The fans packed the theater. They were eager and restless; some were screaming, some even crying. They were ready for action - except some, who were ready to go "night-night."
The predominantly 5-and-under crowd at last weekend's Sesame Street Live "Elmo Makes Music" at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater came to be dazzled, and Elmo and the gang delivered.
A carnival atmosphere prevailed when I pulled into the MACC parking lot on Saturday evening. Parking attendants manned the crosswalks, which was a good thing since children were spilling out of every car, their eyes focused only on the forest of bouncy castles looming behind the wall.
Inside the gates, lighted concession booths were selling Sesame Street toys and games, and glossy programs were priced at $10. Vendors hawked spinny lights and Elmo balloons up and down the theater aisles.
My friend and I, carrying our 10-month-old baby girls in front packs, felt a bit in over our heads. Fortunately, our aisle seats would allow a speedy exit if necessary. "If it's too much for her, I'll just meet you outside," I told my friend.
But then the show began. The lights flashed, the beat pounded and the audience started a rhythmic clapping. I could feel my daughter's little heart racing. Was I at a rock concert, or was this Sesame Street?
The next minute, a dozen enormous furry monsters filled the stage. As they danced and sang "Sunny Days," the baby started to clap and bounce, and before I knew it, I was clapping along too. Something about those familiar smiling Muppets put us all at ease. Either that or VEE Corp. just knows how to put on a good show.
Together with the late Jim Henson and the Children's Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop), Minnesota-based VEE set out in 1980 to create life-size replicas of the Muppets for touring stage shows. It was a novel idea at the time, but one that has proven its worth over the years.
If you've ever watched an episode of "Sesame Street," you know what to expect from the live stage show. Bert and Ernie welcomed us and announced "J" as the letter of the day and "8" as the number of the day. The gang was all there: Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Count Von Count, Grover, Rosita and more. And, of course, Elmo.
The big floppy monsters were funny and endearing, in costumes that were remarkable for their quality and dexterity. And boy, could those muppets dance! Huge, purple Telly Monster dropped into the splits and then leapt into a high toe-touch during the "Alphabet Song" like it was nothing.
The monsters also had extraordinary rhythm. To the funky "What Makes Music?", they hammered on doorbells, wooden spoons and wind chimes to create a tune.
The music was pretty loud, but it didn't seem to bother the little ones. In fact, for an audience of so many children, they were remarkably well-behaved throughout.
The only "human" onstage was Jenny, the new music teacher, who showed up on Sesame Street with a guitar but a missing truckload of instruments. The Muppets made her feel at home, and secretly began to come up with creative new instruments to replace those she had lost.
The lovable Cookie Monster announced, "Me want to give Jenny a cookie!" After a brief rendition of "C is for Cookie," he discovered that cookies make crunchy sounds and launched into the "Cookie Crumba-Rumba," with all the Muppets dancing and shaking their cookie jars.
A favorite for the older audience was "Bert's Disco," starring Bert in a white tux striking a pose beneath a spinning disco ball.
"Elmo's World" was a hit with the little ones, featuring the furry red monster, his beloved goldfish Dorothy and the very elastic Mr. Noodle.
But the number that really got the keiki out of their seats and dancing in the aisles was "Rockin' Robin." Led by Big Bird tweeting and Baby Bear thumping his homemade bass, a trio of brightly colored, sunglass-wearing robins grooved to the tune and got everyone to sing along.
Sometimes the muppets came down and danced in the front aisles, much to their fans' delight. And talk about going out with a bang - as the show wrapped up with the exuberant "Sing" finale, a burst of confetti and streamers showered from the ceiling into our laps.
More than endurable, the Sesame Street Live experience was thoroughly enjoyable. And now it's time to go "night-night."