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1987

A Visit to the Opera

Mrs. Pennypacker is looking very elegant in a fancy dress, with big dangling earrings, black shawl thrown over her shoulders and a shimmering comb in her hair. She comes into the children's department to bring a big box of ribbon to Jodie. There's a giant ribbon sale in the store tomorrow and Jodie has to tie red ribbons on all the sale items.

"Gee, Mrs. Pennypacker can you tell me why you're dressed in party clothes your very best?" Muffy asks.

"Not for a party Muffy, tonight, I'm going to the opera!" says Mrs. Pennypacker, singing the word.

"The opera!" Sam says, "Oh, I love the opera." He wonders if there might be an extra ticket for him, but Mrs. Pennypacker says the tickets have been sold out for months.

"That's rather a pity, isn't it?" Sam says. Jodie shrugs.

Then in the distance we hear a voice. "Muffy, Muffy, where are you? It's Mort your cousin. How de do?" He comes into the children's department and he and Muffy hug. He is wearing a battered straw hat - and a tuxedo.

Jodie tells him how nice he looks.

"To the opera I am bound, that is why I came around. For it would be a real delight . . ." He turns to face his cousin. "If Muffy went with me tonight!"

"Oh!" Muffy cries, "Oh! A ticket for an opera seat! Oh, what an extra splendid treat! . . . Oh! I'm gonna need something nice to wear."

"Yeah and don't forget to comb your hair!" Mort teases her.

Sam's a bit put off. "Everybody's going to the opera except Jodie and me. Oh, and Jeff, of course. But then poor Jeff never gets to go anywhere."

Just then Jeff comes into to the children's department and almost simultaneously, in comes Waldo the Magnificent, dressed in a tuxedo, top hat and cape, and rolling in a big object with a cloth thrown over it.

"Hi, Waldo! What a surprise, we weren't expecting a visit from you," Jodie greets him.

"Of course not. I'm a magician. I do the unexpected." Waldo replies.

"What do you got under the cloth, Waldo, more ribbon?" asks Sam.

"Better! I'm about to unveil my latest magic invention now. Watch!" He rips away the cloth.

"Wow! Look at that. That's a . . ., that's a . . ., uh, uh, what is that anyway?" Sam asks.

"Oh, really!" says Waldo.

Jodie reads the sign on the front. "Well, it's Waldo's Wonderful One and Only!"

"Yeah. Waldo's Wonderful One and Only what, Waldo?" asks Sam.

"Why it's Waldo's Wonderful One and Only night outside the store for... Jeff!" Waldo announces.

"Me!" Jeff exclaims. "Outside?"

"You mean that this machine will let Jeff go outside the store without turning into a mannequin?" asks Jodie excitedly.

"Absolutely. But only once, and only for a few hours, and only with the help of two very good friends."

"Uh-oh, I think he means us," says Sam nervously.

But Jodie seems almost as excited as Jeff, who wonders where he should go.

"All taken care of my boy," says Waldo. "Kazam!" Two opera tickets appear magically in Waldo's hand.

Jeff and Waldo will go to the opera, while Jodie and Sam stay behind with the machine. They each need to pull a big red handle, which starts a timer on the machine. Then they must hold onto the handles until the bell rings. Jeff will be able to go outside during that time and must get back inside the store before the time is up.

"But Waldo, what happens if we let go of the handles before the bell rings?" Jodie asks.

"Total disaster! Jeff becomes a mannequin. Forever!"

"Forever?" Jeff asks. "You mean . . ." and he strikes a mannequin pose. "Forever?"

"Aw, trustin' turtles Jeff. Don't you worry. We're your friends. Nothing will go wrong."

"Yeah, but Sam, Jodie has lots of work to do on the ribbon sale, and besides, she can't stand here all night holding this handle."

"Oh, Jeff, going out's more important," Jodie says, "It's your only chance. And besides, I can finish my work after you get back!"

So it's settled. But there's one more thing. No one can come into the children's department until the bell rings, which isn't a problem, since everyone else is going to the opera. But Sam wonders what happens if a stranger - a burglar, a police officer or a surprise visitor comes in.

"Then you can only say two words," Waldo tells them. He pushes a button and out pops a card with the two words "Wow" and "Really."

"Really?" says Jodie.

"Wow." Sam adds.

"See how easy it is?" Waldo says. "Right! Have a good evening."

Jeff stops to say thank you and goodbye.

"Yeah. Bye Jeff, have a really good time," says Jodie.

"Bye-bye. Enjoy the opera!" says Sam.

Then together, Sam and Jodie pull the handles. Lights begin to blink and a tick-tock sound begins.

Meanwhile, in the stockroom, Waldo attends to Jeff's wardrobe. "Busy like a bee, buzzy like a newt, busy buzzy biz buzz, give Jeff a suit!"

Pop! Jeff is wearing a tuxedo, but as Mrs. Pennypacker says, "It's a trifle too large."

So Waldo tries again. "Busy like a bee, buzzy like a newt, busy buzzy biz buzz, shorten Jeff's suit!"

"I don't think I can move!" says Jeff, now stuffed into a very tiny tuxedo, which is "a trifle on the tiny side," as Mrs. Pennypacker says.

So Waldo tries again. "Try another suit!"

Then, poof! Jeff is wearing a very handsome tuxedo just like Waldo's, complete with a black cape with a red silk lining and a top hat. It fits perfectly.


Then a stranger (played by Avery Saltzman), enters the room. "Well! Hello, there! Harvey Hardcastle's the name. I'm a sales coordinator for the Giant Ribbon Sale, I'm from head office and I'm happy to meet you," he says, tipping his cap.

"Head office?" Jeff asks.

"Oh, yes indeedy! You see, I'm checking the store to see if all the preparations for the big sale are ready." He looks at Jeff. "You must be Sam Crenshaw and you must be Jodie," he says to Mrs. Pennypacker.

Jeff and Mrs. Pennypacker correct them and introduce themselves. Then up pop Mort and Muffy, who is now dressed in a spectacular gown.

"Ah-ha, you must be Sam and Jodie!" Mr. Hardcastle says.

"No, my name's Muffy,"

"And my name's Mort,"

"Not Sam and Jodie,"

"We're much too short."

Mr. Hardcastle now speaks into a hand held tape recorder. "Some very strange things are going on in this store. There was no security at the door and so sign of Sam the security guard. Hmm. I did find a uh, well dressed but strange group in the stockroom. Well, I am now going to investigate the other departments to see if my ribbon instructions have been carried out correctly. If not, Sam and Jodie will have a lot of explaining to do." He says ominously, looking at the others. Then he leaves.

"Jeff I'm worried, I really am, he could make trouble for Jodie and Sam," Muffy says.

"Oh, I know, Muffy, and Jodie hasn't finished putting the ribbons up in every department yet."

Mrs. Pennypacker says Jodie and Sam could lose their jobs if Mr. Hardcastle gives a negative report.

"I think we should call the whole thing off," says Jeff. "That's it. I won't go to the opera. You see, that way, Jodie and Sam can let go of Waldo's machine."

But it doesn't work that way. "You can't stop the magic now," Waldo explains. If Jodie and Sam let go of the handles, Jeff will be a mannequin forever, even if he's still in the store. "No, we all have to follow the magic rules until the bell rings."

So Mrs. Pennypacker suggests that Jeff go to the opera while the rest of them put up the ribbons.

"I can't go out and enjoy myself and leave you here in the store working all night."

"Oh, Jeff! To stay with us would be a crime!" Muffy says fervently, "For this chance might be your only time when you'll explore the world out there. And we want you to go because we care!"

"You really want me to go?" Jeff asks. Everyone nods. "Okay. I will. I'll go right now and I'll be back as soon as possible."

"Have fun!" Mrs. Pennypacker calls after him. "Good! Now, to work everybody. All this ribbon has to be tied in bows on the sale items."

"Allow me," says Waldo. "Busy like a bee, buzzy like a newt, busy buzzy biz buzz, make sure the bows are cute!" He says.

But instead of producing beautifully ribboned products throughout the store, Waldo has completely wrapped himself, Mrs. Pennypacker and Mort in Muffy in yards and yards of ribbon.

"Very embarrassing," says Waldo.

Mrs. Pennypacker has got other things on her mind. "I've always wanted a new beau!" She says, gazing at Waldo and then putting her head on his shoulder.

Waldo's eyes widen in panic.

Meanwhile, Jeff is headed for the outside world, humming as he twirls his cane. But just as he gets to the door, he begins thinking about his friends and the things they've said.

"You're our friend, Jeff," he hears Jodie saying.

Then he hears Mrs. Pennypacker saying, "If Mr. Hardcastle finds out, well, Jodie and Sam could be fired."

Jeff hesitates. He turns back towards the store. Then he reaches for the door.

"Don't you worry, we're your friends. Nothing'll go wrong," he remembers Sam saying.

Jeff bites his lip, looks at us, and then turns around and begins walking back into the store.

Then he hears Muffy's voice. "Go explore the world out there, we want you to, 'cause we all care." Jeff stops walking and hesitates again. Then, slapping the cane into his hand with a look of determination, he makes his decision and runs back the way he came.

Back in the stockroom, everyone is still wound up in ribbon and Mrs. Pennypacker's amorous mood has apparently evaporated. "Oh! You and your busy buzzies," she snaps at Waldo, "How are we going to help Jodie and Sam?"

Muffy and Mort are trying to wriggle free without much success.
But then Jeff comes in.

"Jeff! Thank goodness you came back," says Waldo, "We seem to be all tied up, so to speak."

"Well, I just couldn't do it, Waldo," Jeff says, unraveling the ribbon. "I couldn't leave Sam and Jodie when they're in trouble. Now we can all help!"

"Do you think Jodie and Sam have met the man from head office yet?" Muffy asks.

No one can be sure, but Waldo hopes they remember to hold onto the handles and only say "Wow" and "Really," for Jeff's sake.

In the meantime, in the children's department, Jodie and Sam are still holding onto the handles. "Boring bananas, Jodie, let's hope that opera's at least a short one."

"Oh, Sam, it doesn't matter. As long as Jeff's having a good time."

"Yoo-hoo! Mr. Crenshaw, are you there?" Jodie and Sam hear from far away. Someone's in the store! They barely have time to realize it before Mr. Hardcastle comes in. "There you are. I've found you at last!"

Jodie puts her hand over Sam's mouth and says, "Wow! Really!"

Sam gets it. "Oh, wow!" He joins in.

"My name's Hardcastle, Harvey Hardcastle."

"Really?" Jodie says.

"I'm from head office."

"Really?" They say gloomily.

"I'm here to see that the ribbon is ready."

He puts his finger down on the machine. Jodie uses it to tie a bow one-handed. "I must say I like the displays in this department. They're so - what's the word, they're so . . . "

"Wow!" suggests Jodie.

"Exactly." He says, because that's what he wants the customers to say. He's anxious to see if the other departments are decorated as well as this one.

"Really?" Jodie says with a look of apprehension on her face, she looks at Sam in panic.

Next Mr. Hardcastle tells Sam that he's very concerned about security, and that some very strange things are happening in the store. As he speaks, Sam and Jodie try to look busy. Jodie puts a ribbon on her handle, and Sam puts a ribbon on Mr. Hardcastle's jacket, saying, "Really! Oh, wow."

"But I haven't finished my inspection yet," says Mr. Hardcastle, "Keep up the good work!"

Jodie is frantically using her teeth to try and tie the ribbon as he leaves, but she's not having much success.

When he's gone, Sam says, "Oh, Jodie! Difficult decisions - what are we gonna do! He's gonna find that all the other departments don't have any ribbon yet - and nobody's watching security."

"Oh, Sam, I know. And if he tells head office - We're gonna lose our jobs. But, then if we let go of these handles to do our work then Jeff will . . ." Jodie strikes a one-handed pose, "Be a mannequin forever!"

"No, we can't let that happen," says Sam.

"No we can't. - Oh, Sam, there are other jobs! But there'll never be another Jeff!"

At that very moment, Mrs. Pennypacker, still dressed in her opera finery, is racing through the hallway near Muffy's place with ribbon hanging all over her. Jeff is about to roll through with a cart full of ribbon but he hides behind the cart when he sees Mr. Hardcastle. Hardcastle speaks into his recorder again. "The toy department display was excellent, but I'm still very worried about security," he says. Mort, standing nearby, hears him and uses a walkie-talkie to tell Muffy, "Now's the time to let him see that this store has good security!"

Muffy is in the computer room, but TXL is reluctant to give her access to her systems. "TXL this is no time to be a snob if you don't want Sam to lose his job!"

"Lose his job! Oh no, please push the correct button!"

"That is easier said than done!" Muffy says, pushing a bunch of keys with the usual result of spilling closets. "Oh! Oh!" Muffy cries, ducking debris. "I guess it was the other one!"

"Thank you, Muffy," says TXL, "My security speaker system is now operational."

"Mr. Hardcastle how do you do?" Muffy pants over the speaker.

"Who said that?"

"You're in the hall, I can see you!" Muffy says.

He looks up and sees the security camera. "How do you do?"

"I know that you like to complain about my system, please explain!"

So Mr. Hardcastle explains that he walked into the store and into the stockroom and no one stopped him or asked him for identification.

"We were watching, but we knew that you were from head office, too," Muffy says.

"You were watching. Hmm," he says, doubtfully. "Then what happened in the stockroom?"

"You met some people dressed in suits, and also Muffy, who's ve-e-ry cute."

Jeff and Mort, hiding behind the cart nearby, roll their eyes.

"My goodness, you were watching!" Mr. Hardcastle says, and then speaks into his recorder. "I must say, that I am favorably impressed with the security system. Even if does talk to you in rhyme." He smiles as he writes a note on his clipboard and Jeff gives Mort a thumbs-up.

Unaware that their friends are helping, Jodie and Sam are apprehensive.

"Oh boy, any minute now. Any minute, Jodie, that Mr. Hardcastle's gonna come in here and fire us. And you know what I'm gonna say?"

Jodie points to Waldo's sign. "Wow."

"Really," says Sam, and he chuckles.

"Oh, Sam, it's not that bad. We'll find other jobs. Jeff's our friend and - Well, I'd do it again."

"Me, too. Except that I'd try to arrange it so that I could go to the opera. I do love the opera."

"Well, wait Sam, we could have our own opera, in our imaginations! An opera's just a story and a song, and it's not that hard to think up a story."

Sam says if it's their opera, he wants to be in it. "And you and Muffy and Jeff, too."

"Okay, let's see," says Jodie.

The "Rainmakers" opera begins. Two apple farmers, Jodie and Sam, are distressed because there hasn't been any rain and their apple trees are dying, the apples are brown and soggy looking. So they get into a hot-air balloon and fly up into the clouds to ask the rainmakers to make rain. They find two little rainmakers, Pitter and Patter (Mort and Muffy), the Wind (Mrs. Pennypacker), Lightning (Jeff) and Thunder (Harvey Hardcastle).

The rainmakers explain their roles in making rain, but say they can't make it rain because nothing can happen until thunder roars. But thunder can't roar because there's something stuck in his "thundering trumpet," a huge, long megaphone that stretches through the clouds. It's very scary and dangerous to go down there, so Lightning hasn't gone down to find out what's wrong. So Jodie offers to go with him. At first Sam doesn't want Jodie to go, because it's too dangerous, but it's the only way to save their orchards, so Jodie has to go. She and Lightning make the long leap to the bottom of the megaphone, and find an assortment of things blocking Thunder's sound. A bird's nest, a child's kite, a baseball, a flag, even Sam's own frisbee! Once they clear all those things out, Thunder's voice is restored. A cloud comes to lift Jodie and Lightning back to the rainmakers' platform, where Lightning, at last set free by the sound of Thunder's voice dances from cloud to cloud. When he's done, the rain begins to fall. A grateful Jodie and Sam get back into their balloon and begin their descent home. As the rain falls, they hear Pitter and Patter, the Wind, Thunder and Lightning singing, and as they reach the ground, they can see their apple trees now restored, with big, red, juicy apples on them.

"Oh, boy, Jodie, that was wonderful," Sam says when the opera's finished. "Now I really feel like I've been to the opera."

Then, "Yoo-hoo!" They hear again. "I'm back!" Calls Mr. Hardcastle.

"Uh-oh. Now we're in for it, Jodie," says Sam.

But Mr. Hardcastle surprises them. "Congratulations! This store has one of the best ribbon decorations I have ever seen."

"Really?" Sam and Jodie say.

"Mmm-hmm, and security! My goodness, your security system is A-OK!"

"Wow," say Sam and Jodie.

"Wait til I tell the people at head office that your PA system spoke to me in rhyme!"

"Really?" asks Sam, "Wow!"

"Well, all I can say is, keep up the good work!" Mr. Hardcastle concludes, and off he goes, leaving a very perplexed Sam and Jodie. How did the other departments get done? They wonder. Why did the security system speak to him in rhyme? They don't have to wait long for the answers, because just then, the bell on Waldo's machine rings.

"We did it Sam!" Jodie exults as Muffy, Mort, Waldo, Mrs. Pennypacker and Jeff rush into the children's department.

"Tell us about the opera!" says Sam.

"We didn't go." Jeff says. "Well, when we found out Mr. Hardcastle was here we didn't want you to get into trouble, so uh, well, we - we set up the ribbons and Mort and Muffy, well, they took care of security."

Jodie is amazed. "You mean while we were here trying to help you, you were out there trying to help us? Well, there's only one thing I can say about such good friends . . . WOW!"

"WOW!" Sam chimes in.

Then they all sing, "We're all here in our favorite store, each day is different than the one before, Muffy, Jodie Jeff and Sam will be friends forever more, all together, here in the store . . ." Then they sing it again, a little faster, and then a little faster, ending at a frenzied pace with "all together, all together, all together, here at the store!"


Quizzes:

  • An animal band is getting ready to perform. But where's the audience? We have to find them (they're also animals), hidden in the forest drawing. Once we find them, TXL says the show will begin as soon as the singers finish practicing their scales. Then we switch to animation and a lion, a giraffe, a monkey, a hippo, a mountain goat, a toucan, a dolphin and a wolf pack each sing one note of the scale. (Do re mi fa so la ti do).

Nursery Rhyme:

  • None

Notes:

  • For some reason or other, this episode is the only one to feature a re-recorded soundtrack in the opening credits.
  • "A Visit to the Opera" is the only episode featuring all seven regular on-screen performers, the main four, of course, plus Mrs. Pennypacker (Cheryl Wagner), Mort (Bob Stutt) and Waldo (Barrie Baldaro).
  • Avery Saltzman's rather ordinary speaking voice didn't prepare us for his impressive bass voice in the opera when he sang the voice of Thunder. It was quite an effective surprise.
  • In their last conversation with Hardcastle, Jodie and Sam are saying "really" and "wow" spontaneously as a natural reaction to what he tells them.
  • That was some rain that fell in "The Rainmakers" opera, restoring rotten apples within seconds. A little simpler than real life, perhaps to make it more clear to the children watching.
  • This episode reminds me, in spirit, of O Henry's short story "The Gift of the Magi," in that the underlying current of self-sacrifice and true friendship made up for the disappointment that Jeff didn't get to leave the store after all.
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