Wigglemania has got to grips with New Zealand. Since announcing a nationwide tour here last week, brightly dressed Australian children’s entertainers have seen demand soar, and parents are in desperate need of tickets, twice as much.
Sunday they added an extra event. A publicist told me that he had never seen anything like it.
“I don’t know if we expected that to happen,” said Emma Watkins, aka Emma Wiggle aka The Yellow Wiggle, by phone from Wiggles HQ in Sydney.
“We’ve sold so many tickets in pre-sale, I’m joking with people: ‘Why don’t we add another week at the end? Just go back and do each city again so nobody gets left behind.’ We’ll try and squeeze out as many shows as possible. To be honest we’re very excited. We love New Zealand and are really looking forward to coming. “
This isn’t just lip service. The troupe usually travels across the country every year and have been planning tours this year until Covid cancels their plans. Furthermore, they have only played three shows this past year. These are challenging times, says Watkins, because they typically spend 80 percent of the year on the road. When things improve again next year, he says we will be the first taxi as far as their tour goes.
“This is a real moment for us to find ways to stay connected to children and families abroad,” he said.
“This gives us time to reflect on how we do things and how we see the business going forward.”
With the group unable to tour, he formed the “Wiggle bubble” with fellow Wiggles Anthony Field, Simon Pryce, Lachlan “Lachy” Gillespie’s ex-husband and their camera operator and began creating as much new content as possible in their studio.
“At first it was quite calm and very calm,” he said. That changed when worried parents from around the world began contacting them for advice or support in explaining social distancing rules to their children.
“They were like, ‘please!’,” She laughed, before becoming more serious. “But at that time even we, as adults, didn’t really understand what that phrase meant either. You can’t really tell the kids, ‘Oh, stand 1.5 meters from each other.’ very confusing concept. “
So they sit down and write “Social Distancing”, a jingling joke that explains concepts like washing hands, keeping their distance and why kids can’t visit their Nan in a kid-friendly and accessible way.
“It’s a very different song landscape for us. It’s just the four of us here and the song reconnects us with so many people around the world. It’s amazing.”
She says when they sit down to write a new song, they aim to capture the same joy preschoolers experience in the world naturally.
“It really encapsulates positivity and drive around a particular subject or concept and makes it really fun and a good fit for them.”
Then he laughed, adding, “and hopefully make music the parents can bear”.
If you’re confused by the cryptic title of the upcoming tour, We’re All Fruit Salad, Watkins says it will all become clear in January, when they release a song of the same name.
“Lyrics [explain] that we, as humans, are all fruit salad in the same bowl, “he said.” It seems like everyone in the world is a different fruit but basically we are all part of a one fruit salad. “
To that end, the song is filled with global cameos, including Robert Rakete of Aotearoa singing in Māori on the track.
His tour is in March and Watkins hopes the Covid restrictions will ease. But if not, he says The Wiggles is determined the show will continue.
“We’re just laid back Australians,” he laughed. “If we have to quarantine it when we get there then of course we will.”
As needed, The Wiggles is immaculately clean, but everyone has their own vices. With only time for one last question before Watkins left, I asked what his representative was.
“Oh, chocolate is mine and it doesn’t taste good,” he said enthusiastically. “It’s all chocolate. I don’t drink either, so I always order tea and enjoy chocolate. Chocolate … this is really bad. Lachy, he’s obsessed with cake.”
“The problem with New Zealand,” he said grimly, “have you got really good chocolate and really good cakes that we’ll be a little confused!”
• Wiggles Tour of New Zealand in March. For tour dates, visit livenation.co.nz.