If you think rock concerts are loud, wait till you hear hundreds of preschoolers and toddlers shriek with delight over sightings of Elmo, Cookie Monster and Big Bird.
At the newest "Sesame Street Live" stage extravaganza, "Everyone Makes Music," which launched its Southland tour this week at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre, opening-night Muppet-mania was loud enough to drown out the show's mightily amplified soundtrack.
Enthusiasm wasn't even dampened by the show's late start, due to a false fire alarm that kept the audience waiting outside the theater many minutes past curtain time.
Decibel levels aside--and overlooking the lobby merchandising of those not-so-cheap, gotta-have-'em Elmo lights, T-shirts, dolls and plastic "sports bottles," and helium balloons sold at intermission for five bucks apiece--this "Sesame Street Live" show is the best I've seen.
The razzle-dazzle lights, backdrops and sets are fresh and sparkling, the humor goes down easy, and the playful educational elements from the TV show--projections of animated and film bits, a letter and number ("J" and "8") for the audience to remember, an "Elmo's World" segment--plus loads of audience sing-alongs, clap-alongs and spoken responses, are smoothly integrated into the mix.
In the simple plot, non-Muppet Jenny (who is miked, not prerecorded) is a music teacher whose instruments were lost during her move to Sesame Street. Her new Muppet friends, trying to help, find music in wooden spoons, pots and pans, empty bottles, bicycle horns, alarm clocks and Baby Bear's homemade broom bass.
As Jenny, Nicole Wintemberg, a polished, sweet-voiced singer, is the gentle, easy-to-relate-to center of the production as the music-making "discoveries" segue into creative song-and-dance extravaganzas, including a black-light number that bowls kids over when oversize shoes seem to dance by themselves. The hard-working cast must be sweltering inside those Muppet body suits, but they dance up a storm nevertheless.
Most unforgettable moment: Disco king Bert, in a white "Saturday Night Fever" suit.
Credits for the appealing show, a VEE Entertainment Corp. production, include writer Annie Evans; musical director Jon Baker; Cheryl Baxter, who directed and co-choreographed with JoAnna Hayes Wagner; lighting designer David Agress and art director Greg Lucas.
"Sesame Street Live: Everyone Makes Music," Kodak Theatre, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, today, 10:30 a.m., 2 p.m.; Sunday, 1 and 4:30 p.m. (323) 308-6363, (213) 480-3232. Pasadena Civic Auditorium, 300 E. Green St., Pasadena, Thursday, 7 p.m.; Friday-May 4, 10:30 a.m., 2 p.m.; May 5, 1 and 4:30 p.m. $15-$25, (626) 449-7360, (213) 480-3232, (213) 365-3500. Orange County Performing Arts Center, May 9, 7 p.m.; May 10, 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.; May 11, 10:30 a.m., 2 and 5:30 p.m.; May 12, 1 and 4:30 p.m. $15-$25, (714) 556-2787. Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, May 23, 7 p.m.; May 24, 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.; May 25, 10:30 a.m., 2 and 5:30 p.m.; May 26, 1 and 4:30 p.m., (805) 449-2787, (805) 449-2787. $12-$22. Long Beach Terrace Theatre, May 30, 7 p.m.; May 31, 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.; June 1, 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.; June 2, 1 and 4:30 P.M. $15-$25, (562) 436-3661, (213) 480-3232.