The Flyer recently spoke with Anthony Field, the Blue Wiggle, about the show, Elvis Presley, Greg Pages condition, and being on guard duty with an Uzi machine gun.
by Greg Akers
Flyer: What should audiences expect to see with The Wiggles: Racing to the Rainbow Live?
Anthony Field: Its a brand new show, beautiful, colorful, inflatable sets, lots of beautiful costumes, new songs, and a lot of Wiggly favorites. Lots of dancing and slapstick humor.
How does a show like this come to be? Who writes it, and what level of participation does the group members have in creating it?
We [the Wiggles] write the show ourselves and write the music. The audience members are writers themselves too, as the show progresses, because we go off the script and go where the children want us to go in the show. Sometimes they yell out requests for songs or crazy things like asking you to fall over or do a handstand. [laughs] The show can go anywhere.
Do you enjoy that kind of spontaneity?
Oh, totally. Its never the same show for us. If we go on a tour and do 50 or 60 shows in a month, no show is the same, because you dont know where [the audience is] going to go with it, dont know what theyre going to say. Which really keeps you on your toes.
How much of your year is devoted to touring versus being in the recording studio or taping shows?
We tour about six or seven months a year, either in the States, Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or Asia. The rest is in the studio writing songs and we do TV as well. Then about a month is holiday.
What do you do when youre on holiday?
I live in Sydney on the water, and I go kayak out in the ocean [or] go fishing. I spend time with my family: getting out at the beach, really doing the coastal sort of lifestyle thing.
I read that you work in your wifes café as well.
Well, we just folded because my wifes expecting our third baby. I got married when I was 40, and weve had a baby every year. We had the café, and every year was harder because my poor wife had two children right in the café. Now, with the third one on the way, we just said, thats too much. But, I used to go in after wed toured, Id go help her in the shop, pour coffees and teas like that, which made me realize that thats really working. Working in the café, thats work! [laughs]
Do you get recognized in Australia a lot?
All the time. Weve been on television there for 15 years, and people know us. Theyre a very laid back bunch, so they just say, Hey, here you go, mate. Its really nice.
Describe what its like to tour for six months out of the year all over the world.
Its very hard to be away from your family, thats the only downside of it. The upside is, you get to meet lots of great people all over the world, and you realize that the worlds a big place. But its also not that big, because you can go all over the world and within a day youre on the other side of the world. Its very exciting going to places youve never been to before or even revisiting places. Also, weve got such a great camaraderie, all the Wiggle guys and all the dancers. Weve stuck together for all that time, and were all mates and help each other out. If anyone gets down, you try to help them out. Its a good life, because we surround ourselves with good people.
You have a background in early-childhood education. How does what you learned in college inform what the Wiggles do?
Its the reason we came to be. We wanted to use what wed learned at university for theater for children. Everything we learned at university comes back to us all the time. If something doesnt quite gel with the audience, we analyze it and go back to what we learned at university and say, why didnt the children understand what that was about. Was it aimed too high above their level? In everything we do, we try to be positive and encourage the development of their self-esteem and their cognitive development, all sorts of things we wouldnt have thought about if we hadnt gone to university.
How does having children of your own affect your work?
Ive had two little girls so far, both under three, and it has affected what weve done. Were just filming and recording new material, and I think weve got a bit more ballet in The Wiggles now. Dorothy [the Dinosaur] is getting into tutus and [other] things that Ive seen my little girls get into more.
Name some music in your iPod or CD player that you listen to regularly./p>
I listen to a lot of really old music and a lot of Latin music. Ive got Carlos Gardel, the king of the tango, from Argentina. Of course, Elvis, the Memphis man. A lot of Julio Iglesias, I love Julio, his Spanish stuff is fantastic. Theres a lot of stuff, but not much contemporary. But if you ask Murray for his iPod, he would give you every band youve ever heard of. I love John Fogerty too, so a lot of Fogerty, Creedance, things like that.
What did Elvis music mean to you growing up?
Elvis meant everything to me. I cant believe how talented he was. He had everything: looks, talent. He was so musical, his whole body responded to the music he was making. I loved his arrangements and in the 70s when he had the big band and orchestra as well as 10 or 12 singers behind him, Elvis was the greatest. Its great when we go to Memphis. Weve been to Graceland every time we go there. I love that Graceland is not as big as youd think it would be. The guy was the king of music, and Im he sure he couldve gone to a bigger place. Its a nice place, but he obviously wanted to stay with his roots.
Hows Greg Page doing?
Greg is coping with what hes got. Some days are better than others: Some days he can be walking around and other days he has a hard day. Occasionally I get a text message from him saying, Im going all right today. I think every day is a different day for Greg, hes just learning how to cope with it.
Whats it been like touring without him?
Its been strange, really. You expect him to be in the dressing room, and then hes not there. Its very sad. The other side of it is that Sam [Moran], his replacement, is such a nice guy and has been so good. Hes a friend of Gregs too, and hes got the right attitude, and hes just brilliant. Hes also younger than us, and its injected a sort of youthful exuberance into us. There are two sides to it. One side is, [groans] I miss Greg, and the other side is, Sams been fantastic. Its a strange time for us. The audiences in Australia, when we did a tour with [Sam], they loved him and of course missed Greg at the same time, just like we do.
Tell me about your time as an infantry soldier.
That actually was inspired by Elvis, believe it or not: [the 1960 film] G.I. Blues. Crazily, I thought, its going to be like that. Were going to be on a train singing Frankfort Special. [laughs] But it wasnt like that when I joined the army. I was 19 when I joined. I was in the regular army for three years as a rifleman. I went to Germany before the [Gulf] war came down. I was on guard duty there once with a fully loaded Uzi machine gun, and I was thinking to myself, what the hell am I doing here? [laughs] There were some good things about the army, nice guys in the army. It taught me about discipline, and I still get up really early every morning and get the hair [cut] short.
Tell me about the Cockroaches [his popular 1980s rock band].
They were a great band, a real surf band in Australia. We used to play the east coast of Australia, just up and down at all the surf clubs. That was in my 20s after the army, so it was a real great time to let off steam. The music we did was not too different from what the Wiggles do, but just different lyrics. More about love and things like that, no hot potatoes. But it was good, mate, it was good.
How long do the Wiggles plan on keeping going?
Were still loving it. Its been a new challenge for us, with Sam, to make it all happen. I think thats been good for us, because weve had to really look at ourselves again and say, lets really get into this. I think were rocking. I think were going to be going for a while, because were still enjoying it.
What do you see yourself doing whenever you do retire?
Ill be on my boat or on my kayak, fishing; with my kids and my wife, just taking it easy. Put some sunscreen on and just chill out.
Please tell me, for the sake of my 2-year-old daughter, that theres a regular party where the Wiggles get together with Barney, the Doodlebops, and Dora the Explorer.
Absolutely, we all get together. We dance on stage with the Doodlebops. When we have to go to another place, we ask Dora the Explorer how to get there. When we have to go to another country, we get in the rocket ship with Little Einsteins. [laughs] We have a great time. Sometimes we have to ask Blue for clues, then we end up at Mickeys Clubhouse, and we have a great time singing, Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog. [laughs] Ive got little girls too, so I watch all the shows. [laughs]
The Wiggles: Racing to the Rainbow Live! Saturday, February 24th, 1:30 and 5 p.m. FedExForum. $18-$35. (525-1515)