For over a year now, Corinne Atlas has been preparing for work by pulling on an oversized bug costume. It could be worse—she could have a tail.
Since October 2006, Atlas, as "Ladybug," and 14 other cast members have been traveling the country performing the stage show My Little Pony Live!: The World's Biggest Tea Party at venues like the Tacoma Dome and Houma, La.'s, Terrebonne Civic Center. And when the Ponies travel, they travel in style.
The show is the next evolution of the My Little Pony empire, a massively successful franchise of pastel-colored, plastic children's toys, horse cartoons and knickknacks owned by toy mega-giant Hasbro. The stage show, which descends on Portland's Newmark Theatre this weekend, involves oversized, potentially nightmarish real-life versions of My Little Pony favorites like Pinky Pie, Minty and Rarity the Unicorn singing, dancing and, well, planning a tea party.
Last week we caught up via phone with the 23-year-old Atlas, who gave up a college dance scholarship six years ago to begin performing with Pony Live! parent company VEE Corporation in shows like Sesame Street Live. We hoped to get some behind-the-scenes dirt from the performer—who, in addition to playing Ladybug every night, is also an understudy for the role of "Spike" the dragon—on the kids' show and Hasbro's plans for complete world domination.
WW : Are there any mornings that you wake up and think, "I don't want to be a ladybug today?"
No, what I love most about my job is performing for the kids. I'd have to say that definitely the best thing about being a dancer on the road is performing for the kids, so knowing that I get to get up and perform for them never leaves me with that feeling.
Are there ever any shrieks of terror from the audience when the ponies appear on the stage for the first time?
You know what? Sometimes you randomly will have the child who's not expecting, obviously, to see a very large pony instead of the very small ponies they're used to playing with in their hands. But mostly it's actually shrieks of excitement, and they call out the ponies' names and it's all very exciting. It really gets the rush going so you're really excited to perform.
Do you ever sense any shadowy, suited men from Hasbro lurking around the show, making sure their taking-over-the-world plans are still on track?
No, we actually don't.
Is there a lot of the drama that you find behind the scenes in other stage productions—like performers with drug problems, or having illicit affairs with each other?
Unfortunately it's not a rock 'n' roll show, so the luxuries of having things like that are not tolerated and you'd be immediately terminated. Those kinds of things just don't fly here, and luckily we haven't had any problems because people respect that authority, and people we hire are usually very wholesome and understand they're coming into a children's show. When we're at the hotel, when we're doing a show, we're representing the company as a whole—not only VEE Corporation, but Hasbro, which is a huge company, and we respect trying to keep that integrity that they've built for years and years.
Riiight. You've lived in this world for a while now. Say you were—completely hypothetically—a 27-year-old male. Would you be embarrassed to tell your friends you used to play with My Little Pony dolls?
[Laughing] Probably not, only because back then they actually had some boy ponies, which may have added some masculinity to it.
Any final thoughts for the mothers and daughters the show is aimed at who are thinking about coming?
It's an hour and a half, and in the world we have today, its really nice that I know for an hour and a half I can pull children out of thinking about the war, or these things that we're constantly trying to hide, but also keep them aware of all the bad that's going on.
goes down 7 pm Thursday, 10:30 am and 2 pm Saturday, 1 and 4:30 pm Sunday, Jan. 11-13 at the Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway. Call 790-2787 or visit ticketmaster.com for tickets. $15-$20. Visit mylittleponylive.com if you're confused.