GRAND PRAIRIE -- John and Stacy Perry drove six hours from Jonesboro, Ark., to see The Fresh Beat Band perform live in Grand Prairie on Friday night.
They don't have kids or grandkids that are pre-school age or even tweens. In fact, their daughters are in their 20s.
"We're Marina's parents," Stacy Perry divulged.
Tara Perry, a.k.a Marina, joined Thomas Hobson (Shout), Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer (Kiki) and Jon Beavers (Twist) on stage at Verizon Theatre for one of 95 stops on the first live concert tour inspired by the hugely popular Nick Jr. pre-school musical series.
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Perry came into the band with a little bit of a controversy. She had replaced fan favorite Shayna Rose, who left the show to pursue other career opportunities. If you Google "what happened to Marina on Fresh Beat Band," you'll find mom blogs lamenting the departure of the "original Marina." One blog even conducted a poll that garnered more than 25,000 votes asking "Who is your favorite Marina?" Ninety-one percent favored the original.
What Fresh Beat fans may not know about Perry is that at 26 she's had pretty extensive training in acting and improvisation including with the legendary Los Angeles comedy troupe, The Groundlings. She's appeared on TV, feature films and hosted the online show "The Movie Maven" on Mania.com.
Perry's mom says her daughter's rise to fame was evident when she performed for the first time on stage in the Will Rogers Follies in Jonesboro when she was 15.
Stacy Perry says Tara auditioned for the role of Marina because they were looking for a cross between "a Tina Fey and Lucille Ball" and Ball is a comedic idol of Tara's.
Tara got five callbacks for the part of Marina before she got the news that would change her life on Dec. 9, 2010, her 25th birthday. When she landed the part, her mom thought, "this show was perfect for her because she'll be able to use all of her talents."
Asked what she thought of replacing a fan fave, Tara Perry took it in stride, saying she understood that she had "big shoes to fill" and got a lot of support from the other cast members who quickly welcomed her in.
"The great thing about the tour is that it was the first time for all of us so we all got to experience that together," Perry said.
In fact all of the Fresh Beats have pretty impressive backgrounds. Beavers has appeared on Fox's Malcolm in the Middle and has performed in numerous stage and theater productions. Gonzalez-Nacer also has a long list of theater credits including playing the role of Vanessa in Broadway's first national tour of In the Heights. Hobson is a Yale graduate. He had recurring roles on Step by Step and A Different World and has appeared in numerous television shows, films, commercials and plays.
Tom Hobson, Sr., who came with his wife, Dee (who was sporting one of Shout's old sweaters), from Los Angeles to see Friday's show, says his son caught the performance bug when he was 6 and hasn't stopped since.
"This generation has a great opportunity to really get to do what they really love to do," he said.
One thing that these accomplished musicians haven't been able to do is pen original songs for the TV series. "We'd love to but just don't have the time during the show schedule, and now that we're on tour there's really no time," said Thomas Hobson.
"Hey, maybe we could write something on the bus to Houston," Tara Perry chimed in. (We can only hope.)
The camaraderie between the four seems genuine, which is a good thing considering the back-to-back tour dates.
The first live concert tour for the foursome is no small feat -- 95 stops in 100 days. After Friday night's show, the group met more than 150 fans who lined up patiently to get one-on-one time. By the time, the last fans went through the line, it was nearly 10 p.m. The band members would then shower, dress and eat at Verizon Theatre before leaving around midnight for a Saturday night performance in Houston. After Houston, they will return to Grand Prairie for back-to-back afternoon gigs on Sunday.
At the VIP party after the show, Jon Perry, who faithfully listened to the new Fresh Beat Band CD on the road trip to Texas, watched lovingly as his daughter greeted each child with affection and warmth. "It's great as a father to see them get where they are and see where they will be going."
The Fresh Beat Band pn ABC's The View