The comfort and joy of Fred Penner

Adults of all ages will be thrilled to hear that Nakai Theatre is bringing Fred Penner to Whitehorse.

Sadly, many children today haven’t had the thrill of waiting for that magical moment when Penner would crawl through the hollow log and into a clearing in the bush … an extension of their living rooms.

Fred Penner’s Place was a respectful zone of great music, crafts and chuckles that children and their parents could enjoy.

CBC ran the show from 1985 to 1997 so, unless children here have his many CDs or have seen his stage show before, they don’t know what to expect.

Penner knows this: “Now people are coming to my concerts to let their children experience what they had.

“It was an atmosphere that was relaxed and positive and fun.”

He emulates that comfort on stage by adding some banners and some props to fill it with colour.

“It is very much a process,” he says over the phone from his Winnipeg home, where it was 40 degrees colder than it was here that day.

“You come in not knowing what to expect and, after an hour and a half, you have gone on a musical journey.

“We launch into a wide variety of song and interaction with the whole family.”

The whole family.

Penner is all about getting parents and children participating together … perhaps re-learning how to.

“It is critical to do things with your children, and we get wrapped up in the ‘busy-ness’ of our lives and we forget how to interact with our children.

“I’ve been to some places where parents shove the kids up to the front and that’s not what I want.”

Penner remembers being in Whitehorse before and he remembers “a wonderful interaction”.

Although he has a degree in economics and psychology, Penner has devoted his entire career to children’s entertainment – and with no regrets.

“It is the most important work in the world,” he says. “Children are like sponges. If you make a connection with the vulnerable spirit of a child, then you can have a positive effect on the adult’s attitude.

“That is quite a serious philosophy, but I take what I do very seriously. I don’t just sing songs and lacka-lacka and get off the stage.

“I see absolute value and legacy in what I do.

“Interacting with a family is the highest compliment.”

He also got a kick once when he was in a mall. He noticed people ahead of him were giving a wide berth to a tough-looking teenager. When their eyes met, the teenager exclaimed, “Penner, I gotta give you a hug!”

“How wonderful is that?” Penner asks.

“In public, no matter where I am, I can hear the whisper … little connections.

“What is really delightful is when people come to me and offer their story, something they have gone through, and if I was involved.”

Fred Penner will be performing Sunday, Feb. 1, at 1 p.m., at Whitehorse Elementary School as part of the Nakai For Kids Festival. The show is called Fred Penner and the Pandemonium Party! because there will be snacks, drinks, games and face painting before the show.

He will be on stage with Paul O’Neill, who will be playing guitar and providing a foil for Penner’s humour.

Until then, children and adults can visit, an advertisement-free website that’s fun for children and a resource for adults.

“Fred Penner’s Place” was a relaxing and enjoyable children’s show on CBC from 1985 to 1997. Nakai for Kids Festival brings back the magic with “Fred Penner and the Pandemonium Party” Sunday, Feb. 1, at 1 p.m., at Whitehorse Elementary School.

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