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“Suddenly, they’re faced with Big Ted and Jemima, and often they have flashbacks and they can freeze for a moment or two before coming up with some amazing performance,” says producer Jan Stradling. “Once you let them hold Big Ted, they’re usually up and away.”

If Sydney singer Montaigne was similarly affected before recording classic Play School tune The Paper Song for the Show Time specials that include performances by hip hop artists Urthboy and Baker Boy; The Cat Empire; Megan Washington; and Clare Bowditch, it doesn’t show. With the ease of a seasoned children’s entertainer (the 24-year-old is not, nor does she “have many children” in her life), Montaigne looks straight down the lens at the cross-legged preschooler at home and invites them into her world of paper trees, flowers and skyscrapers (courtesy of the ingenious Play School art department). Her unique, melodious vocals elevate the ditty to her preferred “art pop” genre without straying from the early childhood brief.

“I was emulating a video by French artist Zaz, where she’s performing La Vie en Rose,” Montaigne reveals. “I grew up watching Play School [she is “vaguely” related to nineties’ presenter Monica Trapaga], and it’s the ultimate honour [to be invited to perform]. It’s a marker of having made it, in some ways. I don’t know if I passed the child test, but I felt good doing it.”

Although most of the Show Time performers are musicians (The Australian Chamber Orchestra, Alex the Astronaut, Amber Lawrence), there are also appearances by TV vet Dr Chris Brown, TV cook Silvia Colloca and comedian Rove McManus, all of whom rise to the occasion. Stradling says she can “just tell” if outsiders are gifted with the art of engaging this notoriously tough demographic.

“The artists who come in all have ‘it’. We’ve got our part to play as well, because we’ve got to think about what style of nursery-type song would suit them, so it’s a collaboration.”

It was Montaigne’s “style of voice, sensibilities and whimsical feel” that appealed.

“She’s also pretty relevant at the moment,” says Stradling, referring to Montaigne’s representation of Australia at the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest. “Because Play School has been on air for 56 years, we can attract a wide, amazing range of artists, and we do that for various reasons.

“Kids know who they are, but they’re a great touch point for us for the parents or older brothers and sisters. They see somebody like Montaigne, or Josh Pyke, or the Cat Empire, and they are reminded that Play School is still here and still contemporary. It also works for the artists who have grown up watching the show. Some of them say that it was Play School that inspired them to go into music. They like to think that perhaps they’re inspiring the next generation.”

Montaigne’s childhood memories of Play School are “a bunch of colours on screen”, but she thinks that the theme songs of every children’s show she’s watched are “embedded somewhere deep in the unconscious part” of her brain.

“I think it’s really good for children to be exposed to a wide range of music, and a wide range of things in general,” she says. “I think that’s what makes a fairly whole and compassionate and interesting human being. Music is fun and interesting. All different types of music are, and for kids to be absorbed from a young age is amazing.”