By Patrice Worthy
“Octonauts,” a popular children’s series, is coming to the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre for a live performance Tuesday, Nov. 29.
The cast submerges kids in an undersea adventure to protect the ocean under the leadership of Captain Barnacles, played by Daniel Jared Hersh.
Hersh began performing as a child and cultivated his talents through high school. The California native is a graduate of the American Music and Drama Academy with a bachelor of fine arts in musical theater. His stage credits include “The Producers”; “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”; “The Diary of Anne Frank”; and “Forever Plaid.”
Hersh describes himself as awkwardly charming, and he is carving a niche with quirky roles. He spoke with the AJT about the challenges of playing a polar bear in “Octonauts and the Deep Sea Volcano Adventure.”
AJT: How did you get started in musical theater?
Hersh: I grew up in Southern California in Thousand Oaks. There I was enrolled in children’s community theater. I started singing in high school, and from there I got a B.F.A. in college musical theater.
AJT: Many of your roles have been a bit quirky. How do you choose your roles?
Hersh: I like to pick roles I can put my own spin on. I like to bring quirkiness to the roles that I play. I think the quirkiest role I played was Seymour in “Little Shop of Horrors.”
AJT: You also took the role of Peter in “The Diary of Anne Frank.” That is a very somber story. Why did you choose that role?
Hersh: I was actually lucky to get it. I knew the person directing it and told her I would love to do the show because I’m Jewish and it was close to me. My grandparents were in the Holocaust, and one of my grandparents was in Auschwitz. The director told me she was going to judge me twice as hard because we were friends. I got to go to the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. It was an amazing experience and very emotional.
AJT: How did you land the role of Captain Barnacles?
Hersh: I got a message they were looking for actors shorter than 5-foot-6 with singing experience, puppeteering experience and experience working with kids. I have all that experience, and a week later I found out I was asked to audition.
AJT: How did you prepare for the role?
Hersh: “Octonauts” is a British cartoon that airs on Disney Junior. There are eight different animals that travel underwater. It encourages kids to learn about marine life. Captain Barnacles is a polar bear, and he’s very paternal. I wear a full body costume with a character head. I watched at least one season of it on Netflix and got the voice down.
AJT: What do you love about doing a live kids show?
Hersh: When the curtain comes up, I’m the first character the kids see. They see me, and they start screaming. On opening night, it was overwhelming. We’ve had kids do a mosh pit toward the end of the show. My favorite song is the song when I’m introducing all the characters. There is a scene with UV black lights where the fish really look like they’re swimming. It’s a really fun show with a lot of substance, and even parents can enjoy it.
AJT: How has the experience been on your first national tour?
Hersh: We’re in over 60 cities, and it’s a new city every day. We see a lot of cool places, and the experiences have been one of a kind.
What: “Octonauts Live”
Where: Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Cumberland area
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29
Tickets: $30.50 to $60.50; bit.ly/1SHrk13 or 800-745-3000