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Traveling children's shows do well in the 'Burgh

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 10:50 p.m.

Many people call Pittsburgh a great place to raise kids and be a kid, and the entertainment industry seems to agree.

This week alone, Pittsburgh parents have three big options for children's shows: “Sesame Street Live,” “Yo Gabba Gabba! Live!,” and “We're Going on a Bear Hunt.” And each show plays at least twice this week. “Elmo Makes Music,” the “Sesame Street Live” show coming to Consol Energy Center, plays seven times between Friday and Sunday.

Although seven shows is a typical run for “Sesame Street Live” in a city the size of Pittsburgh — with St. Louis and Portland in the same category — Pittsburgh tickets regularly sell well, and even “slightly and consistently” more than other comparable cities, say officials from the Minneapolis-based VEE Corporation that produces the show.

“Based on the sales numbers we see, and number of shows, there's obviously a great family following for this kind of production” in Pittsburgh, says Dayna Deutsch, VEE's senior vice president of sales and marketing.

Although VEE does not release specific ticket-sales figures, the company reports a 3 percent increase in Pittsburgh ticket sales this year from last year; and in 2011, the sales here increased 7 percent over 2010.

“We have a very established audience ... and fantastic relationships with the venue where we play,” Deutsch says.

Pam Komar Lieberman — executive director of Pittsburgh International Children's Theater, now part of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust — says that Pittsburgh does seem to draw more children's shows, and more audiences for those shows than other cities, based on what she has observed and heard from colleagues in the industry.

When children's productions like “We're Going on a Bear Hunt” tour, they have an extra-long stop in Pittsburgh because of the children's theater's program. The show premiered Jan. 6 at the Byham Theater, Downtown, and is playing at various suburban locations through Sunday. For details, go to www.trustarts.org.

“As far as we can tell, no other presenter in the states is presenting such a block of shows,” Lieberman says.

Pittsburgh does seem to offer more kid-friendly entertainment than the average city, she says. The fact that it's easy to get around here, and that there is good coverage and publicity, makes children's entertainment even more popular here.

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kgormly@tribweb.com or 412-320-7824.

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