Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sesame Street Live: a Review

On Saturday, I took The Baby to see Sesame Street Live: Can't Stop Singing at the Consol Energy Center. It was a bit of an iffy thing for a while - he developed quite a fever on Thursday which didn't start to break until Saturday morning. However, considering that this was a Christmas present from my father and me to him (and to me, because I don't get to spend that much time alone with him), I was planning on bringing him if I had to carry him around and keep him in a surgical mask. Didn't matter; he was reasonably well by Saturday afternoon, so we went.

The other Grandpa dropped us off downtown; the Consol Center has ample pay parking, most of it the $5 or $10 variety depending on how far you want to walk. There's a TGIFriday's attached to the arena, and that's where we went for dinner. He wanted the chicken fingers with the fruit cup; he ate the fruit and the broccoli from my plate and didn't touch the chicken. He tried it, but the honey mustard dip didn't meet his approval. At 5:15 (5:30 show time), we moseyed over to the main entrance, went up three escalators, through two checkpoints, and finally got to the auditorium entrance. There were several souvenir booths set up, and I bought a program from the shortest line. It's cute - big, big full-sized live pictures from the show along with a description of the storyline.

This was my first time in the Consol Energy Center, and it's nice. They used about a quarter to a third of the hockey floor as stage and floor seating; we were in the third row on the far stage right. We weren't on the floor, we were in the first bit of elevated seating. It was good seats - not top price, not the "cheap seats." We could clearly see the stage, and our chairs were high enough that the mommy and daddy who sat directly in front of The Baby didn't obstruct his view much. The Baby was in awe of the size of the room, the number of steps, and the size (and lights) on the stage. But, he hadn't seen anything yet....

The show started darn close to the listed 5:30 time. I really appreciated that: considering the audience, any kind of delay could be disastrous. I truly believe that 95% of small children's behavior issues are caused by parents or unknown factors putting the children in a bad position; know your audience, if you will. Starting at 5:30 on the dot allowed me to manage him better, creating a wonderfully positive experience. The starting time was great, as well: safely away from normal nap times and early enough so it didn't interfere with bedtime. The show turned out to be right around 90 minutes long with intermission, and a later time could create grumpy, sleepy kids instead of engaged, wakeful ones.

When the show started, the effect on my son was amazing: he froze, his eyes went wide, and he was absolutely beside himself, in a good way. He could not believe that his friends from Sesame Street were real and alive in front of him! All in all, he truly loved the show and had a great time. He behaved extremely well, only getting a little antsy during the last two songs of each half.

You've got to give it to the Sesame Street Workshop folks and the ones who produce the live shows: they know their audience. The storyline was simple: Abby left her wand on a bench, and Elmo picked it up. Instead of giving it back to Abby, he used the wand so that his friends would keep singing and dancing all day. Everyone was unhappy and tired, singing and dancing all day, and Elmo lost control and couldn't stop the magic. Abby found him, took the wand back, and reversed the spell. Along the way were some familiar songs, some unfamiliar ones, and some elements from the show (Murray's "Word on the Street," Elmo's "Elmo's Musical Adventures," and Murray's "What's on me that starts with M?"). The songs were between 90 seconds and 2 and a half minutes long each, and they all contained plenty of dancing. During the company songs, individual characters would run out into the crowd, hi-five some kids, and run back to the stage. Passing directly in front of us, close enough to almost touch, was Elmo, The Count, Ernie, and Grover. Security was good and active, shepherding stray children back to their parents when the kids made a headlong charge towards the stage. They also had two secondary stages set up in the middle of the crowd for individuals to dance, allowing for a change in focus helpful for small children.

I truly geeked out at "It Feels Good When You Sing A Song," which I know from the Elmo Loves You video. In that, it was Mr. Hoots duetting with John Legend; in this show, it was Mr. Hoots and Elmo. "Sing A Song" was also performed, another fanboy geek out for me. Oscar's song and dance number was pretty epic: the legs sticking out of the dancing garbage can was hysterical.

The music and singing were all canned, of course. The dancers in the character outfits were all good dancers, and the mouths moved appropriately and believably. The whole company numbers were fun and energetic. Each half of the show was about 35 minutes with a 15 minute intermission in between - and the intermission was 15 minutes, period.

They sold Elmo balloons during the intermission, which I bought. It was an easy trade - The Baby goes potty, he gets a balloon. I was okay with that.

The negatives: where we were sitting, we were right on the speakers. It was LOUD. I mean, really, really LOUD. The sound system was not balanced well, and the highs were really piercing by the fourth or fifth song in a half. Overly loud and poorly balanced makes for a headachy-type performance.

The biggest complaint that I have is the cost. The two tickets - not the highest, but not the lowest, and purchased long in advance - came to slightly more than $70. That's an awful lot of money for a 90 minute show. Considering that the auditorium was half-empty, I wonder if they could have sold out the house - and made more money - with a slightly smaller ticket price - say, $50 for the two tickets? If my father wasn't subsidizing the tickets, then there is no way that I could have taken The Baby to this show.

Sesame Street is ubiquitous these days - it really, truly is everywhere. It's quality television, with good messages for kids. Lord knows, during The Boy's treatments, that we lived with Elmo on a minute-by-minute basis. All three boys loved Sesame Street passionately through the appropriate times. I also know that not everywhere has Pittsburgh money - it's very different from New Jersey money, when I likely would not have batted an eye at paying $70 for two tickets for that. I didn't go to Sesame Street Live before this because of the money, and I probably won't go again because of the money. There's a very small window for kids to love Sesame Street and to be old enough to enjoy a live show, and if I spent $70 to have a kid go to a show and be bored with Sesame Street... I'd be upset. This happened to land at the exact perfect time for him, but I don't know that a second performance would be worth it.

All in all, it was a wonderful night, and it will be a very precious memory for me. Watching his face while his brain worked through the "omg that's Sesame Street and it's real" process was amazing. I am happy that we went, and negatives did not detract from this great night.

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