Like it or not, our decade is awash in '70s nostalgia, with
tribute albums honoring The Carpenters, John Denver and Saturday
morning cartoon themes. Even disco has made a comeback.
In the midst of all this smiley-face remembrance comes "Schoolhouse
Rock Live!", a musical based on the educational ABC cartoon shorts
that aired from 1973 through 1985.
The live version, which opened in Chicago in 1993 and enjoyed
a successful off-Broadway run, is back in town at the Victory
Gardens Theater. And those who missed it last time should make
it their assignment to catch "Schoolhouse Rock Live!" before it
takes a summer recess in June.
The show succeeds in large part because it plays to both adults
and children without pandering to either group. In that way, the
show has a comic sensibility much closer to a Bullwinkle cartoon
than, say, a Raffi album.
The '70s kids who sat through the original "Schoolhouse Rock"
series know that it had a somewhat hokey tone. Enduring corny
songs like "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly (Get Your Adverbs Here)" was a
lot like eating broccoli before the long-promised dessert (more
Good news for savvy adults: "Schoolhouse Rock Live!" seizes on
this truth and runs with it. In their version of "Lolly, Lolly,
Lolly," the three male cast members (George Keating, Pip Lilly
and Stephen Rader) don bowlers and sing the number in campy vaudeville
Not to be outdone, the three female players (Kirsten Diefendorf,
Dori Goldman and Karen Volpe) showed off impressive harmonies
and ample comedic talent on numbers like "Sufferin' Till Suffrage"
and "The Great American Melting Pot."
As a whole, the cast carries the 80-minute show with youthful
exuberance and energy, though two standouts should be noted. The
first is Keating (also a co-writer), who captures the singsong
spirit of these educational odes and amplifies it to hilarious
The second is Goldman, who shows much promise as a budding comic
actress. Her confused facial expressions and snarly singing tone
created the hilarious effect of "I can't believe I'm singing this
That's not to say "Schoolhouse Rock Live!" is an attack. It's
more of a riotous celebration; after all, how many children learned
the Constitution's preamble while munching on their cereal? Indeed,
a good many grownups watching the show could recite it and sing