Clifford celebrates his 50th anniversary with a musical at Cal Poly

The national tour of the one-hour show will be at the Performing Arts Center Oct. 31

Special to The TribuneOctober 23, 2012 

Kids are invited to wear their costumes on Halloween and join Clifford the Big Red Dog, in his amazing costume, as he celebrates his 50th anniversary with a professional live musical at the Performing Arts Center at Cal Poly. Families can bring cameras and pose their children with the 8-foot canine in the lobby beginning at 5 p.m. before the 6 p.m. show. The kids will be able to trick-or-treat in the lobby after the performance.

The national tour has taken the production around the country, said Christina Rose Rahn, as she talked on tour on a scratchy cell phone from a Nebraska hotel room.

Rahn plays Emily Elizabeth, Clifford’s owner and best friend. In the now historic story told by the play, Emily Elizabeth chooses the small red puppy that is the runt of the litter, but she has so much love to give him that he grows into the giant Clifford, outgrowing the family’s city home and inspiring a move to the country.

The Clifford stories spawned dozens of books, an animated television series, and film. They were known for teaching children life lessons.

“I knew Clifford very well,” Rahn said. “My mother read the stories to me.”

Rahn, 24, has been playing the 8-year old Emily Elizabeth since the tour began in December 2011 and has visited 30 states with the more than 120 performances. She’s five-foot-three and can easily look like a child next to the looming red dog.

Clifford and his friends are designed from the original illustrations in the Scholastic books, so children and parents will recognize them right away, Rahn said.

Two actors operate Clifford, one in front working his front feet and his head, and one behind him doing his back legs and his tail. Other characters are Cleo, a purple poodle; T-Bone, a bulldog; and Mac, a greyhound, all designed by Puppet Kitchen. Among the human folks are Emily Elizabeth’s parents; her best friend Charlie; and Jetta, Mac’s human.

Like the original stories, the musical, with song and dance, has some lessons for kids, Rahn explained. “They learn about making friends, telling the truth, sharing, and responsibility.”

During the tour Rahn has observed that the one-hour show is enjoyed by kids from two to 10, pleasing different ages on different levels.

“They all love Clifford. The little ones squeal with delight. It’s magical and theatrical. I love the children’s reactions—they are smarter than you might think. The dialogue and songs sometimes use similes and metaphors, and the kids get it. There are some fun things for parents, too, like how the parents talk to Emily.”

Because Clifford is celebrating his 50th anniversary, many parents will remember their childhood experience with him as they introduce him to their kids.

“But you don’t need to know about Clifford ahead of time,” Rahn said. “He speaks directly to kids, and they learn lessons together.”

Her experience with the show has been rewarding, and it changes and refreshes as actors leave and new ones join the cast.

“For many kids this is their first experience with live theater, and we want to make it memorable.”

 

Here’s the schedule for Halloween:

Doors to lobby open at 5 p.m.

Kids are directed into the theater for parents to take a photo with Clifford and other cast members from 5 to 5:45 p.m. After pictures families can either take their seats in the theater or go out into the lobby where kids will receive small Halloween toys. Cast members in costume will be in the lobby.

“Clifford the Big Red Dog Live” begins at 6 p.m.

After the 70-minute performance, families exit into the lobby for trick- or-treat candy and to meet the cast.

 

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