Interview with ‘Sesame Street Live”s Ernie

Bert and Ernie
Kids go crazy when they see Bert and Ernie start dancing.
Credit: TM/© 2014 Sesame Workshop. All Rights Reserved. Photographs courtesy of VEE Corporation

There are few things kids love more than “Sesame Street.” Promising your kids the opportunity to see Elmo, Bert, Ernie and the rest of the gang in person will get you good behavior for a lifetime. Or at least a week. We get the lowdown on the new production of “Sesame Street Live: Elmo Makes Music,” held at The Theater at Madison Square Garden from actor Danny Mendoza, who plays Ernie.

How long have you been playing Ernie and what do you love about it?
This is my second season as Ernie. I love entertaining people and playing Ernie is really fun for me. He’s a jokester and doesn’t take anything too seriously. I can really relate to that.

What is the musical about?
The story of the show is about our new neighbor, Jenny. She’s a music teacher but she can’t find her instruments. The whole premise is that we find household items to make music, like a trash can lid, shoes…Anything a kid would find to make music with, that’s that’s what we make music with. … Parents are often curious how the production functions. We don’t talk as the voices; the voices are the actual voices from the show. We do that to keep it genuine.

What made you want to perform for kids instead of adults?
I like that we can connect with the parents and the kids. Every generation has something to look forward to when they come to the show. But the kids absolutely love it. I love seeing them dancing and jumping around all over the place. Kids don’t really know what to expect when they come to the show. Then, they see us all dancing and they get really into it. My favorite scene is a disco song. Bert comes out in a John Travolta outfit and the kids just go crazy.

Do you come out and meet the kids after the show?
We actually have an event called Sunny Seats, which happens an hour before the show. The kids get to have their picture taken with Elmo and another character will come out to see the kids, too. Sometimes it will be me, sometimes Bert, Big Bird or Cookie Monster. It’s a great, interactive experience for the whole family.

How do kids normally act when they meet you as Ernie?
Some are really star-struck and scared. Others come right up to me and give me a big hug. A lot of kids come to the show dressed up as their favorite “Sesame Street” character.

“Sesame Street” the TV show is such a celebrity magnet. Is there a celebrity appearance you liked in particular?
I loved the Katy Perry episode where she’s singing with Elmo. When I was little, I remember an episode with Gloria Estefan and another one with Debbie Harry. Those both really stuck out to me.

If you go:
February 13 – February 23
The Theater at Madison Square Garden
4 Pennsylvania Plaza, 212-465-MSG1 (6741)
www.theateratmsg.com

Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence


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