September 22, 2008

VLegit: Gustafer Yellowgold’s Mellow Sensation

By Steven Suskin


“Gustafer Yellowgold’s Mellow Sensation” calls itself a “multimedia concert of live songs, stories and animation.” That description is as good as any for this unclassifiable but entertaining kidshow returning to DR2 for 12 two-performance Saturdays, through early December. The world created by songwriter-illustrator Morgan Taylor is endearing, intelligent and slightly subversive, making a refreshing alternative for the 2- to 8-year-old set and a welcome divertissement for parents and grandparents.

Gustafer Yellowgold is a visitor from the sun, where it’s always hot and there’s only one season. Gustafer, whose favorite color is green, landed somewhere north of St. Cloud, Minn., and set up a little house with his little friend, Slim the eel (short for Slimothy). His other pal is Forest Applecrumbie, a non-flying pterodactyl who is “into fashion.” Together, they munch on pinecones, punch cheese and jump on desserts (which Taylor advises his rapt patrons not to try at home, only when they are visiting other kids).

Production values are minimal; just Taylor, two musicians, and co-producer Rachel Loshak, who sings and operates the animation console. Mr. Yellowgold appears on a large screen center stage; he looks something like a glob of flame, with expressively wide eyes and an impish manner.

Songs are in what might be called ‘70s soft rock, something like the Beatles in their mellower moods. Tunes are set to daffy lyrics filled with child-friendly images, and illustrated -- in the manner of youngster’s picture books -- with fanciful drawings that are slightly animated. Taylor has been developing the material since 2005, and has thus far released two “Gustafer Yellowgold” DVDs.

Taylor is a natural storyteller with the warmth of Raffi. He has an easy way with his young audience, engaging them in conversation and inviting them to eagerly participate from their seats. (At the performance attended, the star was spotted in the lobby just before the show carrying an infant, a freshly-used diaper in hand.) Parents who shudder at the thought of another visit with Barney, the Wiggles, or Disney on Ice are likely to appreciate Taylor’s “Gustafer Yellowgold” almost as much as their kids do.