Entertainment

Sesame Street Live addresses inclusion and cultural diversity on stage

Few entities in the entertainment world have endured as long as “Sesame Street.”

In its 47 years on public television (and now HBO), “Sesame Street” has long promoted diversity among its puppets and their human counterparts. In the current stage production – “Sesame Street Live: Make a New Friend,” which stops at Bojangles’ Coliseum this weekend – it goes a step further by introducing Chamki, a character from the show’s Hindi-language adaptation, “Galli Galli Sim Sim.”

“She’s coming all the way from India,” explains performance director Rachel Dresner. “She’s Grover’s pen pal and is coming to Sesame Street for one day. Grover has all these things he wants to do with her. It’s about finding that balance between making time for old friends and new friends, and that everybody can be included, whether or not they’re from a different background or culture.”

The topics the show addresses are particularly timely.

“Especially in this day and age, it’s good for kids to be reassured that it’s OK for people to be different,” says Dresner. “It’s also the beginning of summer when kids may be starting summer camps or going on vacation and meeting new people.”

Dresner hints that the show takes advantage of current technology and addresses the presence of such; there’s even a song and dance about cell phones and smart phones.

“The storylines as well have been changing and evolving over the tour’s 37 years. ... This is the first show we’ve toured with that’s had such a cultural element,” says Dresner, who worked at Sea World in “Sesame Street” shows in college and was a dancer on the tour for two years before moving to her current position.

Although “Sesame Street Live” doesn’t tour outside the U.S., the franchise has a global presence with international co-productions in nearly two dozen countries that are populated by original characters like Chamki.

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“I think it’s the characters themselves,” says Dresner of why the show has endured. “In our audiences, whether it’s a child who is 2 years old verses a grandmother in her 80s, there’s always a character on stage they relate to or grew up watching. We have all the classics and the newer generation of characters like Abby Cadabby. The characters evolve with the audiences and help them connect.”

It hasn’t hurt that the current series has remained contemporary, delighting parents with hilarious takes on “The Hunger Games” (Cookie Monster as Katniss) and “Game of Thrones” (musical chairs), while continuing to focus on education. “Make a New Friend” features parodies of “Moves Like Jagger” and Katy Perry’s “Hot and Cold,” for instance.

“Every year, there’s a bunch of new topics they’re touching on to reach children that other programs or parents might not be able to, whether it be a difficult topic or about making friends and inclusion like our show,” Dresner adds. “ ‘Sesame Street’ has a way of incorporating educational messages into their storylines where kids don’t even realize they’re learning.”

‘Sesame Street Live: Make a New Friend’

When: 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Friday, 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Bojangles’ Coliseum, 2700 E. Independence Blvd.

Tickets: $17-$37.

Details: 800-745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com

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