Cartoon characters are like vampires: They have the unique ability to live forever and never age. In reality, Alvin, Simon and Theodore would in their 60s by now, but the forever-young trio has just been reintroduced on a new animated series for Nickelodeon, has a fourth film due in December, and made its live musical debut in October.
“Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Musical” makes its Charlotte premier Monday at Belk Theater.
Considering that – unlike Chip and Dale – these famous Chipmunks sing, it’s a wonder it took this long for a Broadway-style musical tour.
“The success of the brand has been around for so long,” says producer Stephen Shaw, whose team helmed the “Yo Gabba Gabba” tour.
Because of that longevity, the Chipmunks appeal to a wide audience.
“Growing up, I remember I had the record we used to play at Christmas. My parents knew Alvin and the Chipmunks. My daughter’s gone to see the movies. This is such a cross-generational brand,” he says.
While each generation remembers its own version of the Chipmunks and which songs the group sang – from “Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up (to be Chipmunks)” to “Christmas Don’t Be Late” to the Chipette’s “Single Ladies” – Shaw wanted to keep its latest incarnation current.
“It has all the pop songs of today mixed with a few old classics,” Shaw says of versions of songs by Carly Rae Jepsen and One Direction. “We started with a wide range, spanning multi-generations, but when we got down to it, it was important to have music that kids are listening to and could relate to. We were correct. In our first few performances we noticed kids singing along and loving the music and running up to the stage.”
Part of keeping it current is utilizing the latest technology and pacing the stage show in an engaging way kids are used to.
“The most important part was to have a great production value. A lot of kids tours don’t have the highest production value. It’s sometimes not really needed, but we wanted it to be the best it could be,” Shaw explains. “We spent a lot of time researching the best costumes. Their eyes and hands move, and they have animatronic heads.”
In the musical, the Chipmunks are on tour, so the set is digital in order to change locations quickly. The technology helped the writers find a direction for the story.
“The video screen changes with the set,” says Shaw of the 3D high-definition video wall. “That allowed us to be versatile with our script writing. Being so versatile with the technology, they can be in a Texas cowboy venue, in Las Vegas, and having warmup shows. Having a video wall allowed us to bounce around from city to city.”
In the ever-expanding entertainment landscape where kids are accustomed to media coming at them from all sides, the show had to retain that kind of pace.
“It has to be fast-paced and keep them engaged, and that’s a tall order,” concludes Shaw. “We’ve done just that. It’s visually beautiful and it’s a funny script.”
‘Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Musical’
When: 7 p.m. Monday.
Where: Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St.
Details: 704-372-1000; www.blumenthalarts.org.