If the shoe fits… 

Vancouver entertainer Norman Foote maintains all-ages appeal

Who: Norman Foote with the Tuneful Toes

Where: MY (Millennium) Place

When: Thursday, Nov. 20 & Friday, Nov. 21

Tickets : $8-$13

How many times have you been walking along, minding your own business, mulling over your day to day affairs, only to find you’ve been singing to yourself the entire time? More often than not, it’s a song from when you were a kid: the theme from a Saturday morning cartoon, a summer camp singalong, or a tune from a favourite record you used to listen to lying on your stomach with your face next to the speaker.

Kids absorb their entertainment with a thoroughness adults can only half remember. Don’t believe me? What stands out more in your mind: any given elementary school language arts class, or the School House Rock Conjunction Junction song? Thought so.

A toast then, to the children’s entertainers out there putting out quality material for the adults of tomorrow to absorb, writing songs that will make them smile fondly one day rather than tear out their hair.

Norman Foote, is one such entertainer, appealing as much to parents as he does to their charges.

"I really feel like my show is for all ages," confirms Foote from his Vancouver home. "The kids love it, but a lot of things that are funny and entertaining are entertaining to everybody. That’s where I’ve always been and I’m moving even more toward that."

With a performing history that includes a stint with Disney, shows in Las Vegas, Ireland, Germany and Japan, plus collaborations with most of the Canadian symphonies and a handful of U.S. orchestras, Foote has introduced his witty brand of music and comedy to all walks.

As a youngster coming of age in Squamish, Foote listened to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix and dreamed of being a folk singer, but the path turned toward kid-friendly entertaining through a puppetry gig.

It’s a continuing influence in his current work, although his travelling co-stars are not exactly puppets. Rather, he likes to call the wacky character pieces that pop up in his skits "props with an attitude."

Along with the props Foote will have some human special guests for his two shows in Whistler. In fact, he’ll have around 50 special guests since the performances will continue the tradition of including a kid’s ensemble directed by local youth choir director Sadie Culliford. This year’s group has been given the moniker The Tuneful Toes.

Just as he prefers "props with attitude" to "puppet" Foote eschews the word "choir" for the much hipper "animated wall of sound."

"I think people get misled," he explains. "When you say ‘choir’ they think church, they think choral music and they think boring."

But his latest backup crew promises to be a dynamic and interactive part of his show, even just by their presence onstage, says Foote. A group of 50 kids laughing at funny lines makes for an eclectic and energetic set.

The camaraderie all goes toward making the arts a fun and exciting experience for kids while bonding as a community.

"It’s all about celebrating the joy of live performance," Foote emphasizes. "To pull kids away from the TV, pull them away from video games and really experience live things."

He’s aware he fights against the trend in modern culture to cocoon in the home. It’s a trend that holds especially tight reign over families with kids. Foote knows all too well kids can’t get to his shows on their own; they need their parents to buy them tickets and take them to the theatre. But he’s promising to hold up his end of the bargain by maintaining an all-ages appeal.

It seems to be the right approach. He gets plenty of feedback from parents, he says. Some thank him for "the CD that saved their marathon car trip." And his live shows also seem to be pushing all the right buttons.

"If I had a dollar for every mom that came up to me saying, ‘You made my mascara run, I laughed so hard I cried!’ That’s what makes it worthwhile for me," he adds.

He doesn’t dumb down his material for kids either. Expect the odd classic tune by Nat King Cole or Al Jolson in the mix.

"My show is not about lullabies and it’s not a real ‘kiddie’ show. Instead it lets kids be a little more challenged. They like that," he emphasizes.

"I’m totally okay with being labelled a children’s entertainer," he adds. "That’s what I am. But I really do think that my show is for all ages and I’m trying to focus in on that."

Norman Foote swings by MY Place for two shows this Thursday, Nov. 20 and Friday, Nov. 21. Both shows start at 7 p.m. Tickets $8 for kids and $13 for adults. Call 604-935-8410 for more information.

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