Kids in the Rotunda performer makes kids laugh, creates family memories
Waiting backstage on the Kids in the Rotunda stage, performer David Landau listens to the gathering crowd. As the pre-show announcements begin, he stands in the dark trying to be as calm as possible. When the curtain opens, there is a flood of bright lights and positive energy.
“All I can see are hundreds of smiling faces, all looking back at me,” said Landau, a Madison children’s musician. “It’s quite a rush.”
Landau has performed at Kids in the Rotunda about 10 times.
“The best part of performing is seeing the laughter when the kids are enjoying my show,” said Landau.
He sings kid favorites like “The Wheels on the Bus” substituting “elephants and cows” for “wheels” and “Macaroni & Cheese” replacing “cheese” with “fleas, keys and bees” to make the kids laugh.
“I sing really silly songs with obvious mistakes,” said Landau. “There’s a lot of moving around and dancing, and the songs really hold the kids’ attention.”
In one song, “The Peanut that Sat on the Railroad Tracks,” the kids are the peanuts, and when they get squished, they lay down flat, spread eagle, creating uproarious laughter. In another, he pretends he’s a mama duck and the kids are the baby ducks and they “quack, quack, quack” around the theater.
Landau considers himself an expert at crowd control of children, a “lion tamer for kids.” A first-grade teacher for 11 years, he learned the hard way. By acting silly and mixing up words in well-known songs, he ensures he has the kids’ attention.
Landau was good at keeping the students in his classroom engaged but showed his true potential when a guest performer visiting his school was late. Faced with 200 frustrated first graders, Landau got on stage and started singing “Icky Sticky Bubble Gum,” a standard in his classroom. He got the same reaction with 200 kids that he did with his small class―lots of smiles and laughter.
He realized he could be like other community kid-performer favorites Stuart Stotts and Leotha Stanley. Plus, he was gaining confidence on stage playing guitar with his bluegrass band, the Cork n’ Bottle String Band. He left teaching in 2002 to pursue a full-time music career.
Booking his first gig with Kids in the Rotunda was very difficult, he recalls.
“Kids in the Rotunda has high standards,” said Landau. “The performers they allow on the stage know what they are doing. When families come to Kids in the Rotunda, they know their children will be entertained by professionals in their field.”
Landau feels fortunate to have been asked back every year since his first appearance, calling Kids in the Rotunda the “Crown Jewel of Kid Shows.” He gives credit to the program for making him famous in Madison, and he loves it when people come up to him and tell him they saw him at Kids in the Rotunda.
“Along with things like the Children’s Museum and the Farmers’ Market, Kids in the Rotunda is one of those things that make Madison a special place to raise a family and a special place to grow up,” he said.
Landau cannot overstate the importance of live shows. He misses hearing the kids’ giggles, screams and laughter in person.
“The world is a better place when we can all hear and see a live show,” he said. “There is no ‘screen time’ at Kids in the Rotunda. This is real people entertaining real people. It is the stuff that role models and inspiration are made from.”
This summer, Kids in the Rotunda presents one show in partnership with Lakeside Kids at the Monona Terrace, a virtual experience with the Madison Ballet on Wednesday, July 21 at 10 a.m.
Kids in the Rotunda will return in 2022, thanks to support from the community.
“People should support Kids in the Rotunda for the kids,” said Landau. “The experience cannot be duplicated at home. The memories last a lifetime.”
If you’d like to see Landau perform this summer, you can find him at the Sugar Maple Music Festival, Aug. 6-7, at W.G. Lunney Lake Farm County Park, with shows on the Roots & Reasons stage both days