Friday, March 30, 2012

Review: Sesame Street Live: Elmo's Super Heroes

Parents and children (buses full of them) toddled into Bojangles' Coliseum Friday morning for one of the latest live action "Sesame Street" musicals (it debuted in 2010). "Elmo's Super Heroes" plays five more times between now and Sunday evening (tonight at 7 p.m., Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 and 4:30 p.m.).

Having never been to a "Sesame Street" production as a child I was surprised how much remained true to the commercials I saw on television whenever the tour would come to nearby Charleston, WV. In fact, the show was just what I imagined as a kid. Mr. Hooper's store and the 123 building flanked a silhouetted cityscape that appeared on red curtains surrounded in lights. Behind the curtain staggered backdrops (Elmo's world and the city streets for instance) and a multimedia screen created a simple 3-D effect that allowed the monsters' environments to change easily.

The scenery, especially the "Big Cheese" alerts which delivered instructions and assigned cases to the Fabulous Five superheroes, helped move the action along, but the monsters were definitely the focal point. Bert and Abby Cadabby readied the crowd before Big Bird's introduction. Of course the greatest response was for the character whose name appears on the marquee. Elmo, Zoe, Telly, The Count, and Bert and Ernie joined in for the opening number where the letter and number of the day were announced.

The storyline about Grover losing his "superness" was quickly revealed. The actor who played Grover did a great job of capturing the character's physicality with animated movements, exaggerated gestures, and fall after fall. Another standout was Cookie Monster - the most agile, limber Cookie Monster I've ever seen. He easily led a team of kilt-wearing sheep in a "Riverdance" send-up and cut into acrobatic hip-hop dance moves like his limbs were made of jelly.

Abby Cadabby, Cookie Monster, Elmo, and Zoe formed a team of superheroes in Grover's absence and a character named Kay (the only human in the musical) helped the childlike monsters solve their superhero dilemmas. They learned (and in turned taught) about hygiene, exercise, and eating healthier from some of Sesame's most beloved veteran characters.

While the look and feel was similar to what I imagine was created for "Sesame Street's" first productions in the early `80s, the music has been updated to reflect the times. There were a couple of hip-hop dance numbers, one in particular which owed thanks to Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl," and revised renditions of Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for a Hero" (which appeared on the original "Footloose" soundtrack), Madonna's "Vogue," and James Brown's "I Feel Good."

Elsewhere in the show are songs based in rollicking gospel, big band (for a Gene Kelly-era style dance number), and `50s rock n' roll (during which Bert wears a pompadour). While it's completely geared toward kids there are a few jokes that resound with adults - limburger cheese and feather boas come to mind.

The stage was erected in the center of the Coliseum, so your child will be able to see the action. However the best seats are definitely in the center and back as the view of the screen is obstructed from the sides. I was also glad we wore jackets because the air conditioning was cranked.

Most all the children I saw enjoyed the show - especially the music and monsters. Some danced in the aisles, constantly jumping up and down to the songs, in-turn practicing Elmo's healthy habits as they watched the show.


  1. As a 25-year-old, I still remember how much fun I had going to Sesame Street shows at the Greensboro Coliseum growing up. We still have an Oscar on a stick souvenir in the playroom at my parents' house.

  2. I wanna go and watch Sesame street shows with my kids! This is their dreams.

  3. Absolutely one of the best shows for kids in my opinion. One of the things I do think that Sesame Street understand is that they need to also keep things somewhat entertaining for parents, often using songs the moms and dads know but changing them to have kid Lyrics, for example REM appeared on the show but sang Shiny Happy Monsters rather than Shiny Happy People. I also love that they made monsters good things rather than something to fear. Kids do not need to worry about things and thank heavens Sesame street offers them that sort of safety.
    Great blog - enjoyed.