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Dora to explore Pittsburgh

| Thursday, April 15, 2004

It's not often grown-ups get to not only act like children, but dress like them, too.

Christina Bianco gets to do both, and is having the time of her life.

Bianco, a Suffern, N.Y., native, snagged the lead role as bilingual 7-year-old Dora, in "Dora the Explorer Live! -- The Search for the City of Lost Toys."

This stage production is based on the No. 1 pre-school show on commercial television, Nickelodeon's "Dora the Explorer."

"Dora the Explorer Live! -- Search for the City of Lost Toys," will run May 12-16 at the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Pittsburgh. It is being presented by The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Nickelodeon and Clear Channel Entertainment.

Wearing Dora's trademark orange shorts, purple T-shirt and backpack, Bianco is transformed into the little girl with the big imagination.

Plus, she gets to show off her singing and dancing talents.

Bianco first sang "Tomorrow" when she was 3 years old, atop a restaurant table.

She has now performed in more than 40 productions, including The Narrator in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," Yonah in "Children of Eden," and Cunegonde in "Candide." She has also had ensemble roles in "Evita" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" and recently recorded vocals for Stage Star Records' "Les Miserables," in the role of Eponine.

Bianco said her stage experience gave her the training needed to take on the lead role of Dora, but she still had other challenges to face.

"It's very challenging playing a 7-year-old," Bianco said during a recent telephone interview while on tour. "You have to make sure that you're being as realistic as possible and be able to relate to the kids in the audience."

The popular Dora is a Latina heroine whose adventures take place in an imaginative, tropical world filled with jungles, beaches and rain forests.

Dora explores her world just as pre-schoolers do every day, and Bianco said both the television and stage shows are designed to actively engage their audiences using a variety of learning techniques.

Bianco said the show is "completely interactive," as "Dora" and her best friend "Boots" invite the audience to join them in an exciting adven- ture.

Each step of their journey consists of a problem or puzzle that Dora and the audience must solve in order to move on to the next challenge.

Dora is proudly bilingual and uses her knowledge of English and Spanish to communicate with her friends, overcome obstacles and reach her goals.

Dora teaches Spanish words or phrases to the audience and then asks them to use them to solve a problem and forge ahead.

Bianco attributes her versatility as a performer to helping her master the role of Dora.

She said her ability to do various vocal imitations, the ability to mimic voices, accents and dialects, enabled her to bring Dora to life.

"I used to babysit two kids in my New York apartment building and one of the little girls loved Dora," Bianco said. "I would mimic her voice and she just loved it."

Bianco said adults will also enjoy the live show, as the set, the costumes and theatrics can be appreciated by everyone.

"It's a beautiful set and a great show," Bianco said.

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