Sesame Street Live returns

By John Benson

Sesame Street Live’s “1-2-3 Imagine! with Elmo & Friends” is coming to Youngstown’s Power Auditorium for shows June 1-3.

It’s an updated version of a show that last came to the region about four years ago.

“We have updated the show with Abby Cadabby, a new character on Sesame Street, and new songs, choreography and scenery,” said Clara Rusch, Sesame Street Live’s director of production.

“The basis of the script is a classic, but this version has only been on the road for a year now. The reason why we revamped this show is it had a lot to do with the quality of the script and its theme. Certainly, kids using their imaginations to explore other parts of the world or other things they may want to be or pretending is a great skill and a great way for kids to pass the time, have fun and still learn things as well.”

“1-2-3 Imagine! with Elmo & Friends” revolves around mail carrier Sam, who stops by Sesame Street to deliver special postcards from faraway places.

When Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Big Bird and friends wish to visit the exciting locations, Sam shares her secret on how they can do anything just by using their imagination.

From there, Ernie’s imagination takes him to the high seas to captain the Good Ship Rubber Duckie; Elmo dances to the rhythm of the African rainforest; and Bert meets an octopus who has the blues.

In addition, the Broadway-quality musical production includes songs such as “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon,” “She’ll Be Comin’ ’Round the Mountain” and “Surfin’ Safari.”

When it comes time to create a show such as “1-2-3 Imagine! with Elmo & Friends,” Rusch said she’s part of a collaborative, creative team that is involved from original concept to final stage product.

“We’ll take some of our cues from the TV show, and certainly we always try to keep modern music in the shows we develop,” Rusch said. “Overall, educational goals are still there — the 1,2,3s and A,B,Cs and cooperating, sharing, friendships and working together. Those building blocks will be there forever.”

If there’s one relationship that has had its ups and downs over the decades, it’s the friendship between Bert and Ernie.

The former being a quintessential straight man invariably ending up with a pie in his face from the latter, a charismatic, carefree lad who on occasion has been known to literally bring in live sheep to count while falling sleep.

What is it about these roommates that generations of kids and adults have come to love?

“I think it’s a combination that Ernie can be himself and be goofy, sometimes at Bert’s expense, but that their friendship remains so strong,” Rusch said. “Bert always forgives Ernie, and Ernie gets to play with Bert and poke fun at him, but their friendship is what endures. I think kids and parents alike can see themselves on both sides. They can see themselves being the one who wants to joke with their friend and also be the one who is sometimes joked at. That’s really appealing.”

Finally, regarding that apartment they share, who do you think put their name on the lease and utilities?

Laughing, Rusch said, “I imagine Bert is on the paperwork.”