‘Sesame Street Live!’

Elmo and friends return with brand new musical show

Elmo and his “Sesame Street” pals have to help Jenny the Music Teacher when her instruments go missing in “Sesame Street Live! Elmo Makes Music.” Performances are at 6:30 p.m. July 21, 10:30 a.m., 2 and 5:30 p.m. July 22; and 1 and 4:30 p.m. July 23 in the Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului. Tickets range from $15 to $75 (plus applicable fees). For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the box office, www. mauiarts.org or call 242-7469. Photo courtesy Sesame Workshop

There are well over 7 billion people in the world and I’m guessing that if half of us sang “Sunny day, sweeping the clouds away. On my way to where the air is sweet,” most of the other half could reply, “Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?”

The American PBS television show as well as international versions are seen in 140 countries with alternative titles like “Galli Galli Sim Sim” in India, “Rechov SumSum” in Israel, “Ulica Sezamkowa” in Poland, “Plaza Sesamo” in Colombia, “Zhima Jie” in China and “Play With Me Sesame” in the United Kingdom. The children’s institution has received 167 Emmy Awards and is ranked No. 27 on TV Guide’s 50 greatest TV shows of all time.

When I asked the cast members of “Sesame Street Live! Elmo Makes Music” if they had grown up watching the show it was like asking if they drink water.

“Of course I grew up watching ‘Sesame Street!’ Big Bird was one of my favorite neighbors. Music has always been a part of my life so I loved singing along with the songs during the episodes,”  said Kelsey Krull who plays Jenny the Music Teacher.

“As a child I remember watching ‘Sesame Street’ wishing I could visit there. Little did I know I would eventually find out how to get to ‘Sesame Street,’ “ said Elyse Blunt who plays Elmo in next week’s performances at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului.

Grandpa Joe (Max Huston, left) is astounded as Charlie (Anuhea Vida) shows him the Golden Ticket in “Willy Wonka Kids” presented at the Historic Iao Theater. Brett Wulfson photo

I asked both actresses their opinions on why the series and its live tours have remained so popular for nearly half a century.

“I believe ‘Sesame Street’ has been around for this long because there is something for everyone to relate to. Whether it is a character, a song, or a story line — there is something everyone, even adults, will find they can connect to,” shared Blunt.

“The television show as well as the touring show has lasted so long because it speaks to every generation. ‘Sesame Street’ approaches every life question in a way that is not only educational but entertaining. Adults can trust that ‘Sesame Street’ will instill good values for their developing children,” added Krull. “It has been an incredible opportunity to portray Jenny the Music Teacher. Playing Jenny has taught me about patience, perseverance, and most importantly, fun. It is an awesome feeling to be a part of this famously friendly neighborhood group. My favorite part is telling people I am best friends with Cookie Monster and Elmo!”

“My favorite thing about presenting ‘Sesame Street Live!’ is connecting with the audience and seeing the kids faces light up when they see their favorite friends,” said Elmo, aka Blunt. “It’s such a great feeling seeing how much it means to not only the kids, but to the parents when they see how happy the kids are.”

Krull agreed, “My favorite thing about ‘Sesame Street Live!’ is interacting with the families and children in the audience as they see their favorite TV stars come to life. For many of the kids it is their first live theatrical experience,” Krull shared. “As Jenny says, ‘I love sharing music with you!’ Music has always been an integral part of my life and being able to spread the universality and joy of music across the United States has made this job not only fun, but meaningful. This show gives children the confidence for self expression through music and movement.”

Sesame Street Live! returns to Maui with “Elmo Makes Music.” When Jenny the Music Teacher’s instruments go missing, Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Big Bird, Oscar, Bert, Ernie, the Count, Cookie Monster and many more come to the rescue and discover instruments they never knew existed. Children learn that everyone can make and enjoy beautiful music together.


Young children will also enjoy next week’s stage production of “Willy Wonka Kids” at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. The local production will star 27 Maui children between the ages of 7 and 14. The abbreviated youth version is based on Roald Dahl’s book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and includes the music from the 1971 Academy Award-winning score from the film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” with familiar tunes such as “The Candy Man,” “(I’ve Got A) Golden Ticket,” “Pure Imagination” and “Oompa Loompa” by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley.

Dahl’s Wonka character has seen a revival in recent years with the Tim Burton 2005 remake of the original Gene Wilder film starring Johnny Depp as Wonka, and Jack O’Brien’s current Broadway production, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory The New Musical” with a brand new musical score from the songwriters of “Hairspray,” Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and starring Christian Borle as Wonka.

Director Alexis Dascoulias calls “Willy Wonka” “a story that everyone, no matter what age, can enjoy.” I asked why she selected it.

“We chose Willy Wonka this summer because it fits in well with Maui OnStage’s mission of making theater affordable and accessible to all,” said Dascoulias. “We were able to have all 27 campers (from Maui OnStage’s summer youth program, Camp CenterStage) play roles and have a featured part in this production — and the story is timeless.”

When asked what message she hoped parents and children would take home from “Willy Wonka” Dascoulias answered, “Charlie ‘wins’ Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory by making an error in judgment — drinking the Fizzy Lifting Drink — without getting caught and then admitting it without being forced to do so.

“How perfect is that? Imagine if we lived in a world where people admitted when they did something wrong or against the rules rather than trying to change the rules after they’ve done something wrong. It’s a fantastic lesson for young people.”

* Maui OnStage Youth Theater presents “Willy Wonka Kids,” directed by Alexis Dascoulias. Performances are at 11 a.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m. Sundays, July 22 through 30 at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for children. To purchase tickets call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.

This week

Maui OnStage presents the premiere of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5 The Musical,” music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, book by Patricia Resnick, directed and choreographed by Kalani Whitford and under the co-musical direction of Kim and Richard Vetterli.

Pushed to the boiling point, three female coworkers, Violet (Lina Aiko Krueger), Judy (Katherine Holtkamp) and Doralee (Lia Krieg-DeSouza) concoct a plan to get even with their sexist and egotistical boss Mr. Hart (Jerry Eiting).

n Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at 3 p.m. Sundays beginning Friday through Aug. 6 at the Historic Iao Theater. “9 to 5” contains some adult material and may not be appropriate for young children. Tickets range from $20 to $40. To purchase tickets call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.


Maui OnStage continues its free theater series, ONO! Monday with “Waiting For Godot,” by Samuel Beckett, directed by Paul Janes Brown and starring Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez, Douglas Self, Rod Antone, Flecha Tovar and Kalan Birnie.

* This free ONO! performance begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Historic Iao Theater. For more information visit www.mauionstage.com.


The Maui Academy of Performing Arts presents “Disney’s Mulan Jr.,” based on the film “Mulan” and the story “Fa Mulan” by Robert D. San Souci, with music and lyrics by Matthew Wilder, David Zippel, Stephen Schwartz, Jeanine Tesori and Alexa Junge, co-directed by Kathleen Schulz and Logan Heller, under the co-musical direction of Danielle Mealani Delaunay.

* Performances are at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays July 21 through 30 in the ‘A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center on the Seabury Hall campus in Makawao. Reserved seating tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for children; general admission tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for children. For tickets or more information visit www.mauiacademy.org.


Lahaina’s Theatre Theatre Maui presents “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr.,” directed by Kristi Scott, choreographed by Felicia Chernicki-Wulf and under the musical direction of Aida Moala.

* Performances are at 7 p.m. July 20 through 22 and at 2 p.m. July 23 at the Lahaina Gateway Center, Suite F101. Tickets are $12 for ages 13 and older and $7 for ages 3 to 12 and are available in advance at Lahaina Music. Children ages 2 and younger are free. For more information contact Theatre Theatre Maui at 661-1168 or visit www.ttmwest.org.