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Sesame Street: The Musical

By Deirdre Donovan 

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Oscar the Grouch in Jonathan Rockefeller’s Sesame Street: The Musical at Theater Row. Photo by Evan Zimmerman


“Sunny day, sweeping 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.”
If the above words bring a smile to your face, then so will the new musical, Sesame Street: The Musical, which recently settled in at Theater Row.  Written, directed, and produced by the Australian puppetry impresario Jonathan Rockefeller, along with Sesame Workshop, this family-friendly show with live puppetry is a cornucopia of fun for all ages (The show is recommended for ages 3 and above).
The show's stars—you guessed it—are the furry, fuzzy, lovable and cute Muppets from Sesame Street and a few New Age friends: Ernie and Bert, Grover, Count von Count, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster, Elmo, Gabrielle, Martians, Honkers, and more. 
The pint-sized fans filling the theater on a Saturday morning are an extremely curious crew.  The smaller tykes have been plunked into booster seats so that they can easily watch the action unfold on stage (The booster seats are conveniently stacked at the theater’s entranceway).  
Rockefeller’s production is metatheatrical with a capital M.  Indeed, it takes us on a rollicking adventure of how a musical gets up on its feet and flies. Before the show proper begins, we glimpse the character Ernie peeking out at us from behind the stage curtain.  His persona at the moment is point person for his buddy, Bert, who is suffering from an acute case of stage fright.  Yes, it will take some time and lots of encouragement from friends and stagehands before Bert will find his inner “ham” and make his real stage entrance.  But then, this is a musical where change is the byword.
Grover, that adorable blue wooly monster, has plucked up his courage and turned on his creativity for this new venture.  He proudly announces that he, and all his friends at Sesame Street, have put together a little show for us.  But unfortunately, he has forgotten its title during the preshow chaos. No worries.  Meryl Sheep, now the Stage Manager, discretely prompts him in a stage whisper: “It’s ‘Sesame Street: The Muuu-sical!’”  Relieved, the grateful Grover gets back on his stage legs and announces: “Welcome to Sesame Street: The Musical."
The show is chock-full of songs.  Many are culled from the Sesame Street song catalog (the iconic “Rubber Duckie” and “C Is for Cookie” proved to be the most popular tunes crossing the footlights); less memorable tunes were contributed by Tom Kitt, Helen Park, and Nate Edmondson.  That said, all the songs pretty much resonate with the same life-affirming theme: the power of make-believe as a pathway for discovering oneself in the world.  In short, imagination is kingpin here.

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Cookie Monster sings “C is for Cookie” in Sesame Street: The Musical at Theater Row. Photo: Evan Zimmerman
The adults in the audience, when not pointing out the live puppetry to their little ones, can peruse the show posters on display.  Each design has been whimsically changed to incorporate characters and themes from the early days of Sesame Street: ”The Fraction of the Opera-ah-ah,” “Come From Very Far Away”, and “Once Upon a Monster.”  Too bad most of the youngsters can’t read.
A crisis occurs ten minutes in.  The Stage Manager forgot to book a Guest Star to perform the big number at the end of the production.  But no worries.  The resourceful character Gabrielle is the Jill-on-the-spot and has already created a flyer to find somebody who is willing and able to step in as Guest Star.  


But before she can circulate them, Stephen Fala, posturing as a lost audience member, wanders on stage and immediately gets buttonholed by the Stage Manager as an ideal candidate for Guest Star.  In the following scenes, we will watch Stephen go from shy young man to confident showman, courtesy of the Stage Manager who takes him on under her wing.  Or as she remarks: “Don’t worry . . . I’m a ‘three-bags full’ sort of sheep—we’ll rehearse and practice and make sure you’re ready.” 

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(Left) Count von Count, Meryl Sheep, Abby Cadabby, and (back row) Stephen Fala in Sesame Street: The Musical
Photo: Evan Zimmerman
Of course, there’s a killjoy in the gang.  Oscar the Grouch is the critic at large for the New Yuck Times (Get it?) and he has already sized up the current musical in his latest review as pure “trash.”  Oscar further warns everybody to NOT enjoy themselves at Sesame Street: The Musical or he will have nothing to write about. This elicits only giggles from the audience.  Unfazed, the curmudgeonly puppet wraps up his diatribe with his signature song, “I Love Trash.”  
Sesame Street: The Musical takes a delightful detour into dance with a lively toe-tapping number called “Elmo’s Got the Moves.”  And, in its second half, it pulls everybody into the merriment with its sing-alongs. The democratic spirit prevails in this show.
Sesame Street: The Musical is a welcome addition to the theater season. Not only does it provide theater fun for the whole family, but it refreshingly dusts off the mission of the late Jim Henson, who believed that imagination and “inclusiveness” go hand in hand in our society.
Through November 27th.
at Theater Row, 410 W. 42nd. St., Midtown.
For more information:  visit
Running Time:  60 minutes with no intermission.