Anticipation builds at the Forum. The next day may be a school day, but the eager young audience and a surprising number of parents are obviously unconcerned.

Tonight they're going to rock 'n' roll with a group that made a phenomenal comeback in 1980 with a Gold Record and a Grammy nomination, after not recording an album for 13 years. It's time for loyal fans to party.

Suddenly the curtain opens. Pandemonium. It's really them!

Wait, there are only two. Where's the third member of the trio? Didn't he show? The call goes out.


Hundreds of children giggle and cheer as Alvin Chipmunk races on stage, joining Simon and Theodore.

"Alvin and the Chipmunks and the Magic Camera," a musical extravaganza from New York, has begun, bringing a popular Saturday-morning cartoon to life to the delight of its pint-size audience.

Conceived by Steven Goldberg, Joseph Gannon and Nancy Gregory (the Chipmunks themselves are attributed to creators Ross Bagdasarian and Janice Karman) and written by Fred Smoot and Jay Grossman, the show features familiar music, Chipmunk-style (pre-taped, as is the dialogue), and a weak story line (Magic Camera can zap Chipmunks into any movie, evil Shutterbug steals Magic Camera, Chipmunks get camera back and teach Shutterbug a lesson). Director-choreographer Gregory concentrates on the production numbers, the main attraction.

Backed by an energetic group of young dancers, the Chipmunks perform as Michael Jackson, John Travolta, Dolly Parton and Carmen Miranda (complete with fruit-bowl hat and a troupe of dancing bananas). The spectacle continues with selections from "Footloose," "Flashdance" and "Thriller."

With its everything-but-the-kitchen-sink motif, the Chipmunks land on the moon where lunar creatures parade to the strains of "The Sugar Plum Fairy," then touch down on Earth for a grand finale--a version of the "Ghostbusters" theme, "Bugbusters."

The curtain closes, but the taped music plays on as parents gather their still-excited young charges and wade through peanut shells and empty soft drink containers, hoping to make it safely past the last open concession stand selling Chipmunk posters, banners and buttons and retrieve their cars. During the long ride home, small heads will nod and visions of Shutterbugs and Chipmunks will become the stuff of dreams.

Performances play at the Forum in Inglewood 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. today, 1:30 and 5 p.m. Sunday (480-3232), then at San Diego Sports Arena, Wednesday through March 10.

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