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January 10, 2003 - Image 86

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-01-10

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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With one show for the kids and
another for adults, Robbo comes to town
to spread a little "mentshlekeit."

AUDREY BECKER

Special to the Jewish News

B

ullies. Monsters.
Homework. Superheroes.
This is what Robb Zelonky
sings about.
Zelonky — who performs under
the stage name "Robbo" — has just
returned from Atlanta, where he did a
show at the local Jewish community
center.
It was a-Christmas Day perform-
ance, arranged for Jewish children
who had nowhere special to go.
On Sunday, Jan. 19, Zelonky will
bring his characteristic joy and exu-
berance to Detroit's Jewish
Community Center in West
Bloomfield, as part of the JCC's
Encore Concert Series.
At 3 p.m., he'll perform his greatest
hits, including "Giant in the Closet,"
"Don't Want to Share My Toys" and
"Blow My Nose," for kids and their
parents. Then, at 7 p.m., co-spon-
sored by Congregation Beth Ahm's
Irwin A. Klar Israel and Family
Programming Fund, he'll appear in
an evening of Yiddish classics for
adults.

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It's been more than a year since he's
visited the Detroit area, says Zelonky,
who is unclear about the exact date of
his last Motor City appearance —
but very clear about the impact of his
music.
"In Atlanta, some of the kids were
initially very shy," he says. "Before
the show, there was one kid who was
crying. But by the middle of it, he
was cracking up. I love how the kids
loosen up.
"I love when I can impart a little
something to them and let them
know that they're not alone."
Although he frequently performs at
public schools, Robbo has a fondness
for performing at synagogues and
Jewish community centers. He's even
developed a unique character for
Jewish children: Mitzvah Man.
"Mitzvah Man teaches [the kids]

about mitzvot (good deeds)," says
Zelonky.
"I wear a very colorful and ridicu-
lously gaudy costume and deliver the
whole message about feeding the hun-
gry and visiting the sick. It's all done
in a funny, clever way."
He pauses, then adds with a laugh,
"I mean, /think it's clever."
Zelonky wasn't always a children's
performer. Eleven years ago, he was
pursuing a theatrical career, doing
commercials and plays. He also was
teaching music at synagogues in Los
Angeles.
It was at that time he began to write
music as well — initially to encourage
and entertain his Jewish students.
He wrote his first three songs —
"Jimmy Knucklesandwich," "Sticks
and Stones" and the hilarious
"Homework" — in less than a month.
Within a year, Zelonky was recording
these and other tunes, and soon after, he
was forging a touring route. According
to Zelonky, it all happened very fast. "I
was very dedicated to making it my
career," he says, "I really love it."

The Jewish Elvis

Zelonky's dedication paid off. In addi-
tion to performing across the country
at schools and community centers, he
has had the honor of performing at
the annual White House Easter Egg
Hunt.
"It wasn't actually in the White
House," explains Zelonky. "It was on
the lawn."
Despite the casual setting, thousands
of people attended. Still, Robbo wasn't
nervous.
"There was no pressure," says
Zelonky. "I feel more pressure if I'm
performing at an intimate show. It's
harder to perform in front of a smaller
crowd."
But no matter where he plays, says
Zelonky, "I want to always do a good
job and give my best."
Zelonky — who describes himself as
"ageless" — prides himself on creating
an energetic, dynamic show. He uses
props, colorful outfits and a lot of
physical involvement.

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