Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix is presenting the Arizona premiere of a kid-friendly musical called “Dora the Explorer LIVE! Dora’s Pirate Adventure” through Nov. 6. It’s based on Nickelodeon character Dora the Explorer and her faithful pals, including a boy named Diego and a monkey named Boots.
VYT music director Mark Fearey opened a Sunday matinee by inviting young audience members to sit “criss cross applesauce” on the floor in front of the stage. They happily obliged, many waving pirate adventure flags as Fearey offered child-friendly tips on theater etiquette.
The show features upbeat music, adorable critters well-animated by the actors who portray them, a delightful dose of Spanish and all sorts of audience interaction. Children get to sing along, dance along and even help Dora with a bit of old-fashioned problem-solving.
Characters travel through the theater several times during the show to engage young audience members, offering high fives and such to wide-eyed children with beaming smiles. They’ve no idea that the show doubles as a learning tool full of the repetition and sequencing so critical to things like reading and arithmetic.
“Dora’s Pirate Adventure” is full of feel-good messages and important life lessons too. Stop and think before you act. Friends can overcome challenges by working together. Life’s more fun when no one gets excluded. My only quibble with the work is the missed opportunities for adding a “please” or “thank you” here and there.
Youth theater productions can sometimes be hit or miss in the talent department, but these cast members are talented across the board. Sophia Deyden’s “Dora” is effervescent. Deyden’s high energy, which never wanes, is infectious.
The set for “Dora’s Pirate Adventure” is simple in the very best way possible. It’s colorful and well-crafted but doesn’t distract from the story. The costumes are equally adorable and polished, the music and choreography shine, and it’s clear that director Bobb Cooper has worked to finesse each detail.
The first act of “Dora’s Pirate Adventure” ran just 30 minutes and was followed by a 20-minute break before the second act. That’s important for the preschool set, who need time to hit the potty, get a drink and marvel at the wonder of “Dora” with all their friends.
After most shows at VYT, cast members do a meet and greet with audience members in the theater’s lobby. For the performance I attended, VYT had cast members sit on the edge of the stage instead — signing autographs, posing for pictures and talking with young fans about their favorite parts of the show.
Parents seeking unique and affordable play date or birthday party options will find it in “Dora’s Pirate Adventure.” You can even buy goodies like Dora plush characters and T-shirts at the show, meaning you don’t have to make an extra trip to find party favors. Let Dora do the exploring. You can just show up and be the hero.
Note: Click here for ticket information and to learn more about future auditions and shows at VYT. Click here for “Dora the Explorer” activities from Nickelodeon designed to help children develop in four areas — language, social/emotional, math and physical/wellness.
Coming up: Fun photos from my “Dora the Explorer” adventure at VYT