The Wiggles. Oh Lord, why? Four Australian men (Greg Page, Anthony Field, Jeff Fatt and Murray Cook) who sing a song entitled "Yummy Yummy" while dressed in brightly-colored T-shirts known as "skivvies," the Wiggles pal around with Dorothy the Dinosaur and a guy named Captain Feathersword. On the surface there is much here to confuse the cynical, childless man about town. Barney we despised instantly and with gusto. The Teletubbies we tolerated (except for Tinky Winky, who remains a dear friend to this day). The Wiggles we just couldn't quite understand. What was the appeal? Why do two out of five Australian children either own Wiggles paraphernalia or attend Wiggles concerts? Why has John Fogerty, the songwriting genius of Creedence Clearwater Revival, stepped forward as a fan of the Wiggles? (Fogerty, in fact, may be the unofficial "fifth Wiggle," as he appears in the soon-to-be-released Wiggles home video/album, Santa's Rockin'.) What do the Wiggles have, and why do children want it? And is it dangerous for parental consumption? (Remember, Barney was linked to the late-'80s spike in both the American divorce rate and the sale of Rod McKuen's books.)
Hours of Wiggles-watching leads one to believe that what the Wiggles have is a Fred Rogers-like respect for the intelligence of children. Sure, their songs are goofy ("Monkey Dance," though, could be a No. 1 hit with the right remixer), but so are kids. The Wiggles indulge in silly hijinks, but they also believe their American audience is smart enough to follow their Australian-slang-rich dialogue. That's a subtle distinction, but kids pick up on it, and they always know when someone's dumbing it down for them.
And this may be the crunchy-munchy honey cakes talking, but parents, the music ain't that bad. Rather than rehashing nursery rhymes, the Wiggles write their own material, and they come from a pretty decent rock background (Fatt and Field were both in Australian rock band the Cockroaches). The Wiggles may not be Black Sabbath, but they're not "I Love You, You Love Me" either. Go to either the 3 or 6:30 p.m. "Wiggles in Concert" show at Savvis Center (14th and Clark streets; 314-241-1888; $15 to $25), and you may actually find yourself humming when you leave. You'll definitely get a hug. -- Paul Friswold
Rock Me, Wien
The city, not the band
Let St. Louis Shakespeare transport you to lovely Vienna -- but this time it's the eighteenth century, and you'll be watching Amadeus instead of Measure for Measure. That's right, just because the theater company has "Shakespeare" in its title doesn't mean all of its productions have to be written by that wily English playwright. Amadeus by Peter Shaffer (another wily English playwright) runs from Friday, August 6, through Sunday, August 15, at the Grandel Theatre (3610 Grandel Square; 314-361-5664). Will Antonio Salieri or Mozart be the last composer standing in this funny play's life-and-death struggle? To find out, purchase tickets through MetroTix at www.metrotix.com or 314-534-1111 (tickets cost $20 to $22; times vary). For more information on the show, check out www.stlshakespeare.org. -- Amy Helms
You may not think that the southern L-shape state and the isolated youngest state have much in common. Sure, they're both warm and part of the same union, but little else seems to join them -- until now. Little ol' Hazelwood is bringing these two places together at last for its first Louisiana Luau. Visit White Birch Park (1186 Teson Road; 314-839-5575) at 6 p.m. to witness the historic union and eat the free Hawaii-jun food. The Hawaiian Polynesian Revue performs and brings Charles "Alaifipo" Key. And the local Cajun band Gumbohead answers back with a little bayou fire of their own. With all this eatin' and listenin' (and fire), this party's sure to be a hot time -- maybe you'll get leied. -- Alison Sieloff
Some folks hate war; some don't necessarily like it, but they have a bloody knack for it. Ulysses Simpson Grant, a somewhat hapless civilian prior to 1861, was one of the latter. War saved him from a life of failure and catapulted him to the presidency and the $50 bill. Head to south county to the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site (7400 Grant Road) Friday through Sunday night (August 6 to 8) for a lantern-lit "night walk" with Mr. and Mrs. Grant. As you stroll the grounds of the site, costumed park rangers and volunteers portraying Civil War figures will relate the story of the brilliant, alcoholic general and his wife, Julia. Plan to arrive by 7 p.m. Tickets are free, but reservations (available by calling 314-842-3298) are required. -- Alex Weir