Sesame Street Live began in 1980 as an extension of the popular children's television show, and has been going strong ever since. It's new production, "Super Grover: Ready for Action," helps teach children healthy habits, and is coming to the Patriot Center, beginning Thursday, Dec. 15. Rachel Brumer, a native of California wine country, plays Kay, the Muppets' human friend, in the production. Brumer, who has been in over 50 shows in her 10 years as a working actor, recently answered some questions from her home in New York.
When and why did you start performing?
My mom put me in ballet class when I was really little and I loved it. Something about being on stage and performing for others made me really happy, especially since I was a little ham. Even though I have done thousands of shows, I still get a little giddy before going on stage. I feel like I am sharing a part of myself with other people, and that is really special to me.
Did you study formally?
I studied classical ballet with Keith Martin, a choreographer and dancer with the Royal Ballet in London, when I was growing up. I also studied at the Actors Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, and I am a graduate of the American Musical And Dramatic Academy in New York City. I have studied everything from opera to Shakespeare, in both California and New York.
Which character do you play in this production?
The character that I play is named Kay and actually she is the resident human on Sesame Street. She is a friend to the Muppets and she comes along every now and then to help them with any problems that might occur. I share the role with another performer, so when I am not Kay I also play Oscar The Grouch — who is obviously the grouchy (yet lovable) guy on Sesame Street.
How did you get this role?
This is actually my second year with this company. I auditioned at a regional audition called UPTA, which is held in Memphis. I was asked to sing and read for one of the shows and then I got a call to be a replacement for the live character of Jenny on "Everyone Makes Music," which I continued the next year internationally when we went to Singapore and Malaysia. I have also played Terry on their East Coast tour of "Out Of This World."
What's the theme of the show?
It's all about healthy habits for kids. Super Grover loses his super powers, and it's up to Elmo and all of his friends on Sesame Street to help him get them back. They teach Grover — and everyone — about getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, exercising, and practicing good hygiene. Of course, it wouldn't be Sesame Street Live without a lot of great singing, dancing and audience participation.
Do children ever get scared of the costumed characters?
I think that when children are seeing anything for the first time, it can be a little alarming. But within the first five minutes of every show I have been a part of, the kids are always hugging and dancing with the Muppets. These are characters that they know and trust from TV, so they usually have no problems with seeing and meeting these characters. Actually, we also have lots of adults who want to dance and sings with the Muppets as well.
Do you think that seeing Sesame Street characters live enhances or detracts from the aura of the show and characters?
Without a question our show enhances everything about Sesame Street that the kids see on TV. They see these characters from television and the characters become alive to them. The kids are able to be a part of Sesame Street and dance and sing with Elmo and Big Bird. I believe this makes the characters more like friends than TV personalities. Our show is also very much about audience participation and many times throughout the show, the Muppets go out into the audience. I can't tell you how awesome it is to see the kids hugging or high-fiving the characters.
What are your future plans?
Right now I am contracted with Sesame Street through the end of June, and though it sounds cliché, I would love to be on Broadway someday. Of course, for right now, I get to sing and dance with Big Bird, and it doesn't get any better than that!
Sesame Street Live's "Super Grover: Ready for Action," is Dec. 15, at 7 p.m.; Dec. 16, at 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.; Dec. 17, at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.; and Dec. 18, at 1 and 4 p.m., at the George Mason University Patriot Center. Tickets are available at the Patriot Center box office, www.ticketmaster.com, or 703-573-SEAT. Visit www.patriotcenter.com.
<1b>— Jon Whiten