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Type: Theater show with singing
Time: About 20 minutes
Our Take: For toddlers and their long-suffering
According to the publicity, Universal’s Barney attraction is the only place in the United States where you can see Barney “live.” For some people, that may be one place too many. But for his legions of adoring wee fans and the parents who love them, this show will prove an irresistible draw. Even old curmudgeons will grudgingly have to admit that the show’s pretty sweet.
The first tip-off that this is a kiddie show is the fact that it’s the only attraction at Universal with its own stroller parking lot. And it’s usually full. After the young guests have availed themselves of Mom and Dad’s valet parking service, they enter through a gate into Barney’s park, complete with a bronze Barney cavorting in an Italianate fountain.
When the show begins, we are all ushered into a stand-up pre-show area where Mr. Peekaboo and his gaudy bird friend Bartholomew put on a singing, dancing warm-up act that wouldn’t be complete unless the audience got splashed. Then, using our imaginations, we pass through a misty cave entrance sprinkled with star dust to enter the main theater.
Inside is a completely circular space cheerfully decorated as a forest park at dusk. Low benches surround the raised central stage, but old fogies may want to make for the more comfortable park benches against the walls. The sight lines are excellent no matter where you sit, although Mr. Peekaboo reminds us that once we’ve chosen a seat we must stay there for the entire show.
The show is brief and cheery and almost entirely given over to sing-alongs that are already familiar to Barney’s little fans. Barney is soon joined by Baby Bop and B.J. and the merriment proceeds apace, complete with falling autumn leaves, a brief snowfall, and shooting streamers. By the end, the air is filled with love — literally.
One particularly amusing point is that the stage crew has little to clean up after the show. The kids are remarkably efficient in policing up the fallen leaves and streamers. Now if only we could get them to do that back home!
True star that he is, Barney stays behind after the show for a well-organized meet and greet session with his young admirers that lets each tyke have a special moment and a photo with the lovable guy. A few of the kids seem overawed to be so close to this giant vision in purple.
The theater audience empties out into Barney’s Backyard, which is the day-care center of your dreams. Here, beautifully executed by Universal scenic artists, is a collection of imaginative and involving activities for the very young, from making music to splashing in water, to drawing on the walls. For parents who are a bit on the slow side, there are signs to explain the significance of what their kids are up to. A sample: “Young children have a natural inclination towards music [which] encourages the release of stress through listening and dancing.” Duh!
Barney’s Backyard is where little kids get their revenge. Whereas many rides in the park bar younger children on the basis of height, here there are activities that are off limits to those over 48 inches or even 36 inches. Kids will love it. Grown-ups will wish there were more of it.
Tip: This wonderful space has a separate entrance and you don’t have to sit through the show to get in here. Keep this in mind if the family’s youngest member needs some special attention or a chance to unwind from the frustrations of being a little person in a big person’s amusement park.
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