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‘Free To Be…You And Me’ in books, music, TV and on stage

This is the last weekend of Synchronicity Theatre’s production of “Free To Be…You And Me,” and all the memories of the 1970s kiddie phenom came flooding back. (I was a child of the 1980s, but the material lasted.) Here’s a look back at “Free To Be…” in multimedia, including the stage show.

The book: “Free To Be…You And Me” by Marlo Thomas and friends appeared in 1972. A 35th anniversary edition was published in 2008. Here’s a sweet story by Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing about an extremely pleasant transaction over www.freetobeyouandme.com.

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Free To Be, the album

The album: Here’s how I remember “Free To Be…You And Me”: Working on art projects in my third-grade classroom in Warren, Mich. — that was the year of the swirly, metallic Crayolas — with a record on in the background, when the teacher asked us to set everything down and really pay attention to the song “It’s All Right To Cry.” I didn’t know who (Georgia-born!) Rosey Grier was, and it would be years before I knew his name again, but I remember the teacher emphasizing, “This is a football player. It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy, or how big you are.”

The TV special: This 1974 special had an all-star cast, including Marlo Thomas, Alan Alda, Roberta Flack, Mel Brooks and a young Michael Jackson. Just watch this!

The Stage Show: Synchronicity Theatre created a stage show of “Free To Be…You And Me” back in 2002, then updated it for audiences this year. There are new actors, a new musical director, a larger space, some changed character elements and a surprise at the end.

I wanted to really relate to today’s kids with it, to be re-inspired to play and find out who we are and how we fit in,” director Heidi S. Howard told me. “We definitely pushed the idea of play and interaction.” Imagine hand-clapping, singing-along, actors in the audience, plenty of eye-contact and hands-on time with toys and instruments.

They show is marketed for kids ages 4 and older, but Howard says they’ve had a lot of happy babies and toddlers in the audiences, plenty of nostalgic parents and even some teens who bought into the experience

“I was so encouraged by the process and breaking through the supposed-to-be,” Howard said. “It encourages us to reach across to those that are different, to be free to be.”

Do you remember “Free To Be…You And Me?” Share your memories in the comments!

Want to go? Synchronicity Theatre’s “Free To Be…You And Me” 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. March 6, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. March 7. $18, $15 for people 12 and younger. 7 Stages, 1105 Euclid Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-484-8636, www.synchrotheatre.com.

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