Those Who Can't Do, Rock

There can be remarkably few Americans born between 1960 and 1980 for whom phrases like "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your adverbs here" or "Conjunction Junction, what's your function?" won't evoke instant sense-memories of Saturday-morning cold cereal. Ask a kid from the same demographic to recite the Preamble to the Constitution, and chances are he or she will be able to do that, too, albeit only to a catchy little tune. And if Gen X kids--or their parents, for that matter--know anything about the legislative process, it's a good bet they learned most of it from the great Jack Sheldon's rendition of "I'm Just a Bill."

The reason? Schoolhouse Rock, the little three-and-a-half-minute animated films which ran between ABC kids' shows for about a decade, starting in 1972 (the series won Emmys in 1976 and 1980). Each short was accompanied by a jazzy song which insistently drilled some fundamental lesson into your head and saw to it that it stayed there for keeps: A noun is a person, place or thing; interjections show excitement or emotion; I do my thing in action . . . VERB! That's what's happenin'.

Since, as the Brady Bunch and Lost in Space movies demonstrate, all the empty-headed crap we watched in those days appears to be fated for classy revival, it's only right that this also be the case for this small triumph of educational TV. Childsplay's Schoolhouse Rock Live!, now in its second run at the Herberger, strings the show's tunes along a narrative in which a teacher, Mr. Morton, anxiously prepares for his first day before a classroom. The songs--22 in all--rise up out of Mr. Morton's subconscious, showing him what a powerful teaching tool music can be.

Four of the six cast members of Schoolhouse Rock Live! are also appearing in Still Life With Iris, which runs concurrently (see Saturday). Says Childsplay's Gray Bacal: "It's like the Suns finishing up a basketball game, and Colangelo tellin' them to go play baseball the same day."

--M. V. Moorhead

Schoolhouse Rock Live! will be performed at 2 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday, April 12, in Stage West at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe. Tickets are $17.50 for adults, $12.50 for students and seniors. The run continues through Sunday, April 19. 252-8497, 350-8101.