SURREY – It’s not quite The Partridge Family, but John Donnelly’s latest musical adventure echoes the family band of the ’70s TV sitcom.
This is a big week for Rockin’ Robin the Magical Tree, which released its debut album, Let’s Go, on Tuesday (May 19) and launches a summer tour at a pair of Surrey venues, including this weekend’s Surrey International Children’s Festival (Saturday, May 23, 10:30 a.m. on the community stage).
The music project was created by Donnelly, whose John Donnelly Associates company stages large-scale events, including Surrey’s Canada Day event, Fusion Festival and Party for the Planet, in association with the city.
"It’s a great new adventure for us and it’s really brought our family together," Donnelly told the Now.
"I have three kids and all are involved," he added. "My oldest boy, Jordan, helped build the set and played guitar on some of the tracks. My daughter Naomi is the lead performer (Robin Redcoat), my son Terence is a puppeteer and voice actor and my wife Joy (Dorras) is also a puppeteer. So when we go off and do the show, it’s the whole gang loading up the truck and away we go."
Before he got into the eventproduction biz during Expo 86, Donnelly played bass and sang with Queen City Kids, notable for Can-rock hits "Down Again" and "Dance" in the early days of that decade.
Completely different is Rockin’ Robin The Magical Tree, a multi-media show that stars Robin Redcoat and a cast of comical, singing birds – namely, Little Red, Dorothy Dodo Bird, Bazza B., Marty Macaw and the Blackbird brothers, Skinny and Dippy. The live show, with its ear-worm songs and animated videos, is designed for kids in that kindergarten-to-Grade 2 age range, pretty much.
With the backing of Kidswerk Music, the children’s music imprint of Nettwerk Music Group, the plan is to take the Rockin’ Robin show on a tour of Canada and the U.S. this fall.
On Wednesday (May 20), the Rockin’ Robin set was brought to Central City
Shopping Centre for the opening of the mall’s new Play Central playground, located next the Winners store.
"It’s been wonderful putting this together for the past couple of years," Donnelly said, "and really, this whole project has come up because of my relationship with Surrey, producing Canada Day and Fusion and the all the other festivals there. I just saw a real need in the market for family entertainment that’s fun and entertaining and raised the production value a little bit."
Donnelly said he’s thrilled to be playing music again, this time with his family.
"Expo was my kind of transition," he recalled. "They asked me to be the entertainment manager for the Saskatchewan pavilion. At that point, it became pretty impossible to go back to being just a bass player because I’d discovered a whole new world of producing shows, so I’ve followed that path for a long time. And now that this has come around, I’ve built a studio in my office and I take my bass to work. It’s a lot of fun."
Three-day festival kicks off today at Bear Creek Park
Seven ticketed shows headline this year’s edition of Surrey International Children’s Festival, which gets going today (Thursday, May 21) at Bear Creek Park.
"Art is everywhere!" is the theme for the three-day event.
Vietnam’s Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre will bring music and fire-breathing puppets to a water stage at the 11th annual festival, which also features husband-wife duo The Street Circus (from Manitoba) and a version of Peter and the Wolf
from Iceland’s Figura Theatre. Other ticketed shows are the band Bon DÃ©barras, storyteller David Bouchard, music-dance act Music with Marnie and mime Trent Arterberry in The Secret Life of Walter Manny.
Access to the festival site is free, along with some activities. Admission prices range from $5 for a three-day arts activity wristband to $36 for a family pack of four tickets. For more details, visit Surrey.ca/childrensfestival or call 604-501-5566.