On the Scene: The Rachel Trachtenburg Morning Show

Racheltrachtenburg_lIf Rachael Ray pulled a Network and slipped some anti-corporate-America sentiments in between her "Yum-O!s," her TV series might look a wee bit like The Rachel Trachtenburg Morning Show, a kid-friendly, progressive-parent-approved variety show in downtown Manhattan. (Well, at the very least, both shows do have snacks, crafts, and special guests…) I first caught 14-year-old Rachel’s band, the indie-vaudeville Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, about five years ago, playing at a shoebox-y theater with a then-unknown Regina Spektor. Back then, Rachel (pictured) could barely reach her drum kit, but she made her presence known with her winningly off-the-cuff comments and chirpy-sweet singing voice. So when I heard she was putting on a show of her own, I figured it wouldn’t be your typical children’s hour. Right I was.

The purple octopus who offered me a balloon on the way in was my first clue. After he danced an awkward jig, I overheard him admit to another audience member, "I never realized how complicated it is to be an octopus." It was that kind of freewheeling, glimpse-behind-the-curtain quality that summed up the show. Sets fell down and science experiments fizzled the first time around, but I’m firmly in the camp that prefers charming goofs to robotic perfection. "You heard there’s a writers’ strike! I don’t think so. This is ‘A’ material, people!" joked manic dad Jason as he helped Rachel and wife Tina do the weather report on a felt board. (Despite the name-branding, the RTMS is still a family affair.) And much of the material did kill, based on the hearty, knowing response from the adults in the crowd, including actor Jesse Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale), who told me he owns all of the Slideshow Players’ CDs.

addCredit(“Rachel Trachtenburg Morning Show: Lippe”)

Performance artist Reverend Jen gave gentrification a childlike spin with a puppet show about the sale of Manhattan for $24. "Smallpox, dysentery, cholera, malaria, and whiskey" were just a few of the "gifts" bestowed upon the Native American puppet — who was promptly replaced by a dead Native American puppet. A hilariously deadpan magic-mushroom puppet, voiced by comic Master Lee, dissed David Copperfield and hinted at the meaning of life. Australian/vegetarian go-go dancer Anna Copa Cabanna and her sequin-wearing male dancers (no doubt moonlighting as understudies in the Broadway production of Xanadu) cautioned against cellphone use via a lilting little musical number. But the award for most whacked-out political performance went to death-metal enthusiast T.Y. (link contains some non-kid-friendly language), who didn’t even remotely try to candy-coat his segment for the kiddies. "Can you say ‘Super Satan,’ boys and girls?" he asked while holding up a hand-drawn picture of Rudy Giuliani.

Lest you think said kiddies sat with their chins in their hands while their parents laughed and laughed, there was plenty to keep the under-8 set enthralled. They traipsed after roller-skating Rosie Rebel, who led a workout with construction-paper weights to the tune of "Eye of the Tiger," and giggled at Seagull the puppet, a Scottish bird fond of eating its "cousin," General Tso’s chicken. (Of course, the bird appeared to be the only meat-eater on stage. The snack du jour: organic popcorn with vegan butter.) If I could relive my kindergarten days (and I wouldn’t mind, if only for the mandatory naptime), I’d probably be right up there in the front row, dancing around to Rachel’s ukulele. Some might call it indoctrination; I call it an entertaining way to spend a Saturday.

Comments (17 total) Add your comment
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  • Devin

    Crazy hippies.

  • Anonymous

    Those Trachtenburgs are determined to make her famous one way or another. Did somebody say fulfilling your shattered ambition through exploitation of your daughter? Seriously. Seen the band. Not that good. The kid looked bored as hell.

  • American/carnivorous lawyer

    “Australian/vegetarian go-go dancer”?!? What an odd way to describe someone.

  • daisyj

    Yeah, strip away all the hipster trappings and all you’ve got here is a couple of fame-hungry parents trying to turn their little darling into a star any way they can. This is different from Mamas Lohan and Spears how?

  • Laurie

    Any relation to Michelle T from Buffy?

  • Sven

    As someone who works in “children’s entertainment” (host and producer of internationally syndicated program), I am always pleased to see something other than Raffi/Wiggles. But if you want something worthwhile (and the Trachtenburg mess does not sound worth it), then check out Barry Louis Polisar (barrylou.com – who, incidentally has the first tune both in the movie and soundtrack for Juno). That is good children’s entertainment. Other quality artists are Gunnar Madsen and Buck Howdy (nominated for a Grammy this year).

  • lola

    Sounds a little dull, to be honest.
    –read my blog at http://fashionpoirot.blogspot.com

  • Milt

    It is so easy to knock what you don’t know or understand. I’ve watched Rachel grow as a performer and person for 14 years.
    She didn’t attain her status by sitting and reading gossip magazines. She has been a working performer for 8 years and is as normal as any kid you meet except she has toured the world many times and has performed in 48 of the 50 states of the USA. It is her choice to work. She has been on Conan, MTV, Sundance, Noggin, BBC, McEnroe, NPR. When EW pays her a little tribute it is because she has worked for 8 years to achieve it.
    I’ve also watched her father attain his status as a “musician’s musician.” I’m proud of the Trachtenburgs’ lives and work and I get to call them son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter.
    Rachel isn’t Britney or Lindsay and I wake up every morning and thank God for that.
    No one makes Rachel work. She has a mind of her own and has always known what she wants. Talk to her before you decide what her family is doing to her.

  • Barry Goldstein

    You seem like a bunch of lame parents who haven’t even seen the show. You sit around nit picking at other’s success. The Trachtenburgs are the most interesting family. I took my daughter to see the Rachel Show. It was higly recommended by a friend. Not only did my daughter love the show but I did too! I am sick of watching Dora the Explorer and Barney and seeing the same show on repeat. This show encorages kids to be creative and there are amazing unknown talent filled performers like Rosie Rebel who does cartwheels on Rollerskates, Reverend Jen, T.Y.,and Master Lee. Stay home and waste time on the internet rather seeing art.

  • ashleigh

    I saw the show and LOVED it! The Trachtenburgs always put on an orginal, funny, smart show. Rachel is an amazing young woman. It’s refreshing to see little girls want to play the ukelele, be environmentally aware, and make their own clothes!! Better than singing in lowrise pants, taking drugs, and getting pregnant! She’s a great role model!

  • stay at home mom

    Well, I have seen the TFSP many times, remember Sven when Kimya Dawson who is responsible for 1/2 of the Juno soundtrack was opening for them on a tour in ’02? And how refreshing that the lil tyke looked bored at a show…did her parents take her out back and beat her? I doubt it. They are no mama/papa Lohan and Spears here, more like 1920′s vaudeville meets 2008 politics. When I took my 5 year old Hannah Montana loving kiddo, she loved this show even more. So get off your sorry asses haters and go see a show or two before you nay say!

  • Margaret Frances Bonafide

    Seeing Rosie Rebel on roller skates is a show in and of itself. She is wonderful with children. The Tractenberg family has reignited the desire for crafting in our house. I will take real people over scripts any day.
    mf bonafide

  • maria

    this show was not as entertaining as the review wants you to believe it is. rachel looked so bored with her parents and their 80s tyoe friends. how many lamely untalented people could they possibly drag out and parade across this small stage. the show was a messy collage of unfocused nothingness. reminds me of peewee herman with out the jokes. my daughter enjoyed bits and pieces of it but completely forgot about it days later. too bad rachel’s parents are dragging her around the country in this vaudville act … the girl needs friends her age because her parents friends are loosers

  • matthias

    Just saw them open for Kate Nash last night… they were relentlessly awful. Rachel seemed bored and put out the whole time, and I don’t really know if you could blame her. It seemed like Jason was just a jerk, forcing his wife and kid to be part of his delusional fantasies. I have no idea why Tina and Rachel put up with this crap.

  • Bob Winegarten

    Do you have nothing better to do than to criticize, The Trachtenburgs are truly unique and probably to intellegent for you to understand, go and watch a hollywood movie.

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