News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Come Sing With ‘Sesame Street’
BY COLLETTE CAPRARA
FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
For generations of children, the bubbly “Sesame Street” characters have brought joy and laughter, as well as simple—but important—lessons for life. The hallmark humor and fun-filled antics of the beloved television characters are embodied in their life-size counterparts of Sesame Street Live. The heart-winning crew will be coming this weekend as the national tour of the company’s newest production, “Can’t Stop Singing,” comes to the Patriot Center.
The characters’ timeless appeal resides not only in the credibility of their costumes and movements but also in the hearts and sensitivity of the performers who play them.
A case in point is Erik Jiminez, who plays Grover onstage.
“As a child, I didn’t grow up with the arts, and it’s wonderful to bring other kids an experience I didn’t have,” he said. “For many families, this is the first exposure that their children will have to a musical and to live performance. You can see in their faces that they are in complete awe of what you are doing, and it’s a pleasure to perform for children, because they are so honest and appreciative of what you do.”
Like other Sesame Street Live performers, Jiminez not only loves his work but invests much time and effort in bringing his character’s personality to life, researching and reviewing numerous videos of the television show.
“Each character has a unique quality and if you can capture that with a tilt of your head or a gesture, the audience recognizes it and relates to you as the Bert or Grover they know and love.”
Though the production is awe-inspiring with its colorful sets, dynamic dance numbers and confetti cannons, the show is the result of plenty of hard work. Before going on tour, the actors spent a full month in rehearsals, six days a week from 9 to 5, and, even now, the 30 members of the cast and crew are continually honing their skills and coming up with new ideas.
All that investment is rewarded by the joy of the children in the audience.
Jiminez explains, “As the curtain parts, we all appear as silhouettes onstage and then the lights come on and we come to life and the audience applauds and squeals with joy and calls out the names of their favorite characters. You can’t get any better feeling than that!”
Children often come carrying their favorite plush “Sesame Street” characters and sometimes even arrive in costume, as siblings in homemade Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Abby outfits did at a recent performance. The production includes plenty of interaction and some of the characters come into the audience to perform on mini-stages.
“The kids just flock to them,” said Jiminez. “I heard one little boy call out ‘Make sure you tell Elmo that I said, “Hi!” ’ and another brought a clipping of a newspaper review of the show to a meet-and-greet session and pointed out to each character where they were in the photo. They believe that because they’ve seen the characters on TV the characters know them as well, and they talk to them like they would talk to their best friend.”
As the story of “Can’t Stop Singing” unfolds, Sesame Street’s resident fairy Abby Cadabby misplaces her magic wand, and Elmo finds it. He decides he wants to sing all day and casts a spell on his reluctant friends so they join him in his nonstop performance. At Elmo’s direction, they demonstrate how you can sing loud and soft, fast and slow, and high and low, but, by the end of the day, they are just too tired to go on.
Like all Sesame productions, the show includes not only educational elements but life-lessons as well.
As the spell is lifted, Elmo learns the importance of not forcing people to do what they don’t want to do, while Abby learns that her magic resided not in her wand but in herself.
Each performance is preceded by a free full hour of Play Zone fun, where the “Sesame Street” characters perform a sampling of their dances and meet and high-five their fans.
The Zone is stocked with hands-on displays, including a video screen that transforms images of dancing guests to the “Furry and Blue” Cookie Monster and Grover, life-size cutouts of the characters, Big Bird’s nest, and Oscar’s garbage can—providing perfect photo ops for families.
“The show is a wholesome, educational, and affordable experience,” said Jiminez. “For an hour and a half, families can enter an uplifting magical world of song and dance, and kids can go home with a photo with their favorite character that they can keep forever.”
What: Sesame Street Live: “Can’t Stop Singing”
Where: Patriot Center, George Mason University
When: Dec. 13–16
Cost: $15 and up.
Info/tickets: 800/745-3000; ticketmaster.com
Collette Capara is a local writer and artist.