The Muppets enthrall their fans on TV. The Muppets enthrall their fans on film. And if you were wondering whether they could enthrall their fans live, based on last night's "Sesame Street Live" performance in a half-full D.C. Armory, the answer is yes.
"Sesame Street Live" is a combined production of the Shipstad family, which has been producing the Ice Follies for years, and Jim Henson's Muppet team. They have come up with a show that relies heavily on the audience's "Sesame Street" quotient and willingness to sing and laugh at the instigation of their TV pals. The audience's S.S.Q. seemed exceedingly high, with kids squealing out the name of each character as it made its entrance.
It seems the Big Bird has run away because he thinks the Sesame Street Gang forgot his birthday, a misunderstanding caused by Oscar the Grouch. The New York City Department of Missing Birds is called in on the case, and the gang fans out to find the eight-foot-tall rara avis. While everyone is looking, in wanders Phineas T. Barnswallow and his Barnstorming Aviary, a nefarious show-biz promoter and his four unique bird dancers. Barnswallow drools at the thought of signing the Big Bird for his show and almost does, but wait -- the guarantee here is a happy ending, no need to detail how it all works out.
The show doesn't tax the imaginations of its young viewers. It's easy to enjoy the big production numbers that pop up every five minutes or so. And the program never wanders too far from what would be familiar to "Sesame Street" fans.
All the dialogue is prerecorded with what one youngster insisted were the same voices as on TV. There are plenty of corny jokes and puns to teach the meaning of words. The costumes are replicas of the TV puppets'. They are colorful and ingenious -- I still can't figure out how the performers could see out of them -- and they allow for a wide range of movement. (Grenoldo Frazier as Barnswallow and Roger Kachel as Ernie move particularly well; and Juan Iglesias impressed as a roller-skating Cookie Monster with a very peculiar center of gravity.) About the only thing missing are animations teaching kids how to spell.
The performers bounce and charge around the stage urging the audience to sing along, and they achieve close to 100 percent participation. Even the grown-ups clapped their hands and stomped their feet on cue.
"Sesame Street Live" is at the D.C. Armory through Sunday. Muppet fans and their parents will enjoy it.