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Heroes wanted

Updated: 2013-06-23 07:54
By Rebecca Lo ( China Daily)

Heroes wanted

Sesame Street Live: Elmo's Super Heroes will be staged in Hong Kong and will tour Shenzhen, Xi'an and Beijing. Provided to China Daily

Elmo, Grover and your favorite Sesame Street heroes return to Hong Kong to teach kids that healthy is super cool. Rebecca Lo drops in on rehearsals with producer Jim Waters for the inside scoop.

I learned English from watching Sesame Street and The Flintstones. No joke. As a 6-year-old plucked out of Hong Kong and deposited into Toronto, I had plenty of time between school and dinner to park myself in front of the TV.

Sesame Street's infectious tunes and soft sell lessons on how to be a decent person were always entertaining, though I was a little old to be learning how to count.

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For many parents around the world, Sesame Street was their always-on-call after school baby sitter. The show was based on life in American cities, but Jim Henson's muppets had a universal appeal that reached across cultures and broke many language barriers.

Who wouldn't love a furry blue monster who craved cookies? Anyone with siblings can relate to the gentle sparring between Ernie and Bert. And Oscar the Grouch gave me a good excuse to be just as cranky.

Over the years, Sesame Street has evolved with the times but its core has always been education. It has also been animated into live musicals for decades, with producer Jim Waters at the helm of more than 20 productions over the past 30 years.

The latest show, Sesame Street Live: Elmo's Super Heroes, will be staged in Hong Kong following a run in the US.

"Sesame Street Live last toured Hong Kong in 2010," says Waters. "For Elmos' Super Heroes, all of the sets and costumes will be refurbished for the Hong Kong run and shipped by air and sea. In addition, we will recast several of the characters who will need a full rehearsal before we open in Hong Kong."

In Elmo's Super Heroes, Super Grover loses his superness, as well as his ability to fly. Elmo steps in with other Sesame Street characters to lend a helping hand while promoting good, healthy habits.

"It's a show about friendship and the development of good habits, through a great story, music and dance," explains Waters. "Teaching lessons of healthy habits through song and dance, Elmo, Abby Cadabby and your favorite Sesame Street friends are called into action - all in a quest to put the 'super' back in Super Grover.

"Through song and dance, they explore exercise, nutrition, sleep, energy and hygiene. The characters love to venture onto the venue floor to sing and dance during the show. The live show gives families a unique opportunity to experience their favorite characters up-close."

Music is a big part of the fun and Elmo's Super Heroes will include favorites such as Old MacDonald, Splish Splash and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Pop songs tied into the healthy theme also get tossed into the mix, such as I Feel Good and Holding Out for a Hero.

"Cookie Monster and some dancing fruits and vegetables perform a healthy food hip hop number that crowds love," says Waters. "We've also included well-known Chinese children's songs for more authenticity."

According to Waters, the show has been performed in over 30 countries and their goal is to share the live show experience with as many families as possible.

Heroes wanted

"Elmo's Super Heroes complements Sesame Workshop's Healthy Habits initiative, a response to the growing crisis of childhood obesity. Cookie Monster still eats cookies, but, like the rest of us, he is learning to enjoy a healthier and more diverse diet."

Though Elmo's Super Heroes is targeted at children between 2 and 6 years of age, it is popular with people of all demographics who grew up with the characters.

The production held auditions in more than 30 American cities to find the best performers from across the US. As there is dancing in every scene and characters are in full costume, each performer needed to learn the proper personality quirks for each muppet to match their Sesame Street personalities.

Parents can help their children prepare for the show in a few different ways, says Waters: "They can explain that the live event will be different than the entertainment on television or online.

"Children will be encouraged to sing, dance and clap along. After the show, parents can discuss what children learned from the show, as well as favorite characters, scenes and songs."

The show will tour Shenzhen, Xi'an and Beijing after being staged in Hong Kong.