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Crustacean comedy aimed at kids

Squamish storyteller ventures into DIY children’s television

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Will Leroy the Lobster claw his way up the ladder of success? And more importantly, will he take creator Daryl Robb with him?

Community television audiences in Squamish and New Zealand will help make that decision this fall.

Robb is hoping the TV version of his children’s show Down on the Docks will take off with the three- to eight-year-old set.

While a brown, velour lobster with eyeballs perched on top of his antennae, might seem an unlikely candidate to "host" a kid’s show, Robb says Leroy gets incredibly positive feedback from children at his live shows. Robb’s affection for the crusty sea dwellers stems back from his childhood summers spent in PEI and Newfoundland.

"Besides we were looking for a character people hadn’t seen. We’ve seen bears, dinosaurs and dragons. We wanted to do something different," explains the 43-year-old entertainer.

The Squamish-based story teller has been touring the country with his Down on the Docks ensemble since 1999, playing live gigs all over B.C., Alberta, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

"We did 80 libraries in six weeks last year," says the former ad sales rep.

Clearly, making a living as a children’s entertainer is all about the hustle. In addition to the endless stream of live performances, Robb and his ensemble have three CDs. The latest addition to the catalogue is Nothing to Do , scheduled for release Aug. 1.

Before pursing a career in newspaper advertising sales, Robb had played in several bands in his youth. He returned to his musical roots via a request from his daughter to play for her Grade 1 class. Robb had a blast playing traditional Francophone songs for the French Immersion class. Now 12, his daughter Shantelle is the newest member of the Down on the Docks troupe.

"She has amazing energy," says Robb, sounding more like an impressed colleague than a proud father.

He is equally enthusiastic about the other seven youth on the show. The kids, aged nine to 12, pull double duty as both performers and puppeteers.

Down on the Docks is a children’s show in the tradition of the CBC mainstay Mr. Dressup: puppets, kids and a non-threatening, gentle host. This time, instead of being handy with a marker, the congenial host has a penchant for writing catchy, simple songs with such important messages as "Change Your Clothes".

Sponsorship from local businesses and the state of broadcast technology, allowed the writer-producer to take a do-it-yourself approach with Down on the Docks. Robb estimates that from stepping into the studio to walking out of the editing bay with a completed episode takes an average of four days.

The 20-minute program combines elements of Robb’s live shows, such as sing-a-longs, dancing and storytelling, with segments on crafting and field trips into the community.

"We’re doing a segment where Leroy goes to set up an account at the credit union. It’s fun and kids learn how that process works," says Robb.

He hopes to soon add animated sequences, to Down on the Docks, short cartoons featuring a tug called L’il Toot-Toot "the smallest and bravest boat in the shipyard." Robb hopes that one day L’il Toot-Toot will star in her own series.

To date, the pilot episode of Down on the Docks has aired on community television stations in Squamish and in Yellowknife. With production of the next 12 episodes clipping along at breakneck speed new shows should hit the airwaves in September on Channel 10 in Squamish, as well as stations in Chetwynd and Revelstoke. The 13-part series will also air in New Zealand.

In the meantime fans of crustacean comedy will have to satisfy themselves with snippets from the show running on the Talking Lobster Productions Web site at www.tlptv.com

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