Kids go wild for 'Wild Kratts Live'

Marie Havenga • May 8, 2019 at 2:00 PM

GRAND RAPIDS – It's a powerful and energetic blend, when education meets fun.

Kids went wild for the live version of the popular “Wild Kratts” PBS science/education/ecology education show Monday night at DeVos Performance Hall.

Many Lakeshore residents were in attendance in the packed crowd.

“Wild Kratts Live 2.0” featured brothers Chris and Martin Kratt, who founded the show nine years ago, bounding through a two-hour on-stage animal adventure to the squeals, cheers and yells from the predominantly under-age-10 crowd.

The show opened with animation and the hip-beat theme tune of the PBS television series. Kids — and their parents — sang and clapped along, then cheered wildly as the Kratt brothers hit the stage in their customary cartoon costumes – Chris in green and Martin in blue.

They launched with their infamous “creature power” lesson, showing cheetah videos on the big screen.

The audience learned that cheetahs reach top speeds of 70 mph, and when a cheetah calls her cubs, she sounds exactly like a bird chirping so the cheetah family won't be detected by other animals.

After a bit of a slapstick comedy routine, with the brothers bumping into each other, falling, and losing a boot in the grass, the stage is set for the show's “miniaturizer.”

The brothers became wee ones in a world of tall prop weeds, grasses and an over-sized boot. This scene made up the bulk of the show, with the brothers taking turns dressing as such creatures as a praying mantis, rattlesnake and a misfit creature made up of several different animals after a “malfunction.”

Although the show is totally geared toward elementary-age children, adults seemed to laugh along with the skits – especially when rattlesnake Martin took a spill and revealed the wheels underneath his huge snake costume.

Of course, every creature comes with lessons. Rattlesnakes shake their rattle to warn predators to back off.

“If ever you hear a rattlesnake rattle, just back up and give it its space for its safety and for yours,” Chris told the crowd.

The antagonists were many in the skits, some via animation on the big screen and others – the Zachbot robots – rolling across the stage trying to snatch “creature power” discs from Chris and Martin.

The young audience members helped the brothers spot Zachbots, yelling and pointing them out.

Kellan Martin, 6, a Holmes Elementary kindergartener, and his brother Kai, 4, met the brothers after the show.

Kai, who said his favorite skit was “when he turned into a rattlesnake,” donned Wild Kratts gear, including vest and gloves, for the performance, then sang “I love the Wild Kratts” as he waited to meet them.

Kellan, who said his favorite parts of the show were the cheetahs and the “power suits,” said he watches “Wild Kratts” on PBS “pretty much every day. It's really cool to see them. I want to ask them if I can race them.”

Their father, Spring Lake Township resident Brett Martin, said he enjoyed the performance, too.

“It's their favorite show,” Martin said. “They were captivated the whole time. I thought they did a good job bringing the television show to the stage. The costumes were great.”

Dayton Russo, 8, a Peach Plains Elementary second-grader, has watched “Wild Kratts” for a couple of years, according to his mom, Holly.

Dayton said he loved when Martin malfunctioned while in rattlesnake power mode. He also enjoyed the Zachbots.

“It was the best show I've ever seen,” Dayton said.

Russo said as a parent, she appreciated the creative adaptation of the television show.

“It brings animal science to a real life experience that Dayton will always remember,” Russo said.

Audience members weren't the only ones who love the “live” version. Both Chris and Martin Kratt said after the show that they thrive on the energy they feel from the audience during live performances.

“It's really fun,” Martin said. “There's just such a great energy. I love coming out to see all the kids after the show. On the television show, we don't get to see the kids. It was a great crowd here in Grand Rapids.”

The Kratt brothers give about 80 live performances a year, from September through May.

They're currently working on 20 new “Wild Kratt” television episodes, which will include animals such as wolverines, bunny rabbits, hammerhead sharks and river otters.

When asked about his favorite animal, Martin said “it's now the jackrabbit. It always changes, because it's usually the episode I'm currently working on.”

Chris said it's “exciting” to do the live shows.

“It's great to meet the kids after the show and find out how much they learned,” Chris said.

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