This past weekend, the cultural event of the season took place at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts' Newmark Theatre. The VEE Corporation (makers of Sesame Street Live!) brought the highly anticipated My Little Pony Live! to the Portland stage—much to the delight of the city's four-year-old girls and grown-up gay potheads.
For the uninitiated, My Little Pony originated in 1982 as a spin-off toy from Hasbro's My Pretty Pony—but the tinier horses quickly began to outsell the larger-sized model. Each pony was a different character (such as Minty and Blossom), and before long, the toys were popular enough to warrant their own Saturday morning cartoon. The original show was much in the vein of The Smurfs and He-Man, in that the ponies combated vicious supernatural creatures that were out to kill them or, at the very least, brush their manes in inappropriate ways.
The '80s cartoon-adventure series is how most post-boomers remember My Little Pony, but the brand has been revived more than once over the years. Most recently, there's a new version of the toys (including old favorites like Minty and lamer new ones such as Pinkie Pie), and a batch of straight-to-DVD animated movies. These movies are stripped of what little action and excitement the '80s cartoon possessed, generally consisting of the ponies sitting around in the land of Unicornia, ruminating on which one of them has the shiniest mane or the sparkliest eyes. However, the new movies have captivated not only new legions of little girls, but a clutch of fans who appreciate it on a (hopefully) more ironic level. (Check out the user comments on IMDB.com for My Little Pony: The Princess Promenade. Some people are REALLY into this movie.)
The My Little Pony Live! production bore the subtitle The World's Biggest Tea Party, and upon walking into the performance, each audience member was handed an oversized teacup so that all could participate. Now, when I say "teacup," I really should specify that it was not in fact an actual drinking vessel, but rather a picture of a teacup printed on two-dimensional paper. (That's okay; they weren't real ponies, either.)
The show started when a purple dragon named Spike wandered onstage, looking for his "How To..." book, not realizing it had been stolen by some ladybugs. (That is a sentence I never imagined I'd type during my adult life.) Spike introduced us to the various ponies, each of whom performed a song and dance. I admit I had trouble telling the different ponies apart. There were pink ones and purple ones and green ones; they all had the same GIANT lifeless eyes and crepe-paper manes. However, the little girls in the audience knew each one intimately and called them out by name whenever one appeared.
I hate to spoil the magic, but I should explain that the My Little Ponies were actually humans in pony costumes. At first I thought there were two to a costume, but the hind legs were actually lifeless limbs dangling from the horse's rear. These hind legs wobbled to the motion of the front legs and never actually touched the ground, giving the queasy sensation of partial pony levitation.
Now, if you've never seen a person in a My Little Pony costume dance, you have lived a meager and pointless life. The constraints of the costume are such that any dance move consists of: raise right leg, raise left leg, and then turn around. Despite these limitations, the pony-dancers moved with balletic grace and aplomb. And they had an ace up their sleeve: At the close of the first act, each pony rose up on its front legs (much in the same way a skunk does a handstand when it's about to give you a big dose of stink).
However, the real showstopper came midway through the second act, when Spike the Dragon led the gang in the appropriately entitled number "Disco Hiphop Dance." With effortless flow and impeccable turntable skills, Spike dropped mad science on the ponies (not to mention the breathless crowd). The ponies soon chimed in with a chorus cribbed from KC and the Sunshine Band: "Shake, shake, shake! Shake, shake, shake! Shake your cutie! Shake your cutie!"
There's more to this tasteful revision of "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty" than meets the eye. You see, "cutie" is actually the name for the identifying tattoo branded on each pony's ass; they are usually in the form of a rainbow, or a star, or a flower, or a starflower riding down a rainbow.
Okay, I admit I'm not the target demographic. But I'd be a total grouch if I didn't share with you the important life lessons I took home from My Little Pony Live!:
(1) The best things in the world are: tea, cookies, cake, dressing up, bows, and streamers.
(2) Tea is not bad for little girls. Caffeine is nothing to worry about, and you won't burn your tongue on the scalding hot drink. Cookies, cake, and candy are nourishing and nutritious.
(3) Anything is possible if you possess a "How To..." book. If you don't have one, however, you are totally fucked.
(4) It's okay if you forget to make the tea. Being responsible is not important.
(5) Ladybugs are mischievous, and kind of slutty.
(6) Dragons are friendly and purple, and do not breathe fire, and are most likely gay. They should also, probably, never ever rap.
(7) It is not enough to simply THINK about solving a problem. You will need to SQUINK in order to come up with a really good answer. "Squinking" involves squinting AND thinking at the same time, and it works 100 percent of the time.
(8) Planning ahead for a party is not necessary. You can even send out invitations the VERY SAME DAY as your tea party, if you send them via rainbow. The invitations will arrive in time, and everyone to whom you send them will be able to attend; they will have no prior engagements.
(9) There is only one way to drink tea, and that is with your pinkie extended straight up into the air. If you drink tea without your pinkie extended—or if, heaven forbid, it's pointing sideways instead of up—you will ruin the tea party and some of the lesser ponies will be ritually sacrificed on the Sparkly Rainbow Altar of Souls. (This Altar wasn't explicitly mentioned at any point during the show, but the subtext was undeniable.) I should mention, though, that the question of how a four-legged, non-fingered My Little Pony is able to hold a teacup in this fashion was not answered to my satisfaction.
(10) It is okay for Mom to have a drink during intermission, and yes, a Jägerbomb is appropriate.
(11) Little girls are on crack.
(12) I saw one little boy in attendance, also on crack. He is certain to be a very gay man someday, but I imagine he will be happy and well adjusted.
And finally, (13): Hang on to those My Little Pony figurines, kid, 'cause someday they'll be worth a FORTUNE.