The Wiggles (Greg Page):
A little Wiggle room

In a few months, Greg Page can strip off his yellow shirt, relax the muscles that keep that smile on his face and take a breather with his wife and kids in New South Wales, Australia.

"I'm going to put my feet up," he says, a wistful note in his voice.

It's no surprise Page looks forward to relaxing. He's on a national tour that placed him on Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday, then on through Indiana, Illinois and Michigan before rolling into Pennsylvania for three performances Saturday at Hershey Theatre.

But a life of frenetic motion is part and parcel of being a Wiggle. And being a Wiggle has defined much of Page's life since he and a few friends formed the dynamic children's band in 1991.

Now, 21 years later, Page and bandmates Jeff Fatt, Anthony Field and Murray Cook are seeing kids at their sold-out shows whose parents danced to their music back in the day.

"It certainly makes us feel old," 40-year-old Page says with a laugh. "It makes us feel good, too. People who were children 20 years ago have such a love and respect for what we do that they bring their own children -- that's such a great feeling."

Parents can sing along, too, when the Wiggles launch into familiar songs like "Hot Potato," "Big Red Car" and "The Monkey Dance." "We still do a lot of our early stuff," Page says. "It's some of best stuff we've written. ... It's become what people might call 'classic Wiggles' songs."

The band has roots in both early childhood education and rock music, so finding material that appeals to children of all ages has always come easy, Page says. "All we have to do is think about what children like and how children think," he says. "Perhaps the most difficult challenge is keeping it fresh and presenting it in a new way.

"But we love what we do, so it's very easy. When we're on stage, we have the energy of the audience. It's really like one big party."

Page's career took a detour in 2006, when ill health forced him to leave the band. He was told at the time he had seven years to live -- a life-altering pronouncement that, fortunately, was later reversed. His health improved, Page returned to the group this year.

"It wasn't all that long, thankfully, that I was under that impression," he recalls. "It certainly was an awful period, as brief as it was. It's hard to talk about now. I tend to focus on where I am now in life.

"But that whole experience of being out of the group for five years did change my perspective a lot. I came back to the group a different person. ... I came back with a fresh look at things."

It was to be a brief reunion, however. Page is stepping down again at the end of this year, along with fellow Wiggles Cook and Fatt.

"I was only ever coming back for a short period anyway, to help with the transition between Sam (Moran, Page's replacement) and the new Yellow Wiggle," Page says.

"I've got a young family at home now. I didn't want to be away too long. I wasn't looking for a long-term touring commitment."

Even so, he says, stepping back on stage with the Red, Blue and Purple Wiggles was easy as pie.

"It took one or two shows to get back in sync with the guys," he says. "But I could remember all the words and the banter that we used to do. Now, it's like I never left."

The departure of so many Wiggles won't stop the band, however, as a seamless transition is planned. Field will continue as the Blue Wiggle alongside Emma Watkins, Lachlan Gillespie, and Simon Pryce. Watkins, the first female Wiggle, will don Page's trademark yellow shirt.

"I think it's great," Page says. "She's an amazing performer and a great talent. They all have great personalities on stage and off stage. That's key. ... They have a chemistry that will really help them bond."

Handing over the reins to a new generation "won't be hard," Page insists. "I've already done it once before. This time, it will give me some closure. Last time, it happened so suddenly, I wasn't ready for it.

"It will be hard to do that last show, though."

It's actually a great feeling, he adds, to know the band he worked so hard to build will continue on without him.

As for Page, he's not planning a life of quiet retirement.

"I still think I can do other things creatively," he says. "And I will be helping the new group to write songs next year. And I'm talking to people about other project possibilities.

"We'll see what happens. For the moment, I'm still focusing on the Wiggles."

interview by
Tom Knapp

25 August 2012

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