The Fresh Beat Band invades Abravanel Hall on Monday, Nov. 5
Despite kid-friendly programs such as "Here Comes Santa Claus!" and "El SalÃ³n MÃ©xico," Abravanel Hall doesn't usually attract the preschool demographic. After all, those Utah Symphony productions are recommended for those 6 and older.
But many Utah moppets younger than 6 will enter Abravanel Hall for the first time on Monday, and it won't be to hear "Flight of the Bumblebee" or "Peter and the Wolf."
The kids will be there to cheer for The Fresh Beat Band, stars of the Nickelodeon hit TV show and popular preschool music group.
The Fresh Beat Band features Kiki (Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer), Shout (Thomas Hobson), Marina (Tara Perry) and Twist (Jon Beavers) performing kid-friendly, original pop hits from three seasons of the live-action show that teaches preschoolers about music appreciation and problem-solving. The show is remarkably successful at attempting to be at least as entertaining as the box your TV set came in.
Besides being the first concert for many preschoolers, it will be their first time to undergo the fan frenzy that their older siblings exhibit for Justin Bieber and Victoria Justice. (Or, perhaps the younguns might be whipped up into a frenzy because they just need more Cheerios.)
"Kids will run up to me and jump into my arms," said Beavers, 28, who in his first major TV role plays the band's DJ, and also sings and beatboxes. When kids recognize him out in public and offstage, he likens the experience to what he would have done when he was 5 years old if he had seen the sweater-wearing Mister Rogers in person.
Band member Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, who portrays Kiki, the singing violinist, has a long list of TV credits that includes guest stints on "Guiding Light," "Boston Public" and "7th Heaven." Born and raised in a Spanish-speaking family in Miami, Gonzalez-Nacer (who politely declined to state her age) attended the University of Miami on an opera scholarship.
The audition to be a founding member of The Fresh Beat Band was "one of the most interesting." "I had to play the piano, guitar, violin and sing," she said. "I was the last Kiki standing."
The bubbly actor relishes the role. "I'm most comfortable onstage," she said. To win over kids with limited attention spans, she said she always works to interact with the audience. "People learn better when it's fun, and you present information in a way that is fun."
Beavers grew up in Iowa, with his parents moving to raise their children in a more welcoming environment than dog-eat-dog Los Angeles. "It was ironic that I ended up in Los Angeles," he said. "It was the very thing they kept me away from."
When Beavers heard about the auditions for an as-yet-unnamed children's TV show, he was skeptical about his chances. "I don't have a million-dollar voice," he admitted.
But producers were looking for singers who could also dance (the latter is his specialty), and before his audition his manager's assistant told him to try the unexpected: Go and rap your heart out. He beatboxed for the producers and ended up landing the role.
His key to entertaining preschoolers is to not dumb down the material. "Kids react to genuine emotion," he said. "It's all about finding genuine excitement. There's a real enthusiasm about the simpler things, like dandelions growing after the rain."
On the day of the phone interview, Beavers was enjoying a rare day off in Minnesota. He planned on checking out the Mall of America, but to avoid causing a scene among the preschool set, he planned to disguise himself by pulling his cap down low.
The Fresh Beat BandWhen • Monday, Nov. 5, 5:30 p.m.Where • Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake CityTickets • $27.50-$39.50 at ArtTix.org; all-ages event.