‘Play School’ has been an Australian television institution since 1966, making it the second longest running children’s television program in the English-speaking world still in production.
Since the mid-1970’s, ‘Play School’ concert tours have been travelling around the country entertaining over 100,000 people annually and now it’s Penrith’s turn to ‘open wide and come inside’ to the wonderful world of ‘Play School’.
‘Play School’ presenter, Teo Gebert, will be bringing his friends Humpty, Jemima, Big Ted and Little Ted to the EVAN Theatre, Penrith Panthers for a fun concert that will have ‘Play School’ fans singing, dancing and jumping for joy.
“The concert will centre around a play called ‘Big Ted – Prince of Bears’ and it’s basically a journey of him looking for a royal castle,” Teo said.
“Along the way he meets all of the regular characters from ‘Play School’ like Humpty, Jemima and Little Ted and we go through different settings like a farm, a forest and a river.
“We also tell the kids a popular story called Old Mother Hubbard and Her Dog and all the way through there’s lots of song, dance and fun.”
The ‘Play School’ live shows have been specially designed to delight pre-schoolers and parents alike. Teo said the live concert experience would have all the elements we’ve come to know and love from the famous television show.
“The concert will feature all the games, songs and characters from the show and will be a very energetic and fun experience for the kids that come along,” he said.
As with the television program, everything in the concert is carefully paced especially for children. There are songs to move to, as well as quiet times to just watch and listen.
Teo said there would be plenty of interaction between the two presenters on stage and the kids in the audience.
“Before and after every song we invite the kids to join in with us,” he said.
“Most songs have actions that are well-known, so we get them up to do that with us. We talk to them and get their opinion on what’s happening and we also like to throw in a few jokes to the parents, grandparents and guardians who also come along.”
‘Play School’ has been a television institution for more than 46 years on the ABC Network. An estimated 80 per cent of pre-school children under six watch the program at least once a week.
Teo believes the show has been such a success because of the simple educational elements presented.
“I think it’s because of its simplicity and the way it gives children permission to imagine,” he said.
“It also teaches such valuable skills. I have a three-year-old boy named Charlie and he started watching it at nine months. It’s interesting to actually see what sort of effect the show has on your own child. It’s so great for coordination, for language, for imagination. ‘Play School’ is a great aid for children’s development psychologically, physically and mentally. I feel privileged and honoured to be giving back by doing the show.”
Over the years, ‘Play School’ has won many television and music awards – most notably when the show was inducted into the Logies Hall of Fame in 2006.
Along the way, many well-known Australian actors and musicians have had a go at presenting the ABC program, including Christine Anu, Alex Papps, Georgie Parker, Brooke Satchwell, Hugh Sheridan, Abi Tucker, Jay Laga’aia, John Jarrett and Noni Hazlehurst, just to name a few.
Teo said he remembers watching, learning and laughing along with former cast members when he was a kid.
“I loved John Hamblin (presenter from 1970 – 1999), who was the naughty blonde man, who I’ve had the great honour to meet at all these ‘Play School’ birthday get-togethers over the years,” he laughs.
“John’s a very naughty man and I think that’s what I loved about him then. He was the highlight for me because there was such a naughtiness and fun about him when he was playing and, for me, the show’s all about play and imagination.”
Teo admits while the show looks like a fun set to work on, it is actually one of the hardest acting jobs he’s ever had to do.
“As an actor the show’s about me being allowed to be silly, vulnerable, honest and real, which is not an easy thing to do,” he said.
“As actors we are taught not to look down the barrel of the camera and to look at the other actors. At ‘Play School’ we have to pretend you’re talking to a child at the other end of the camera. It’s not an easy gig but it’s a great skill set you learn.”
Teo had been working as an actor for various Australian productions including ‘Underbelly’ and ‘Home and Away’ for the last 20 years until one day eight years ago he got the call to audition for ‘Play School’.
“At first it wasn’t something I’d thought about (being on ‘Play School’) but I’d always had great respect and awe for it because all the best actors had done it,” Teo said.
“So I did the auditions and got the job. As time went by it dawned on me what an honour it was to be a part of ‘Play School’ but also what a tough but rewarding job it is.”
Catch ‘Play School’ live when it hits the EVAN Theatre at Penrith Panthers on Thursday, July 5 for two shows at 10am and 12pm. Tickets are $16 each. To book or for more information call 1800 061 991 or visit www.penrith.panthers.com.au.