America's first astronaut was a 37-pound chimpanzee named Ham who blasted into space in 1961. Eight years later, Neil Armstrong stepped off his spacecraft and planted a footprint on the moon.
Those were heady times. A New York-based theater group has captured them in a fast-paced musical revue that plays in Ventura on Friday at Buena High School.
Geared for children 7 and older, the show wittily chronicles America's space program, culminating with Armstrong's historic lunar walk.
"It's a nifty show, good for kids and adults. It's humorous and patriotic," said Charlie Hull, managing director of Theatreworks USA, a 30-year-old theater group for young audiences.
The show starts off with the launch of the Soviet Union's Sputnik 1. It was the first artificial satellite to be launched, and the American government was miffed about being trounced in the space race.
Seven astronauts were chosen for Project Mercury, the first phase of America's manned space program. Squeamish about sending a human on its first voyage, space officials sent up Ham. In the show, Ham is depicted by one of the cast members in a chimp suit.
The show makes light of daily living in the space capsule. Eating is a challenge as food floats away under weightless conditions. There is a song about how it feels to float in space, as Edward H. White did outside his Gemini 4 spacecraft in 1965.
The show ends with the lunar landing on July 16, 1969, and Armstrong's famous line, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
"Footprints on the Moon" is now touring the United States and is being produced in Ventura through the sponsorship of Ventura Children's Festival and American Commercial Bank.
Other goings on:
* Kids 8 to 12 can learn the techniques of archeologists and dig for artifacts in a special program offered Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Albinger Archaeological Museum, 113 E. Main St. in Ventura. Cost is $10. Call 658-4726 for information or to register.
* The OK Club for Kids at The Oaks Mall, 222 W. Hillcrest Drive in Thousand Oaks, will feature the puppets, skits and magic of Sunshine and Co. today from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. On March 21, the club offers Easter basket-making, an egg hunt and a visit from the Easter Bunny.
* For kids 6 to 12, a class in Easter basket-making will be offered from 10 a.m. to noon March 23 at the Oxnard Community Center, 800 Hobson Way. The cost is $16, which includes materials. For registration information, call 984-4643.
* WHERE AND WHEN
"Footprints on the Moon," a musical revue about America's space program, will be presented at 7 p.m. Friday at Buena High School, 5670 Telegraph Road. Advance tickets are $3.50 for children and $5.50 for adults, $1 more at the door. Tickets are available at all Ventura elementary schools and at Adventures for Kids in Ventura.