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‘Sesame’ Opens the Door to Fun

Cookie Monster on roller skates, Big Bird in a tux and Grover doing rap songs? It’s all happening in the new “Sesame Street Live” arena stage show called “Big Bird and the ABC’s,” currently touring the Southland.

Judging from the delighted reaction of hundreds of pre-schoolers at the Long Beach Convention Center on Saturday, all apparently hard-core “Sesame Street” fans, you can never have enough of a good thing.

Directed and choreographed by Diane Arnold, it’s a razzle-dazzle event--flashing lights; bouncy, loud music; an “ooh, ah” black-light segment; and lots of actors in muppet costumes, skillfully delivering big song-and-dance numbers, including the show’s highlight, a slick and tricky roller-skating spot.

The plot is simple: A frog-faced alien named Tee Hee is befriended by the Sesame Street gang when her space ship goes on the blink. While she tries to repair it, she (and we) are introduced to letters, numbers, jokes and the idiosyncrasies of her muppet friends.

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The story could be told in an hour, but a 20-minute intermission stretches the show to almost 90 minutes, trimmed down from the two hours it has been in the past. That still seemed a bit long for the majority of toddlers on Saturday, for whom the obvious big draw was hearing the familiar songs and voices (the dialogue is taped) and seeing their favorite “Sesame Street” characters come to life.

Audience participation--sing-alongs, reciting the alphabet, calling out words--was enthusiastic, and every entrance by Big Bird, the 8-foot fowl with the heart of a 5-year-old, and by greedy Cookie Monster, square old Bert and his pal Ernie, grouchy Oscar and the rest, was met with a noisy, affectionate response.

The enduring appeal of Jim Henson’s muppet creations, in any form, is undeniable.

The last performances will run at the Anaheim Convention Center on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., with matinees Thursday at 11 a.m., Saturday, noon and 3 p.m. and Sunday, 1 and 4:30 p.m. Tickets: (213) 480-3232, (213) 410-1062, (714) 999-8950. $8.50-$10.

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