I have two indelible childhood memories of other people's weddings. There's the one where a distant relative, built like a knackwurst and thoroughly schnockered, fell backward off her barstool, hitting the floor with a huge smack and sending her fake pearls and fruity cocktail skittering and splattering across the tiles. Then there's the fact that every single wedding I attended as a child featured three beer-bellied Krauts or Polacks manning an accordion, tuba and snare drum and playing galumphing polkas and horrid Old World waltzes such as "Blue Lady." As the evening wore on and the cheap champagne took effect, even my oldest, creakiest relatives would shuffle onto the greased dance floor and dance a thumping, heavy-limbed polka.
Honestly, I didn't know you could hire anything but an oompah band at a wedding until I turned 18 and moved far away from my German-Polish Wisconsin homeland.
All of this serves to explain why I am genetically predisposed to appreciate VeggieTales, the children's videos that open with an animated oompah band playing a polka-themed tune and lots of perversely catchy "Silly Songs" that echo in your brain long afterward. The chief creators of VeggieTales are Chicagoans named Vischer and Nawrocki, and their oompah-meister goes by the name Heinecke. They may as well be kinfolk.
Well, I realize that most people don't watch VeggieTales for the slick polka stylings. But for me, that's got to be one of the main attractions of VeggieTales Live!, the traveling stage show that rolls into Dallas on February 5 through February 10. Sure, you'll have the usual legless VeggieTales stars--Larry the Cucumber, Bob the Tomato, a father-and-son asparagus team--encased in enormous inflatable costumes, bouncing around the stage and leading the audience in songs. But it's the polka that gets me and my 2-year-old son, who's allowed to watch one 30-minute VeggieTales video a day as his TV ration. Gotta have that polka, even if it isn't live. (The music for VeggieTales Live! is of the canned variety.)
Originally pitched through ads in Christian parenting magazines, VeggieTales have now become popular way beyond the Christian-values set for their wholesome messages, spiffy animation and bizarre and often very funny sense of humor. The religious content is low-key and inoffensive--love your neighbor, don't spread rumors and so on--and parents appreciate the videos, available these days at Wal-Mart and Target as well as Christian bookstores, because they're more sophisticated than the usual children's fare. (In my household, we have banned Barney and Raffi, a show and a performer so moronic that I'd be ashamed if my son ended up liking them.)
With some 25 million copies of videos sold, a feature film on the way and its first traveling show, you can see why the VeggieTales creators tout their product as the vegetables kids actually like.