Time Out New York Kids
by Raven Snook
“Cocreators Laurie Miller and Ben Tollefson have a background in children’s television (their credits include gigs with Noggin’s Oobie and PBS Kids’ Word World). Clearly they hope the Ohmies will be the next big brand. Judging from how engaged the kids were, they just may be.”
The title may be enticingly offbeat but, except for one novel, interactive aspect, this children’s musical will seem awfully formulaic to anyone who’s watched preschool TV. Its structure is pure Dora, its colorful characters evoke the Doodlebops (or for those of you old enough to remember, the Bugaloos), and its message of friendship and hard work are reminiscent of, well, pretty much any edutainment series. But there’s a reason kids watch the same shows over and over…and over and over: They find familiarity fun. That’s why young, perhaps even first-time theatergoers will love the Ohmies, a group of rainbow-hued, anthropomorphic animal pals who live in a lush forest.
Perky Bella Butterfly (Tara Hunnewell) and goofy Carlin Caterpillar (Hansel Tan) are squabbling siblings who go on a quest to wake up Mr. Sun. The duo wants to build a wish garden, but they need his warm rays to make their plantings grow. Along the way, they run into other friends—science-obsessed Gisbert Grasshopper (Adam Lerman), dance-crazy Daisy Dog (Ashley Tobias) and shy chanteur Sylvio Snake (Benjamin Fisher)—each of whom gets the spotlight with his or her own song, scene and yoga pose.
Yes, yoga pose. The Ohmies truly gets kids and limber parents up and moving. There are no seats, just mats to sit on (although less flexible folk can request a chair), so the audience can literally join them on their journey. This, along with the show’s exceptional production and costume design (courtesy of Laura Brock and Tracy Christensen, respectively), are what make the Ohmies unique.
On the other hand, the plot and songs—which run the predictable gamut from rap to pop and show tunes—seem recycled from a Nick Jr. show. It’s not surprising, since cocreators Laurie Miller and Ben Tollefson have a background in children’s television (their credits include gigs with Noggin’s Oobie and PBS Kids’ Word World). Clearly they hope the Ohmies will be the next big brand. Judging from how engaged the kids were, they just may be.