Sometimes these reviews just flow out of my fingers like some kind of magic, and sometimes writing them is like pulling teeth, a sentence here, a sentence there, delete, delete, delete, and try again. For some reason, the most painful ones to write are almost always the best shows to watch. That couldn’t be more true than for this one. An Afternoon with Animaniacs was so good I have been staring at sentences I hate for days, unable to move forward. How do you put an experience like this in words? How do you explain the transcendent feeling I felt watching these amazing performers not only show off their talent, but to doing it with such joy? I’ve never seen anything like it. Voice actors really are a special breed, something much purer and glowing than the comedian or actor I normally watch at Sketchfest. Maybe what I really want to say is sorry if you weren’t at Marines Memorial Theater Sunday afternoon.
I had no idea what to expect from An Afternoon with Animaniacs. I have not watched the show for many years, but my fond memories of it called me to the show. Most of the time was spent with one of the show’s writers, of songs and words, Randy Rogel, playing piano, while the actors, Tress MacNeille, Jess Harnell, and particularly Rob Paulsen sang songs. There were also many stories told, lots of questions answered and some videos played. All in all it made up a varied and highly entertaining show, much better than the usual show reunion which is often awkward talk, talk, talking and everyone avoiding the most famous person who didn’t bother showing up. Here, all of them are on the same ground of being wildly successful without having people actually know who they are or what they look like. Which made a stage full of kindness and generosity and no fear of egos.
It was enchanting to hear all these fun songs in person and it was especially great to have such talented voice actors do them. To watch them seamlessly slide from themselves into character, and in Rob Paulsen’s case, from character to character to character, was enthralling. The best part was how happy they were to do it. Here’s a show they haven’t worked on in 17 years, yet the voices are flawless and there is no sense that anyone is frustrated or doesn’t want to be there. They are having a good time and they are happy to share that good time with the audience.
Of course, there were show secrets and fun stories shared as well. I can’t give away everything, but I can say there were a couple stories about avoiding associations with Disney, and some songs that have never been heard before. Even better, Jess Harnell told the story of his audition for Wacko and how he found the voice, demonstrating along the way. He started with Elvis, then went through all the Beatles, landing on the classic deep voiced Ringo then explaining that when he saw a picture of Wacko he knew that it was a much higher pitched Ringo, and he was right. It is so perfect for Wackos voice. And so nice to get a view into these brilliant performers minds.
Obviously this show is an experience I feel privileged to have witnessed and will remember for a long time. If you ever get the chance to see any of these great talents live I suggest jumping at the chance.