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6/8/2024        SESAME STREET: THE MUSICAL            Center for Puppetry Arts


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Sunny Day
Sweepin' the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet
Can you tell me how to get?
How to get to Sesame Street…


Those lyrics were broadcast for the first time on November 10,1969, a day of magic for children of all ages.  Of course I was 16 at the time, so I was outside the target demographics for the show.  My own childhood television obsessions were Disney and Warner Brothers (especially Road Runner), Romper Room, Captain Kangaroo, and (does anyone remember?) Percy Platypus (*).  Still, I “discovered” Sesame Street a couple years later while in college – it was, in fact, my dorm’s “go-to” (legal) means of stress release.


Sesame Street: The Musical opened off-Broadway in 2022 and is essentially a Muppet Show for the Muppet cast of Sesame Street.  These lovable characters are “putting on a show” for us, and, like Kermit’s troupe, are often their own worst enemies.  Bert is always waiting for Ernie (who is always distracted by … well, anything and everything), Grover is our host (and is always excited by ...well, anything and everything).  Elmo is constantly enthralled by … well, anything and everything!  We see a lone human, a lost audience member who somehow wandered on stage, and is, of course, drafted by the Stage Manager, a sheep named Barry, to join the cast for the final number.

We get to see the cast (who includes Bert and Ernie, Rosita, Abby Cadabby, Elmo, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster, Count von Count, and a plethora of Honkers and Martians) as they prepare for their big moments, have their big moments, and … well, recover from their big moments.  Familiar songs such as “C is for Cookie,” “Rubby Ducky,” and “Fuzzy and Blue (and Orange)” grab our attention in addition to new (to me) songs – they actually may be “classics” that slipped beneath my Muppet-Dar.  I especially liked the opening ”Hey, We’re in a Musical,” as well as “Elmo’s Got the Moves,” “Believe in You,” and the climactic “You Can be a Star” and “Hey Friend.”  Okay, I was somewhat disappointed that the “Ladybugs Twelve” song was dropped in lieu of a more basic “Pinball Number Count” and even that seemed to drop the pinball theme in favor of the first twelve digits dancing across the stage.  But then, “Ladybugs Twelve” was an animated segment that would have required new puppets for this live version.  And it was a joy seeing integers with personalities!


This is a colorful and bouncy entertainment, a true delight for the youngest audience (who, on Saturday morning, raised quite a ruckus but were nevertheless enthralled and quite willing to sing along).  I must confess missing these characters who were part of my college years and my daughter’s childhood, and this show was a highlight of my already-theatre-full weekend.  The puppetry (Muppetry?) was, as expected, superb, and, in spite of the voices being pre-recorded (I think), seemed live and lively and fully alive.  There was no program but based on the credits poster posted in the lobby (see attached), Puppeteers were local CPA talent, and they were a perfect fit for the Sesame Street characters and world and style.


The show was created, written, and directed by Jonathan Rockefeller of Rockefeller Productions, who obviously knows these characters well, but, more importantly, LOVES them as much as we (and our kids) do and does them a great service here.  Rockefeller’s scenic designer Tyler Schank has created a Muppet-friendly set that successfully makes all the characters look real and present, as well as giving them (and their puppeteers) easy access to every square inch of available space.  R.P.’s Lighting Design by Jeremy Burd was beautifully recreated here by local artist Liz Lee.


This is the first stop on what is planned to be a national tour, and the close partnership between the Center for Puppetry Arts and the Henson Organization is to our benefit.  The show will remain until August 4 and I strongly urge you to bring any and all young acquaintances to see it.  You may want to also consider coming again without the youngsters as this is a true nostalgic wallow for us over-the-hill folks, and watching rambunctious toddlers and not-quite-tweens meet these characters in a real-theatre setting can by a not insignificant joy.


How do you get the Sesame Street?  Well, until August 4 just follow your G.P.S. to the Center for Puppetry Arts.  Believe me when I say it will sweep away any clouds that adulthood has built up in your day-to-day!


This review was brought to you by the Letter {Spoiler} and by the Number {Spoiler}.


    --  Brad Rudy  (   #CenterForPuppetryArts   #SesameStreetMusical


For the record, my favorite has always been (and ever will be), GROVER!   “Heeeeeey, Frogggiie Baaaabbbby!”


(*) This may have been a local Central Pennsylvania Saturday morning show that combined puppetry with cartoons (“Let ‘er Flicker!”).

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