Supporting the September 23 premiere of the iconic music group’s new television series Wiggle Wiggle Wiggle on Corus-owned preschool net Treehouse, Australia’s The Wiggles have kicked off the Canadian leg of their latest Big Show! live world tour—marking the first time the group’s large-scale Big Show! production will be presented in the Great White North.
The 25-city, cross-Canada engagement launches tonight in Halifax, Nova Scotia and will swing through six additional provinces before concluding in Vancouver, British Columbia on November 4. Featuring current members Anthony Field, Lachlan Gillespie, Simon Pryce and Emma Watkins, the live show includes visits from fan-favorite Wiggles friends, special performances by Scottish highland, ballet and Irish dancers, and classic songs like “Hot Potato” and “Get Ready to Wiggle.”
According to The Wiggles’ longtime managing director Paul Field (brother of original member Anthony), the group’s tours continue to be an essential part of the brand. “From a business perspective, the live show experience can be the most profitable thing you do, if you do it right,” Field says. “Touring all of these different cities is the best exposure for your brand. It’s real and exciting and there are so many more opportunities especially if your brand has sponsorships.”
Since the group launched in 1991 with Anthony Field and former members Greg Page, Murray Cook and Jeff Fatt, The Wiggles have performed more than 6,000 shows worldwide and earned 17 gold, 12 platinum, three double-platinum and 10 multi-platinum awards for sales of more than 30 million CDs and DVDs.
In 2016 alone, the group was the number-one selling children’s artist on DVD and the top children’s entertainment live concert attraction, according to GfK charts.
Blue Wiggle Anthony Fields attributes much of the group’s touring success to the spontaneity of the shows and the fact that all of the music is played live. “Our shows are very spontaneous. A child could yell out a song we’ve never done before, but we often give them a go,” he says. “A lot of other live kids shows often have taped segments and the overall shows might not change for long periods of time, whereas our show really does change. We’re not speaking to the children; we’re having an experience with them.”
For Watkins, who joined the group in 2013 as the first-ever female Wiggle, the show’s bigger production scale also gives the group more opportunities to expose kids to new forms of artistic expression. “It’s become more enriched because we’ve been able to explore so many different cultures, dance styles and types of music from rock to opera and classical,” Watkins says.
The inclusive nature of the shows is also strengthened by the fact that Watkins uses sign language for a significant portion of each performance. “When I was growing up, both of my best friend’s brothers were deaf, so I learned to sign and have loved it ever since,” she says. “It’s accepted differently depending on the country, but it’s more accepted in North America because more children learn it in school. This isn’t so much the case in Australia, so we’re doing more signing there to encourage kids to learn the language.”
Along with the benefits of launching a bigger world tour, there are technical and logistical challenges, too. “One of the challenges is when Anthony asks to make it snow on stage or requests more dancers and I have to sort out the budgets,” says the group’s global head of touring, Luke Field (son of Paul). “But the biggest challenge is that we’re Aussie based and we have to air or sea freight everything to Canada or wherever we’re playing. It takes about 10 weeks to sea freight gear to Canada, so there’s months of pre-planning involved. So while we’re still touring in one country another set of gear is being sorted to head overseas.” (Tour legs in New Zealand and the UK and Ireland wrapped in July and August, respectively. Following Canada, the group will head back to Oz for shows in November and December.)
For Paul Field, a large part of sustaining the Wiggles brand further will be determined by the strength of its existing partnerships in North America and opportunities around potential new sponsorships.
“Currently, we have some wonderful partners in Treehouse in Canada and Universal Kids in the US, which will premiere the new series on October 9, but it’s also about getting messages through either for a brand or a product,” he says. “We do this really well in Australia with family-based, pro-social initiatives, so I’m looking forward to these types of opportunities in North America.”
The tour arrives as travelling live shows for preschoolers and their parents are more popular than ever. Two new PAW! Patrol shows produced by VStar Entertainment in partnership with Nickelodeon and Canada’s Spin Master are currently making the rounds across North America, as well as a live, fully-immersive stage show from Round Room Presents based on eOne’s hit preschool property PJ Masks.