every cent earned from Barney stuff out of public TV’s coffers. Smart enough to know that when marketing to kids, parents’ opinions count for nothing. Smart enough to have critics bring the whole family to “Barney Live!” I’d add that Barney sold out in the blink of an eye but of course, Barney can’t blink an eye.

The show has a plot, sort of (over-made-up elfin clown Winkster steals Barney’s bag but really just wants Barney, Baby Bop, B.J. and the kids to be his friends); better sets than the Barney show taped a few years ago at the Majestic Theater in Dallas; and a real live baby elephant. So: The two-year-old, with the attention span of a gnat, was mesmerized every second of the 80-minute show. As was the five-year-old — even more startling, as she is by nature a skeptic, was long ago deprogrammed, Barneywise, and knows the plot of “The Magic Flute.”

The cranky critic in the family was less appreciative, like anyone cares. The production values are quaint and Barney’s new little friends seem even more fresh-faced than the old Backyard Gang. Like the TV shows, “Barney Live!” is banal! It’s witless! The writing makes “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” sound like Yeats!

By using doubles, Barney and Winkster can be here one second and way over there the next, which helps extend the show out in front of the huge Radio City Music Hall stage. Still, what with the screechy, echoic sound and topsy-turvy miking, the whole thing might as well have been performed in the Grand Canyon for all the intimacy between the audience and the performers. Maybe that’s why it seemed that there was so much less interaction in this show than on the Majestic tape. On the other hand, there were hundreds, maybe thousands, of kids singing and dancing in the aisles.

Whoever decided that Barney would not sing “I Love You” in this show is as evil as the person who wrote the damn song in the first place. And though the proceeds from these 12 shows are going to charity, we feel inclined to note the 20-minute intermission allowing the sale of unbelievable permutations of Barneyphernalia (accent on the nail ya).

It’s hard to work up too much of a lather over a show that lists a Lead Dino Wrangler and three assistants in the program. Still, I miss Luci and Tina; what sinister fate has befallen them? And Min is listed on the program but doesn’t appear in the show — shades of Paul is dead! You can call “Barney Live!” a triumph of cellulite (Barney’s) over criticism (mine). Thank goodness my kids aren’t old enough to read this.

Barney Live!

(Radio City Music Hall, New York; 5,584 seats; $ 30 top)


Produced by the Lyons Group in association with Radio City Music Hall Prods. Executive producers, Dennis DeShazer, Sheryl Leach, Kathy Parker; producer, Martha Datema Lipscomb; writer, Stephen White; composer/lyricist, Phil Parker; performance director and choreographer, Penny Wilson; director, Bruce Deck.


Musical director, Bob Singleton; sets, Victor DiNapoli; lighting, Ken Billington; costumes, Lisa Albertson; art director, Bob Phillips; production manager, Robin C. Mathiesen; production stage manager, Andrew Feigin. Opened March 5, 1994; reviewed March 6; runs through March 13.


Barney 1 (costume) ... David Joyner Barney 2 (costume) ... Carey Stinson Barney (voice) ... Bob West Baby Bop (costume) ... Jeff Ayers Baby Bop (voice) ... Julie Johnson B.J. (costume) ... Jeff Brooks B.J. (voice) ... Patty Wirtz Winkster 1... David Voss Winkster 2 ... Ashley Wood Also
With: John David Bennett II, Ricky Carter, Hope Cervantes, Lauren King, Corey Lopez, Pia Manalo, Susannah Wetzel, Rebecca Wilson, etc.

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