"Barney" is a magenta-colored dinosaur of rudimentary design, built like an armchair, with googly eyes and the gleaming white smile of a game-show host.
He's the unlikely star of the live-action musical "Barney and the Backyard Gang" video series, a combination of traditional and original interactive music with simple educational storylines.
To adult eyes, a guy in a clumsy dinosaur suit playing cheerleader to a group of kids looks as corny as it sounds, but the fantasy and musical participation have undeniable appeal for preschoolers.
The latest video in the series, "Barney in Concert," is something of a departure. It's a musical stage revue, taped live at the Majestic Theatre in Dallas, performed by Barney, the likable Backyard Gang kids, various puppets and a new character, Baby Bop, a coquettish triceratops.
Barney's incessant "Ho, Ho, Ho" can grate on adult ears, but the songs are catchy and even less familiar songs--"Mr. Knickerbocker" and "Drive the Firetruck"--are easy and tuneful enough to pick up quickly. An especially winsome spot has groups of kids singing the alphabet alternatively English, Hebrew and French.
One quibble: post-show commercials pushing other "Barney" tapes and merchandise.
"Barney in Concert." The Lyons Group. Videocassette: $14.95. Available in local video stores. Information: (800) 527-4747. Running time: 55 minutes. Theater of the Stars: Carol Kane and Howie Mandel will kick off the Los Angeles Children's Theatre's "Stories, Stories & More Stories," a performance series opening Sept. 21 at the Pasadena Playhouse, featuring two celebrities each weekend narrating fairy tales for ages 4 to 10.
John Ritter, JoBeth Williams, Marilu Henner, Brooke Adams and John Glover are among the stars scheduled to appear, said Patricia Gaul, LACT artistic director. "We're happy to have all these terrific people contribute their wonderful talents to make it possible," she said, adding that she's "waiting to hear back" from other stars. Taking a leaf from "Love Letters," the long-running celebrity-driven show that closed recently at the Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills, "Jack and the Beanstalk" and "Thumbelina" will be presented by a different celebrity duo each week until the end of the year. "Then, hopefully, if it's been a success," Gaul said, "in January we'll change stories."
Directed by Tony Abatemarco, the shows will run Saturdays at 2 p.m. and Sundays at 11 a.m. Tickets will be $10 for children age 12 and under, and $15 for adults. Available Monday through Ticketmaster and the Pasadena Playhouse box office, (818) 356-PLAY.
Monkee Business: Hey, hey, it's Micky Dolenz and his new children's lullaby album, "Micky Dolenz Puts You to Sleep." The former Monkee is the first children's recording artist to be signed by Kid Rhino, Rhino Records' new children's division. Dolenz's album, set for an October release, will feature soothing sounds from the '60s and '70s, such as the Beatles' "Fool on the Hill," Neil Young's "Sugar Mountain" and Harry Nilsson's "Moon Beam."