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KID BEAT

Musical With An Anti-drug Message

September 27, 1986|LYNNE HEFFLEY

"If you do your best to believe in yourself, you've got all the magic you need to be a winner." That's the worthy anti-drug message in "I Believe in Me," a free musical puppet show for young children.

Produced by the Keebler Co. in cooperation with the President's Drug Awareness Campaign, the show, which has been touring nationwide for three years, is making a weekend stop at the Glendale Galleria shopping mall.

It's 15 minutes of hard sell.

On a small, portable stage, Ernie the Keebler Elf, a large puppet in a hollow tree, plays off live actress Jill Crawford, a perky young woman who portrays a budding young track star. Jill asks Ernie to give her "some Elfin magic" to make her less nervous about her next race.

Ernie, however, uses his magic for baking, not running. (Keebler is a manufacturer of baked goods and sugary snacks--a couple of unnecessary pitches for Keebler products during the show include Ernie telling Jill to make a commitment to herself not to use drugs, just as he made a commitment to bake the best cookies. He didn't take the easy way, he says.)

When Jill tells him some kids use "stuff" to make them feel better, Ernie has plenty of ammunition to fire at her: "You'll feel sick a lot," "Maybe you won't be able to have a family," "Drugs can even make your heart stop."

In the short time allotted, he must persuade Jill--and the audience--of the value of self-esteem, that drugs are dangerous and that peer pressure can be overcome.

The brevity of the format works against it--the show is as much lecture as play, with Ernie seeming a bit too virtuous at times. Older kids may tune out.

The most appealing part of the program is Jill's few catchy musical numbers, performed directly to children in the audience--the most convincing is her character's desire to be fit and healthy in order to shine at what she does.

Since children are being exposed to drugs at increasingly younger ages, the need for programs such as Keebler's is real. More time and more subtlety would make better theater, but "I Believe in Me" may serve as a prod to parent-child dialogue, particularly with the very young.

After the show, anti-drug comic books are passed out to children while parents receive a thoughtfully written booklet entitled, "Leading Children to Self-Esteem: A Guide for Parents."

The free booklet can be obtained by sending name and address to "I Believe in Me," 500 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

The show continues at the Galleria today at 11 a.m., 1, 3 and 4 p.m. and Sunday at 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m.

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