For more than 30 years, Sesame Street has been educating unsuspecting children with an enticing mix of music, comedy and the inexplicable charisma of the Muppets. Capitalizing on the iconic nature of the show and its characters, Sesame Street Live has, for the past 20 years, been taking the characters and unique approach to learning out of the relative sterility of the Sesame Street soundstages and taking them on the road.
Elmo's Coloring Book, one of the three shows touring this year, will be staged through Sunday at Bell Auditorium, 712 Telfair St.
Featuring performers encased in full-body costumes and well-documented Sesame Street personas, the show weaves its way through ancient Egypt, the frozen Arctic, and the color-splashed lab of the brilliant, if a bit baffled Professor Art.
Kim McCollum, who plays the fiery Red Pallette, one of the professor's three primary-colored assistants, said in a telephone interview that although the touring schedule and 25-pound costume can be emotionally and physically tiring, the ability to bring a show that means so much to so many children to life for them has helped lighten the load.
"This is my job but it is also what I love to do," she said. "For those kids in an audience, this is real. They don't see Kim under that costume, they see Red Pallette."
Because children often do not recognize cast members as performers in costume, or choose not to, Miss McCollum said that performing with Sesame Street Live carries a unique responsibility.
"I have to remember that when I'm on stage in that costume I am the Red Pallette," she said. "I have to completely take on that character for the kids in the audience."
Dancing for nearly two hours under hot lights in a heavy costume without lagging has enhanced Miss McCollum's confidence - ironically a lesson the show attempts to teach its young patrons.
"I definitely know that this has been the hardest thing I've ever done," Miss McCollum said. "It was very hard to coordinate all the aspects of the costume, but after wearing a 25-pound costume for 90 minutes, I know I'll never complain."
While Miss McCollum harbors no illusions about making the Red Pallette a career, saying she would like to settle down and teach at some point, she plans to stay with the show for a while. She said when the time comes for her to retire her foam-rubber head, she'll carry the lessons Sesame Street has taught her through life.
"The way this has touched me is that when I'm teaching children I'll know that I can allow them to take on roles. Sesame Street works because kids can be Elmo or The Count if they want to be. That's how they learn and that's how you touch kids."
What: Sesame Street Live: Elmo's Coloring Book
When: 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. today, 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, and 1 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Bell Auditorium, 712 Telfair St.
Admission: $11.50-$13.50 adults, $10-$12 children, group rates available.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.