Sun, April 9, 2006
By JAMES REANEY, FREE PRESS ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER
No London performer gets reviews any hotter than the Doodlebop called Moe.
"I think he's the sexiest and hottest thang 2 ever grace the planet," says one fan in a sultry posting on the Internet.
"OMG . . . he is sooooo cute!!!!," murmurs another.
Still one more fan -- known as milkshake -- outlines plans for blending into the future of kids' TV star Moe Doodle.
"You all can keep dreaming and drooling over him, because he is mine and I'm the one that will marry him and have his children, so get over it guys," froths milkshake.
The object of all this affection is Moe and his alter ego, 21-year-old London actor Jonathan (Jon) Wexler.
"He's a little rambunctious. He probably has a bit of me when I'm like eight or 10," the 21-year-old actor says of Moe. Wexler's character is one of the three Doodlebops, a trio of brightly tinted young gods of the pre-preteen universe. Branded as "kids' favourite rock band," the Doodlebops play Centennial Hall at 1:30 p.m. today. It's sold out.
Moe Doodle is the answer to the question: "Who's orange and red and makes lots of noise?"
Wexler is a young actor, serious about seeking answers to the mysteries of theatre.
He is studying Shakespeare in private acting classes with London director David William, a former artistic director of the Stratford Festival. If Moe is blissfully innocent, Wexler knows all about the postings.
"That's the wildest part of it," he says of the appeal of his TV, DVD and stage stardom as Moe. "I try not to go online . . . I try not to read too much stuff about that, but people definitely do tell me now and then. It's flattering."
The Doodlebops are pink-haired pop queen Deedee Doodle (Lisa J. Lennox) and her make-believe musical brothers Rooney (Chad McNamara) and Moe.
The 24-minute Doodlebop programs, produced by Cookie Jar Entertainment Inc. of Toronto, are built on songs, dance moves and big bright fun.
The CBC-TV shows air weekday mornings at 10 a.m. They have U.S. exposure through a Disney cable channel and DVD and CD hits.
"We're the world's coolest rock band for kids between one and seven, but I think the age range goes a little beyond that," Wexler says. The postings, ahem, would be proof of that.
Many Doodlebop songs and episodes send positive messages to kids about getting along, sharing and solving problems.
"We do not try to hide the fact that we do not play the instruments," Wexler says. Moe would mime a drum roll to salute such honesty.
The actors all have theatre cred to go with their stardom. Wexler, now based in Toronto, looks back fondly on many influences. "It goes all the way to Original Kids when I was in St. Thomas," he says of the days when that program was based at its Alma College site in the early 1990s.
He was also with Original Kids productions at its venues in Museum London and the Grand's McManus Theatre.
In the summer of 1995, he was 10 and a pirate in the Original Kids production of The Pirates of Penzance at the McManus directed by Don Fleckser. The next summer he was at the Stratford Festival in The Music Man. The summer after that, he was in the Amabile boys' choir, rehearsing for a Canada Day gig in Ottawa before the Queen.
There were also the Grand's High School Project productions of Hello Dolly and Guys and Dolls. There was Lost in Yonkers, a London Community Production directed by Fleckser.
More recently, he was at the Grand in It's a Wonderful Life, directed by Bernard Hopkins.
Former Grand artistic director Kelly Handerek, who knew Wexler through the High School Projects, was also in the cast. "An amazing experience," Wexler says. "Working with Bernard Hopkins was an incredible gift."
Wexler quietly asked Handerek to look over his application to study theatre at the Juilliard School in New York. Handerek could see the seriousness of Wexler's approach to the craft. "It's an anomaly in a world where a sense of entitlement reigns," Handerek says. "I wonder what kinds of theatres he will create, not just be a part of."
When the Doodlebops called, it put theatre school on hold. Wexler kept making time to study with William. "What we do is Shakespeare . . . it's very different from the Doodlebops do. He's eloquent on that particular paradox," William says. "You put a nickel in and you get a dollar out," he says of the way the young actor is finding his way into his talent in their sessions. "He is very assiduous . . . I think he finds it a great kind of 'survivor' ability." Just now, they are working on Hamlet.
The Bard's prince of Denmark is in a galaxy far, far away from Moe Doodle -- yet Wexler is at home in both their worlds. No wonder he's getting those raves.