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'1-2-3 IMAGINE' Sesame Street Live fascinates children



Published: Sat, April 2, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Adults can come under the spell as well.

By L. CROW

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

YOUNGSTOWN -- What do you get when you combine a stage full of giant talking stuffed pillows with legs, a room packed with hundreds of excited little children, songs, dancing, and some really awesome costumes? You get "Sesame Street Live: 1-2-3 Imagine!" -- an evening that is sure to be fun for children of all ages. All that is required is that you arrive with a child's sense of wonder and curiosity and use your imagination!

Through a child's eyes, this show is a chance to get up close and personal with their best friends, who for 35 years on PBS have been teaching them about letters of the alphabet, counting, and life skills, in a way that is safe, nurturing, and creative.

For adults, the performance can be fascinating, just from an aesthetic and logistic point of view. Just how do the people inside those huge, cumbersome-looking costumes rock on across the stage, bringing to life this motley crew of characters? Even as an adult, it was easy to forget that there were humans inside those furry suits.

Pretending is fun

"1-2-3 Imagine!" is about teaching children to use their imagination to pretend they are in some far-away place. The characters all get postcards from friends and relatives, then imagine they are with them. Samantha, the mail carrier, is the only "real" person on stage, and the only one who is using her own voice, (and an awesome singing voice, at that), a mere midget compared to her fuzzy friends.

To the children, the most exciting scene was her imaginary trip to a tropical island. Samantha and Big Bird and the gang teach the children how to do a hula dance, complete with hand movements to tell a story. This had the kids dancing in the aisles.

But they got even more revved up during Surfin' Safari, a kind of Sesame-Beach Boys song and dance number that ended Act I with a Wow!

Looking good

From an artistic standpoint, the two black light scenes were a visual delight.

In the first, Bert travels to the bottom of the sea to see his cousin "Bubbles" Cousteau, and wants to shake hands with an Octopus. Fluorescent-looking fish in vibrant neon colors, seeming to swim in mid air (but actually attached to people in black suits), darted around the stage as the Octopus made his entrance, singing "The Octopus Blues," and teaching the children how to count to 8. This was also one of the most entertaining and humorous musical numbers of the evening. And the Octopus costume was a work of art in itself.

The other black light scene followed in Act II, as everyone imagines being in an African jungle.

It begins with free-floating inchworms (of course, because "I" is the letter of the day). They turn into vibrant butterflies, followed by African dancers holding masks, dressed in black tights and streamers of neon pink, orange, blue, whose wild dance creates a circle of sparkling color. Hats off to everyone who designed and built these fascinating costumes and sets.

From a professional standpoint, the excellence of this production is second to none. The choreography, music, lighting, staging, everything, was flawless. From an entertainment view, this show is just plain fun. In an age where violence and raunchiness has overtaken so much of society, it is heartening to know that an institution like Sesame Street has endured for so many years.

So what should you do now? Well ... just close your eyes ... think you're there ... imagine you could be anywhere!




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