By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal
It’s a lot of fun – but a lot of work – to be The Bird. That’s what Christopher Ellis calls his character he plays in Sesame Street Live’s “Elmo Makes Music.” He’s been playing Big Bird for 10 years, so he gets to call his alter ego by the nickname, The Bird.
“At first it was very difficult to dance in the costume. They teach you the show, but they didn’t tell me what I was getting myself into,” Ellis said. “I learned the choreography in, like, a day, so I put The Bird on and I was like, ‘You want me do the choreography in this thing? It’s impossible; he’s larger than life.’ He’s pretty much all legs. Now I’m used to doing it.”
Ruffle the feathers
In “Elmo Makes Music,” music teacher Jenny loses all of her instruments on Sesame Street.
“Elmo comes up with an idea on how to make instruments for her, like cookie jars filled with cookies,” Ellis said. “She loves it. We’re playing the songs for her. We’re learning, and so is the audience.”
Sesame Street favorites like Count von Count, Cookie Monster, Abby Cadabby, Bert and Ernie, Grover and Oscar the Grouch help Elmo and Big Bird make instruments for Jenny.
Like the characters, many of the nearly two dozen songs in “Elmo Makes Music” will be familiar to both parents and kids.
“There’s this part of the show where Bird does a ‘Saturday Night Fever’ kind of song. Think of John Travolta in a white tuxedo. A lot of the parents get a kick out of that. We also have a song by Sly and the Family Stone, ‘Dance to the Music,” Ellis said.
Classic Sesame Street tunes are in the show, too, like “C is for Cookie.”
Elmo and his buddies make plenty of makeshift instruments on stage, but they also encourage the audience to make their own music.
“We get them to clap their hands, stomp their feet, pat their arms and knees. We love audience participation. You don’t wanna just sit there and watch these characters dance around. We like to get people up having a good time. The parents usually have more fun than the kids do,” he said.
Ellis gets to step outside The Bird for one tap dancing number.
“We come out there in these big ole feet, and its glow-in-the-dark feet with bright colors like orange and yellow,” he said. “After that number is done, we’re so tired. It’s so much fun, though, and it’s a crowd pleaser.”
Ellis encouraged music fans of all ages to see what instruments they can come up with in “Elmo Makes Music.”
“This is one of Sesame Street Live’s most famous shows. It brings a great message and it’s very entertaining,” he said. “Come down and be ready to be entertained, and expect the best from us.”
WHAT: Sesame Street Live’s “Emo Makes Music”
WHEN: 7 p.m. Oct. 2-3, and 10:30 a.m. Oct. 3
WHERE: BancorpSouth Arena
COST: $20, $15, $25/Gold Circle, $50/Sunny Seats, which include
pre-show photo opportunity with two characters.
INFO: bcsarena.com, (662) 841-6528