Picks and Pans Main: Etc.

updated 02/21/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/21/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST


Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Count Von Count and all the rest of the Jim Henson Muppets who hang around the urban disarray of 123 Sesame Street may not seem like your typical down-home folks. But for this third edition of Sesame Street Live, they head for the country and pull off a colorful, splendidly kinetic stage production. The company's 20 dancer-actors and mock singers, togged out in masks and costumes made famous on TV, cavort through brightly choreographed numbers to a taped sound track. Thus their voices are identical to the ones kids already know, and that aural recognition seems to grab the few remaining kids who weren't already driven into instant euphoria at first sight of their favorites prancing onstage.

Youngsters who have heard Sesame Country, the delightful 1981 record from which this show was derived, might miss several of the most charming songs from the album. Among the casualties in the transition to the stage, alas, are Songs (performed in the album by Crystal Gayle with Big Bird) and Count on Me (Loretta Lynn with the Count). One piece of added material appears out of place: I Just Adore Four, which opens the second act as a big, Hollywood-style production number featuring Forgetful Jones, who has forgotten the show is supposed to be about country music and the joys of rural life.

Other additions fare better. Audience participation is encouraged in a medley of familiar tunes, including She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain, sung to a game of musical chairs, Old MacDonald Had a Farm and a country variation of Mama Don't 'Low. And retained from the album are such favorites as Count Von Count's Continuous Country Cookin' Country Down Home Diner and Kin Folk, sung by the ensemble. (The Last Cookie Roundup, the theme song of you-know-which monster, is, alas, missing.)

Overall, the production succeeds in maintaining a barn dance flavor that blends nicely with the dry wit of the original programs from the Children's Television Workshop. The leader of the Blue Fur Mountain Band, for example, is a mellow, hirsute newcomer named Wooly Nelson; also making his debut is lead singer Furlin Wailin. This sort of high spirits goes on for 90 minutes, including intermission, and neither the kids nor adults will likely be squirming before the end. Family entertainment doesn't come much better.

Sesame Jamboree is currently touring in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, with dates in San Antonio, Shreveport, Baton Rouge, Fort Worth, Corpus Christi; Tulsa, Oklahoma City and El Paso in the immediate weeks ahead. Ticket prices average $6.50 but vary from city to city, as do souvenir costs, which can be substantial if things aren't kept under control.

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