The third Arts in the Park presentation for the summer was Artrageous, a kids show celebrating the importance of the arts in all our lives.
There was a good-sized crowd Friday at Norvell Band Shell for the show — the temperature was in the 70s, though there was always a rain threat.
Members of the company met early arrivals, passing out flashlight rings and inviting the young to add to drawings on sandwiched white-boards.
Once the show proper got going, music was provided by an onstage band of no more than five pieces — electric bass, electric keyboard, electric neck-hanging drum-kit imitator and a couple of electric guitars.
There was one performer who only danced. Three others handled MC duties and did much of the singing.
Two of those and one of the musicians also painted on large black panels — squares and diamonds — with glowing and bright colors. The images were simplified versions of paintings and photos — Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” Leonardo’s “Mona Lisa” (which prompted the cast to play the Nat King Cole record), portraits of Prince and Aretha (so we got a sample of “Respect”) and one of John Lennon.
When that went up, the group played and sang “Imagine.” Is that the signature John Lennon song? All I could think of was “If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao/You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow.”
The last paintings were of a bird that might have been from the cover of Kansas’ “Song for America,” and a head shot of the Statue of Liberty. As Artrageous is headquartered in New Mexico, it doesn’t seem likely they would be replicating an image from a lesser Kansas album.
But, then, that was about the era from which most of the band’s material came. “My Girl,” “Unchained Melody,” “Be My Baby” — late 60s and early 70s songs dominated.
The company itself has been in existence since the 1980s. There were some newer songs, including a couple from fairly recent animated films. Remember that this was a kids show.
There were also recorded songs. “That’s the Way I Like It” (what is it that makes those assembling play lists for children’s shows go to disco for material?), “Footloose,” “Can’t Touch This,” and the original recordings of some others in edited versions.
Then there was some choreography, frequent recruiting of crowd members for onstage business, and an odd use of the old formula for “porn names,” this time supposedly to allow audience members to generate their own “stage names.”
Your first pet’s name and the color of your shirt was, I believe, the scheme.
About an hour in the band’s rhythm section came forward to do a comedy routine about painting genres, which served to remind us that the performers were probably all or nearly all painters.
And three puppeteers came out with a half-sized human model named Howard. They took him through a gentle story-book adventure.
When the little inflated beach balls came from the stage into the crowd, Kim Riley got hit in the face and then was seen flinching at more or less regular intervals.
The performers, spread out across the stage and sometimes behind canvases, were dressed in bright colors, short skirts — almost in circus outfits.
Children attending got to get up and move with the music, burning off the last of the day’s calories. And the message about the significance of creativity was a good one.
Artrageous was not, one could speculate, at its sharpest during its MHK performance. They had been traveling by bus. This was their 39th show this year. And they seemed tired.
But this doesn’t mean the local audience was shortchanged. Only that there weren’t a lot of sharp corners cut.
The target audience — under 10s — seemed to enjoy the event anyway. They like to move it, move it.