Columbus State brings back 'Dora the Explorer Live'

For the under-5 set, going to a live version of "Dora the Explorer" is like going to a rock concert.

Anyway, that's the comparison Brenda May Ito makes.

She's not wrong: the show features intense audience participation (Dora is easily stumped in her adventuring), special effects (bubbles descend from the catwalk); and a meet-and-greet after the curtain drops.

Ito, a professor of theatre at Columbus State and director of all of its children's shows, is staging "Dora the Explorer Live: Dora's Pirate Adventure!" for the second time in two years.

She said the show — 50 minutes of enthusiastic singing, dancing and talking bridges — tends to bring out the enthusiasm in theatergoers and the cast.

"We're going on an adventure and we want the kids to come with us because we're doing this up on stage, but it's really important that we're making sure they're having a great time, too, and it's an imagination world for them," said Hollis Warren, who plays Boots. "We're creating this world for them."

That's really important, the actors said: you have to be of the world, not above it.

"Something that I think is really important is not talking down to (the kids) and being on their level," said Ellie Styron, who plays one of the pirate piggies. "Like, How are we as actors going to portray these characters without acting like we're talking down to the kids? It's got to be more like we're buddies."

Most of the cast wears giant creature costumes. That goes double for Alan Giles, who plays both Dora's trusty map and backpack.

"With these costumes, I'm really just trying to be as kid-friendly as possible," he said. (The map has arms, as maps normally do not.)

One trick is in the voice: Giles varies his pitch with each character.

Of course, the source material is helpful — almost everyone in the cast did their homework by re-watching episodes of the Nickelodeon cartoon.

On opening morning, they'll find their dedication matched by their audience, who often come in costumes, too.

"They bring their dolls," Ito said. "It's so stinkin' cute."


June 12-14, 17-21 and 24-28 at 10 a.m.; June 29 at 2 p.m.

Riverside Theatre Complex, 6 W. 10th Street

Tickets are $10 (adults) and $5 (kids)