Last week, I had the great pleasure of attending a performance of Nick JR’s latest giant wobblehead roadshow, Dora the Explorer: Search for the City of Lost Toys. A friend of mine, who is travelling with the tour and forced to watch the show three times a day, graciously allowed me to watch from the back, in return for cooking a roast for the show’s crew.

Having no previous experience of Dora, I began with an open mind. Little did I know that the experience would have me shouting “BOOTS! BOOTS THE MONKEY!” at my TV screen just days later, as I watched a Millionaire Hot Seat contestant fail to correctly name Dora’s blue furry sidekick.

From my vantage point at the back of the theatre, I watched the auditorium fill with the elasticised-pants set and their chaperones. Each child was handed a paper star, or “interactive easily-destroyed laughter-and-tear-generation device”. Stars, or ‘Estrellas’ as they are quaintly known, appear to be some kind of running theme in Dora’s world, serving much the same purpose as the hovering rings in Sonic the Hedgehog, or Mario’s floating coins. Dora and her friends, I also discovered, live in the jungle and speak an awful lot of Spanish.

The show itself deals with serious issues such as counting to three (in both English and Spanish!), accurately imitating a howler monkey and a tapir, and retrieving lost toys. Lost toys, it appears, are transported through some kind of quantum warp from wherever you left them, to a ziggurat-filled city somewhere in the South American jungle, which is completely at odds with what I learned as a child. I was always quite confidently informed that all my lost toys went to England.

At the intermission patrons can beg for t-shirts, inflatable characters and multi-coloured glowing ice-cream-cone-type arrangements, or can be green-screened into a Dora video or photo. I opted for a still photograph and a tween-cred pink t-shirt. I made the terrible mistake of wearing a lanyard, prompting all kinds of questions I couldn’t answer — “Is there food?” “Where can I get another star, this one is ruined?” Eventually, I hid behind a faux-rococo column. Take note: remove all trappings of authority.

On my return to the theatre, the fun resumed. The soundtrack, canned in the Dora factory and imported from the US, is ably accompanied by a group of extremely tiny, spry dancers in suits, who probably live entirely on energy drink and Starbursts. A supporting cast of puppets and a giant wooden train completes the ensemble.

If you are the proud owner of a small, easily-amused human being who likes to shout, then Dora is an excellent way to wear them out for an afternoon. It probably won’t kill you, either.

Details: The Dora the Explorer Live!: Search for the City of Lost Toys show is weaving madly across this sunburnt country, next due in Barossa, then travelling to Adelaide, all over WA, Tasmania, NSW and finally returning to Victoria. Here are all the tour dates.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey