The Toe Jam Puppet Band Performs at Bellingham Library
Bulletin Contributing Writer
“Fizz-Boom-READ” was the theme of the library summer reading program this year, and there was a ton of fizz during the Toe Jam Puppet Band presentation at the Bellingham Library. Band members Tom Poitras and Vinny Lovegrove have worked together for 14 years. Experienced performers, they demonstrated how you can have a high-energy program without letting kids get out of control.
They sang silly songs, with Vinny holding red, green, and yellow paddleboards to indicate when the song should stop, go, or slow down, until Tom finally warned, “Vinny, if we go any faster, these kids will explode!”
“Oh, no, they won’t!” Vinny promised, as he leapt back into the liveliness of the song; kids willingly joined right in. As the song ended, the kids settled right down. These experienced performers used subtle and not-so-subtle tools to keep the program moving and set the pace of the program. Throughout the 50-minute performance the entertainers ramped up their audience’s energy, wound them back down, settled the crowd, then moved on to the next part of the program.
The duo had placed a bright orange tape near the front of the community room to provide a visual boundary for the audience. When a small child wandered into the performance area, Vinny called out, “Security!” with a stricken look on his face. A mom quickly popped up and scooped her child back behind the tape. Vinny then confessed, “I’m afraid of kids,” to much laughter, since the opposite was obviously the case. Vinny and Tom clearly relished every moment as they interacted with young and old during their spirited performance.
The two entertainers used the classic straight-man/funny-guy structure from stand-up comedy with Tom, the guitarist, being the straight man, and Vinny as the over-the-top silly guy. The program was filled with sound and sight gags, including a tickle game, in which the children were encouraged to stand next to the grownups who had brought them and tickle them.
L-R: Vinny Lovegrove chats with a willing participant while Gavin
Day and Megan Alley await further instructions for the play they helped to
Their song “Car Wash” offered a vehicle for Vinny to get out a spray bottle and spritz the audience, and the kids went wild. During another part of the program, Vinny had a soap machine that poured out bubbles, which the children scrambled to pop.
Multiple hula hoops gave both children and grownups a chance to get up on stage to try their skill as Tom supplied rhythmic background music for their efforts. During another segment of the show, willing volunteers from the audience came up to help Tom and Vinny enact a “princess in distress” story.
While this was billed as a children’s program, its appeal seemed to be spread equally among the littlest ones all the way to the many parents and grandparents who attended.
This program was funded by the Bellingham Cultural Council and Rockland Trust. For more information about the group, visit www.Toejampuppetband.com.