'Sesame Street' continues to make its own kind of music

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 10:50 p.m.

When kids think of musical instruments, things like pianos, drums, guitars and saxophones come to mind.

But what about lids to trash cans and cookie jars, or feet and rubber duckies?

Leave it to the creative “Sesame Street” characters to use their ingenuity and make musical instruments out of everyday things. That is the theme of the “Elmo Makes Music,” a “Sesame Street Live” musical production that is opening Friday at Consol Energy Center, Uptown, for a three-day run with seven shows.

The show features life-size, costumed “Sesame Street” characters. The performers inside mime the body movements while a recorded soundtrack plays the recognizable Muppet voices from the show. The show is full of zany comedy and popular music, including songs like “The Hustle” and “You Should Be Dancing,” a performer says. Kids feel dazzled by their versions of rock stars, says Christopher Ellis, who plays Big Bird.

“It's your favorite TV show characters coming to life right in front of you,” Ellis says. “Even though we're huge and we're bigger than what it is on television, kids can identify with how they look, and what they sound like. It's like a concert for little kids.”

Although the ever-popular Elmo may steal much of the attention on the PBS television show and onstage, the red, furry guy works with a whole ensemble of “Sesame Street's” most-beloved Muppets, including favorites Bert and Ernie, Count von Count, Cookie Monster, Abby Cadabby, Grover and Big Bird.

Elmo “is not the only one that makes music,” says Ellis, 30. He manipulates the 8-foot, 2-inch Big Bird costume with his mouth and one arm, and looks out of a hole in Big Bird's tie. “They all are ... dancing, and they're having a good time on Sesame Street, and just being kids.”

The plot's challenge begins when a music teacher, Jenny, arrives on Sesame Street, and discovers that her instruments are missing. That's where the Muppet gang, led by Elmo, comes in to figure out other ways of making music. Cookie Monster learns that you can make music on the floor by tapping your feet, or by using a cookie jar. Ernie, inspired by his rubber duckie, moves on to a rubber chicken that makes a cow noise. And Oscar, of course, uses his trash can as percussion.

During the show, kids learn a lot about creativity and the arts, while the Muppets learn and make their discoveries onstage. The lessons are valuable for children, who might not get enough arts education in school, Ellis says.

“They either tend to play video games or they go directly to sports,” says Ellis, of the Minneapolis area. “I feel like the arts are so important in the schools and their lives.”

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