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In Search of a Growl

It was just supposed to be a great big party.

All the animals in the rainforest were going to the Animal Carnivale at the Great Pyramid. There was to be singing, dancing and much revelry. But then the Bobo monkeys showed up. Ah, yes, the Bobo monkeys--always making trouble.

This is the starting point for the live show Go, Diego, Go Live! The Great Jaguar Rescue, coming to the Tucson Convention Center Music Hall for three days.

The live show is an adaptation of the incredibly popular Nick Jr. kids' TV show Go, Diego, Go!, a bilingual show for preschoolers about Diego, a young explorer who rescues animals that have wandered into trouble in the rainforest.

Go, Diego, Go! is a spin-off of Dora the Explorer, which first aired in 1999. Dora was so much fun that Nickelodeon made a second show starring her 8-year-old cousin, Diego.

Just as it's Dora's job to teach kids basic Spanish as well as counting, colors and the like, it's Diego's job to teach them Spanish as well as facts about endangered animals and their habitats.

On the TV show, Diego needs help from the kids at home to find lost and imperiled baby animals in the rainforest. His task for the live show is to recapture the growl of Baby Jaguar, his best friend. You see, without his growl, Baby Jaguar can't start the Carnivale.

Stay with me here--this is a kids' show, after all. Oh, by the way, Diego can talk to the animals, so some suspension of disbelief is required.

Just like Dora the Explorer has a playful nemesis in the form of Swiper--a fox who wears blue gloves and, well, swipes things--the Bobos are always mucking up Diego's animal-saving missions. Usually, the pair of spider monkeys are just mischievous, harassing Diego in his adventures in a harmless, albeit pesky way. They are monkeys, after all; getting into trouble is what they do best. But this time, they've really done it--and they've done it on purpose, too.

With the help of a secret magic potion, they made off with Baby Jaguar's growl, halting plans for the Animal Carnivale. And now it's up to Diego to track the monkeys down and get it back--with the help of the kids in the audience, of course.

It's lots of fun, said Cedric Leiba, who plays Diego in the live show. But it's also about bringing a little bit of Latino culture--and a little bit of Spanish--to kids.

"Being a Hispanic actor, I love the fact that I'm able to play a Hispanic person on stage, which is something we don't always get a chance to do," Leiba said. "And I also get to share the Latino culture with them. It's really cool. They get to count in Spanish, then there's the music and the dancing, too."

The show is touring in 50 cities, and Leiba, who has also appeared in Rent and Miss Saigon, says that getting the kids in the audience involved makes them feel like they are a part of the show--and each kid in the audience gets a baby jaguar mask, too.

The kids help Diego navigate his way through the rainforest, across rivers and through a giant waterfall, all the while singing and dancing their way toward the Bobo brothers. In addition to familiar songs from the TV show, the live production has 12 new songs for kids to sing along.

Diego also gets some help from his big sister, Alicia, a whiz kid who uses super-high-tech detection devices on her computer to help track down the lost animals. And, of course, Dora steps up to help her cousin retrieve Baby Jaguar's growl, too. It's a big job for an 8-year-old boy, even if he does come from a long line of explorers.

Go, Diego, Go Live! The Great Jaguar Rescue runs Tuesday, Aug. 14, through Thursday, Aug. 16, at the Tucson Convention Center Music Hall at 260 S. Church Ave. Show times are at 6:30 p.m. each day, with a matinee at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday. Tickets are $18 to $38 and are available through the TCC ticket office or through Ticketmaster at 321-1000 or ticketmaster.com. Lap tickets for babies younger than 1 year old are available for $5 each. For more information, call 903-BWAY or visit broadwayintucson.com.

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