When I was a little girl, the idea of going to see Sesame Street Live was a holy grail that never quite came together. Tonight, we brought the kids to see the 2009 version of Sesame Street Live. Luckily, the muppets do travel outside of urban areas with things like metal trash cans and stoops (I guess that’s why they call it a tour). They came to the Santa Ana Star Center, which is in Rio Rancho, a suburb northwest of Albuquerque. In true idiosyncratic New Mexico “if you build it, they will come” fashion, it is out there, a giant indoor stadium in the middle of a vast expanse of desert prairie.
As basically media-free, the kids were absolutely slack-jawed and grinning with wonder at the spectacle of a full-on show-biz experience. I was, too. The show had a high nostalgia rating for me–seeing Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Cookie Monster, Grover, Oscar the Grouch kibitzing, singing and soft-shoeing brought me back to the seventies splendor of early Jim Henson, when I sat on the shag rug rapt each afternoon for the daily dose of the Electric Company, Sesame Street, and the lovely Mr. Rogers (I still love natty cardigans and I think it’s thanks to him).
Although we enjoyed deliciously junky concession food, we stopped short of getting disembodied Elmo head balloons for $10 a pop (what?) and cotton candy, which would have sent them on a two-day bender. The balloons sold briskly, though, and only about 90% of the parents followed the muppet-delivered decree to put them under their seats so everyone could see without the Elmo heads bobbing in the middle of peoples’ views.
The latest character is Abby Cadabby, a fairy learning the ropes when it comes to turning objects into other objects (a hat becomes a pumpkin) and prankishly disappearing herself. Some songs were standards, like “Home on the Range,” and others were jazzed up kiddie sing-alongs, like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” I truly loved joining the kids in enjoying something in their world, since they spend a lot of time gamely putting up with the ups and downs of my world–which involves trips to the supermarket, singing in the car to Beyoncé, and getting places in a timely manner.
Elmo has become the center of Sesame Street–probably because his age has skewed the show to preschoolers over the last twenty (twenty!) years. His high-pitched naivete was offset by the bordering-on-snarky camp of Bert, the melancholic winsomeness of Big Bird, and the now hemmed-in gluttony of Cookie Monster. Oscar still does not play well with others, and still loves trash.
There are three more shows this weekend at the Santa Ana Star, which make it a nice pre-Thanksgiving activity. I hope the muppeteers inside those plush costumes get to get their fill of red and green chile, margaritas and desert hot springs soaks in between performances. Dancing routine after routine so deftly in faux fur of that thickness has got to be about as heroic as it gets.
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