Too often, parents merely tolerate typical children’s entertainment, whether it’s TV shows, music, or live performances. But on a recent afternoon, while taking my kids to see the Funkey Monkeys at their opening show at Off-Broadway’s Daryl Roth Theatre, I was happily surprised to learn that just the right mix of adult and child humor and music can surely engage a preschooler as well as a parent — and leave them both wanting more.
This improv rock band performs a 60-minute set of lively music mixed with smart humor. Created by Joshua Sitron, composer for the beloved cartoon series Dora the Explorer, the group consists of actors, musicians and teachers, who together create a hilarious yet meaningful show for ages 2-8 (unofficially the group says the show appeals to kids under 9 and over 30). Sitron presides on the keyboard and keeps the show moving along with comical segues. The cast members act out multiple scenarios using props to highlight their songs; for Moustache, the cast turns their backs to the audience to don strange moustaches. And while performing Sing, Dance, Underpants, they put on boxers over their monkey suits, although Monkey Mike forgets the memo and wears briefs!
If there is a standout performer among this talented group, it’s Monkey Mike, known as Mike Gold off-stage. His over-the-top gyrations and hysterical faces keep the audience laughing. At one point, he emerges from backstage in a giant baby outfit (placed over his monkey costume, tail and all!). On the search for his mommy, he crawls out into the audience, asking moms if they are his.
Since the group is trained in improv, it’s a continual element of the show; the Monkeys use the audience’s laughs (and cries) as material. They also make references NYC parents can relate to, like living in a too-small apartment with children. Aside from sheer fun, the group also tackles age-appropriate topics, such as becoming a big brother and learning to use the potty. In one story narrated to music, Monkey Mike finally becomes successfully potty-trained, and runs through the audience back from the bathroom, proudly pronouncing he has accomplished the task.
The theater is very kid-friendly: children sit right on the floor and get a close-up view of the various instruments. Adults get a choice of sitting on chairs in the back or on the floor with their kids. For very young tots, the band can get loud, so if your child is noise-sensitive, a back seat may be preferable. The theater is conveniently located across the street from Union Square Park, and makes for a delightful afternoon weekend outing.
Where: Off-Broadway’s Daryl Roth Theatre, 101 East 15th Street
When: Open-ended (at least through the end of the year). Every Sunday at 11am & 2pm. Beginning November 24, shows double up and play every Saturday and Sunday at 11am & 2pm.
How much: $20
For more information: (212) 239-6200; www.funkeymonkeys.net