Norman Mervyn Barrington-Foote is bringing his own unique combination of music, comedy and puppetry to Whitehorse for a Halloween-themed show on Oct. 10, 2019 at the Yukon Arts Centre. Music, costumes and Halloween are all part of Ready, Set, Howl. The concert is all about the fun and friendly spirit of this annual neighbourly celebration. Foote shares the stage with a colorful animated wall of costumed howlers from Whitehorse, Selkirk and Takhini Elementary Schools.
Foote claims his name forced him to develop a sense of humour at an early age. At age 11, his parents gave him his first guitar, a finely crafted instrument from the Sears catalogue. When Foote was 20, he left his home in Vancouver, Canada to explore Australia and New Zealand. He made his living as a street performer and songster. Norman first developed an interest in puppetry and physical comedy through his association with a traveling theatre troupe in New South Wales, Australia. Enthralled with music, props and comedy, Norman chose the only feasible solution—to combine all three. It has taken him throughout the world, where he has performed in concert halls and at festivals in North America, Germany, Ireland, Japan and the Middle East.
“I never set out to be a children’s entertainer. At 21, someone asked me to do some music for a puppet show. After I did the music, they asked me if I wanted to be in the puppet show. That’s how I got into being a children’s entertainer. But I look for material that works both for children and adults. I was playing with bands in bars and hotels until my early 30s, I just decided I didn’t want to do that anymore and began to really focus on children’s entertainment. My first children’s recording (on a cassette) was at age 34. It got a very good review in the Entertainment Weekly magazine and, one year later, I signed a seven-year contract to write for Disney.”
Foote has been nominated for four Juno Awards for Best Children’s Album in 1990, 1993 and 2001. He won in 2010. He has written for Walt Disney Records, Shari Lewis, CBC’s syndicated TV show Scoop and Doozie, KOBA’s production of Nelvana’s Little Bear Live and Backyardigans Live. Foote’s music has been called exuberant, good-natured and fun with refined mannerisms. When asked about the old adage “don’t perform with children or animals—they will upstage you,” Foote said that’s what makes the show work.
“Going with the unpredictable and being spontaneous. I’ve learned to work a crowd. The shows are very interactive.”
A question about the biggest challenge of being a children’s entertainer actually brought out much of his love for the entertainment career he has pursued his whole life.
“You have to take everything seriously, including what you put into each and every show. Another challenge is finding new material that works for me and for the audience. Kids want to meet you after the show. You can’t be in a rush. I have a lot of gratitude for what I have been able to do in my life, including gratitude for places like the Yukon Arts Centre arranging this show.”
Foote has performed at the Yukon Arts Centre on two previous occasions. The Yukon must have made an impression on him, as he recorded the song “Chasing the Dream,” which is an ode to the mighty sternwheelers of the early settlers and the gold rush. The YouTube video for the song features very interesting historical footage of the Yukon and is worth watching. Foote explained how much the kids are a part of the show.
“It is the friendly side of Halloween with kids getting all dressed up. It is the show I do with large choirs, but adapted to a Halloween theme. I call it the scariest choir in town where zombies sing with angels. There can be 150 to 200 kids in the choir!”
Foote will be in Whitehorse three days prior to the Oct. 10 concert for rehearsals at the schools with the children who will be in the choir, but the kids in the choir will not know everything that will be in the show in advance.
For tickets or more information contact the Yukon Arts Centre.