Anyone wondering where Jessica Harper went after her early ’80s run as bigscreen leading lady probably doesn’t have children. If they did, they would know her as a vital voice in tyke theater, a performer who knows that her audience has a gnat’s attention span yet somehow can connect with jazzy music and sophisticated lyrics if treated right.
Her Fountain Theater stretch, having just ended after an almost two-month run, was a little gem for the Lego set. Not only something to do to get the kids out of the house, it’s also a primer in how to structure a show aimed at youngsters. (It will be returning to the venue next year.)
Harper gained her fame from stints in “Pennies From Heaven,” “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” “Stardust Memories” and as the hard-to-get g.f. to Mark Linn-Baker in the underrated “My Favorite Year.” Having changed course to focus on musical education, she has mastered the realm, having produced seven CDs and written several books including the upcoming “Lizzy’s Ups and Downs.”
But it’s live that her impact is felt the most; combining calypso- and reggae-fueled ditties with an interactive approach that gets anyone who wants to onto the stage several times during her act, Harper seems genuinely moved by the world she’s been able to mold and the things she’s been able to impart.
Specifically, it was songs like “Girlquake” and the “It’s a Wonderful Life” finale that resonated the most, with the former empowering little lasses and the latter providing an inviting chorus and make-a-joyful-noise message.
Harper is backed up by Mike Tempo, a percussion man who keeps everything, from triangles to home-made spoon concoctions, for everyone to see and allows the audience to play around as much as possible after it all ends. It’s a giant show-and-tell to cap off a grand little hour of quality time.