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Friday, June 14, 2013

Sesame Street Live: Elmo Makes Music for Everyone But Me

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I took our two year old daughter to see Sesame Street Live. I’d been when I was a wee lad—I don’t remember the experience, but I have seen photographic proof of my participation—and we thought it would be fun to take her, seeing as she is a big fan of the television program, specifically any segment that features Elmo and/or Abby Cadabby.

The show was fun. Quinn absolutely loved every second of it, perched on her Pop Pop’s lap, eyes wide, mouth agape. Anyone else looking at her might have thought, “That kid doesn’t seem to be having much fun; she isn’t clapping or smiling or dancing around like drooly human tornado, like my little [INSERT TRENDY KID NAME HERE]” or “Is that child in some kind of coma in which a person’s eyes remain open and they occasionally cram a handful of Cheddar Bunnies into their open mouth?” We know, of course, that Quinn takes her Sesame Street very seriously. This was not a time for unabashed wildness. This was a time for quiet reflection, a time for reverence. This was Sesame Street Live, dammit! Show some respect.

I thought three things while watching Sesame Street Live with my wife, daughter and parents:

1.) How much do the performers in the character suits hate Jenny, the human character? My guess: a whole bunch. Those suits have got to be hot. And everybody—from Big Bird to Telly Monster—was putting their hearts and souls into every dance move. And everybody is dancing constantly. It’s insane.

2.) Why isn’t Zoe saying anything? Zoe was relegated to crowd work. When things reached a fever pitch on stage, Zoe would descend into the audience for head pats and quickie photo ops.  She was sometimes joined by a random blue Honker.

3.) Why does Sesame Street Live hate my generation? Let me explain.

During the two ill-fated years I spent in grad school, I took a class in Human Development, and came across a disturbing factoid in that class’s textbook. Apparently, I was part of a lost generation: not old enough to be one of those wacky, slacky Gen Xers, but too old to claim Generation Y as my own. I was a man out of time; a human blank without a handy label to affix to myself; a drifting member of a forgotten social group without direction. I was nothing. What was I to do? Vision quest? Suicide? I’d forgotten about my generation-less status until Sesame Street Live came to town.

Look, I’m not going to badmouth Sesame Street Live. I already said it was fun. But I did notice that not one moment of it was geared to my age group. “Well, Matt,” you’re probably saying as you remove the pipe from your mouth and adjust your monocle, “Sesame Street Live is for children after all.” You’d be right, sir or weird lady wearing a monocle and smoking a pipe, however, Big Bird, via PA system, thanked us parental types for bringing our kids to the show several times during various breaks in the performance, and while he may have been exclusively addressing the grandparents in the crowd, I foolishly thought he was referring to me and my wife and the rest of us with Sesame Street Live-aged kids.  Turns out, Big Bird could barely give a shit that we were in attendance.  I’ll keep explaining.

Sesame Street Live’s musical performances in the first half of the show were exclusively geared toward the kids in the audience, as they should’ve been. I couldn’t tell you what any of the songs sounded like, but there were ones about how magical music is and how everything from trash can lids to tennis shoes can be used as makeshift instruments and garbage like that. The second half of the show however featured parody songs and musical homages directly aimed at the older folks in the crowd (i.e. my parents). There was a Saturday Night Fever segment in which Bert donned a John Travolta-style leisure suit and performed a variety of disco moves. The Count and Jenny sang a song about the number 8 to the tune of “Fame.” I remember thinking, “Oh boy! They’re edging ever closer to the songs and musical stylings that I, a 34-year-old American male, enjoy and am familiar with.” But it didn’t happen. Oscar didn’t don a ratty flannel shirt and riff on grunge. There wasn’t any boy band or Britney Spears parodies. Sure, there was a Sesame Street take on old school 80’s rap, but where was the gangsta rap I grew up listening at my slightly older friends' houses? Everything in Sesame Street Live was designed to entertain toddlers and old people. Where was my piece, Elmo?!?

In the end, it didn’t matter. Quinn had a great time with her grandparents, and me and Jen took a ton of pictures. In fact, I was so busy snapping photos with both my iPhone and our new digital camera, I didn’t see very much of the show itself. But that’s going to be my experience for a while. As Quinn gets older, more and more of our extracurricular activities will, and should, cater to her. It was so much fun watching her reaction to giant-sized versions of her Sesame Street pals, I didn’t really mind that Grover didn’t sing an “I’m Too Sexy” parody about eating vegetables. Besides, there were more pressing things to worry about, like why the hell Zoe wasn’t saying anything. Seriously. What was up with that?

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