Interview: Angela C. Santomero (Super WHY!)

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If Angela C. Santomero had done nothing other than help bring the TV show Blue's Clues into the world, then her place in the world of kids' TV would be secure.

But she hasn't rested on her laurels and finds herself busier than ever, having created and executive-produced Super WHY!, the #1-ranked preschool TV show, as well as Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, which is a spinoff of the beloved Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.  Oh, and she executive-produces and co-hosts The Parents Show on PBS Parents.

And did we mention the Super WHY! live musical show, which is now touring throughout the country this spring, which Santomero wrote and features music written by fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff?

Angela answered some question by e-mail recently, though exactly where she found the time to do so, I'm not entirely sure.  Read on to find out Santomero's favorite part of the show, how Antonoff got involved, and how she stays on top of her many different enterprises.

Zooglobble: What are your first musical memories?

Angela C. Santomero: Annie!  I fell in love with theater when I went to see my first Broadway show as a little girl, Annie.  My sister and I were so inspired that we acted it out and sang for hours and hours after we saw the show!

What are your first reading memories?

As a young preschooler, I "read" the little Golden Book Little Mommy over and over again to my parents, cousins, grandparents - basically anyone who would listen to me.  I still have the book, it's such a favorite!

I understand that Super WHY! had its origins as your Masters thesis -- what prompted you to develop the concept then (and then subsequently into production as an actual TV show)?

I was such an avid reader as a child and loved that reading took me on adventures to the most exotic and interesting places.  When I was in college, I realized that not everyone is a visual learner and that some have a harder time seeing beyond the words in a book.  I wanted to celebrate reading and use animation to help kids visualize the worlds and the characters that are beyond the text.  Helping kids to learn and LOVE to read is a passion of mine. 

What prompted you to turn Super Why into the stage production?

The idea of having kids fall in love with theater, interact with our characters and sing the songs LIVE is one of the most fulfilling experiences.  The kids who come to the show all bond over their love of the music, the stories, the games, and can't wait to hug our characters.  It's a dream come true!

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How did Jack Antonoff from fun. get involved with the show?

How lucky are we?? Our fabulous director, Glenn Orsher, has a longstanding relationship with Jack and asked him to be involved.  We are so happy to have such a talented musician be part of the show!

What were some of the challenges in writing for a live show as opposed to a TV show?

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The level of interactivity is an exciting and challenging element.  We were careful to pace the show correctly so that the kids are actually part of it.  It's magic to see the kids so involved! 

Any particular favorite parts of the show? 

My favorite is the final song - it leaves such a warm and fuzzy feeling in my belly.  I cry.  And I love the Super Duper Computer as a character in the show! (and my kids loved that it was my voice!)  :)

I often deal with musicians who keep many plates spinning simultaneously, but your plates seem even larger than most -- how do you make sure you're giving all the various roles you have (executive producer on multiple shows, family responsibilities) balanced and with the attention they deserve?

My shows are like my babies - they are all at different stage of development and, that being the case, they all need different things from me. I've always said that my vision is to "change the world one preschool show at a time."  I need multiple shows in all areas of curriculum to be able to achieve that!

What's next for Super WHY! and you?

Super WHY! on Alpha-Bits Cereal!  Super WHY! and Reading is Fundamental!  Super WHY! on Tour!  Super WHY! at the Licensing Show in June...  So much more to come! 

Photo credit: Joshua Smith