Norman Foote has spread the joy of music and theatre to millions of inspired youngsters around the world over the past few decades. Now the children's entertainer is returning to White Rock for a performance Friday afternoon (3 p.m. Jan. 4) at Coast Capital Playhouse.
At a young age, Foote's parents instilled the importance of music in him, starting with '60s rock 'n' roll bands like The Beatles. Before he was a teenager, he had his first instrument and his love of the sound blossomed from there.
"My mom always encouraged me to sing and they got me a guitar when I was 11 and I just fell in love with guitar," he said. "I've always been fascinated with the instrument and I've got that great love for music and songwriting."
A trip to Australia in Foote's early 20s introduced him to puppetry as another form of theatrical expression. With the help of a seamstress, Foote designs what he calls "props with attitude" from his imagination and pairs them with his upbeat musical style.
"I'm a big thing on creative recycling," said Foote. "I've built some characters out of old hockey helmets I've picked up at second-hand stores. I always tell everybody you don't need to spend any money to be really creative."
Perhaps his most popular prop is a puppet's head that fits on most people like a helmet. Through a control switch, Foote is able to make the puppet's mouth move to the sound of his voice while the volunteer wearing the head provides other bodily motions.
"That always brings the house down," he said. "It's weird the way it's funny - you can't really explain why some things are funny, but they kind of stumble onto them and keep developing them. I can never go anywhere without that head."
In the world of children's entertainment, Foote is a rather accomplished musician: he recorded his first two albums on the Walt Disney Records label. He's also written the musical numbers for stage productions of Richard Scarry's Busytown and Max and Ruby, the latter of which made it to Broadway.
His last album, 2009's Love My New Shirt, won a JUNO award for Best Children's Album. He'd previously been nominated for the award three times, but it was his last effort that clinched the accolade.
"I'd been to the JUNO Awards sitting with everybody else thinking, 'What would I say if I won?'" he said. "When I did win, I wasn't there, I didn't go that time. I was really over the moon with it."
He's currently recording his as-yet untitled eighth studio album (set for release in March) and he'll preview a few new songs at his White Rock show. He writes about just about anything that kids can relate to.
"I write songs about grandfather clocks, shirts, bears, dogs - really, the sky is the limit," said Foote, providing the title track of his last album as an example. "The thing about 'I Love My New Shirt' is it's not a new shirt at all, I got it at a second-hand store. I always try to find things that have an interesting twist at the end."
Foote tries to make his shows entertaining not just for children, but their parents and grandparents as well. His performances aren't infantile like Barney
"It's hard to find stuff that really will work for kids and parents," he said. "When you do stumble onto something, it's like gold because you see that it resonates in a child, but it also resonates for a parent. I try to find material and deliver it in a way that will bridge that gap."
Foote's all-ages show Friday at Coast Capital Playhouse starts at 3 p.m. on Jan. 4. Tickets are $10 and are available at whiterockplayers.ca or by phone at 604-536-7535.