‘Sesame Street’ musical comes to Center for Puppetry Arts

Popular "Sesame Street" character Cookie Monster is one of the lead puppets appearing in "Sesame Street: The Musical" coming to Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta from June 5-Aug. 4.

Credit: Courtesy photo/Curtis Brown

Credit: Courtesy photo/Curtis Brown

Popular "Sesame Street" character Cookie Monster is one of the lead puppets appearing in "Sesame Street: The Musical" coming to Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta from June 5-Aug. 4.

“Sesame Street” favorites Elmo, Cookie Monster, Grover, Bert, Ernie and others are bringing sunny days and teachable moments to “Sesame Street: The Musical” at the Center for Puppetry Arts from June 5-Aug. 4.

Directed and written by Jonathan Rockefeller, the lively, hourlong stage adaptation of the popular children’s TV program created by late puppeteer Jim Henson takes viewers behind-the-scenes as the beloved puppets put on their first stage musical. “Sesame Street: The Musical” is the furry characters’ first song and dance-filled production for theater.

Rockefeller says the elements that go into musical theater like rehearsals and costuming are part of the educational tools that he included in the storyline.

“‘Sesame Street has always been a guiding light for how we should interact as friends and in society,” Rockefeller said. “Underneath it all is how to cooperate with each other.”

(l. to r.) "Sesame Street" characters Oscar the Grouch and Elmo are part of "Sesame Street: The Musical" at Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta from June 5-Aug. 4.

Credit: Curtis Brown

icon to expand image

Credit: Curtis Brown

“Sesame Street: The Musical” features catchy tunes from the original show like “C is for Cookie,” “Rubber Duckie” and “Fuzzy and Blue.” Rockefeller brought in composer Nate Edmonson, his longtime collaborator, to write “Hey! We’re in a Musical,” the show’s opening number featuring the ensemble cast. The Australian American director recruited Broadway songwriters Tom Kitt to write the aspirational “Imagination” for Elmo, and Helen Park to pen “You Can Be a Star.”

“We wanted to feature as many appropriate ‘Sesame Street’ songs as possible without it being back-to-back songs,” Rockefeller said.

A fan of “Sesame Street” since he was a child growing up in Australia, Rockefeller originally came up with the idea for “Sesame Street: The Musical” while he was working on the U.S. premiere of his adaptation of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” in 2016. “Sesame Street” executives saw a production of that show and were impressed with Rockefeller’s modern take on the children’s storybook.

In April 2022, Rockefeller started developing “Sesame Street: The Musical.” Five months later, the show premiered in New York.

The Honkers are among the puppets featured in "Sesame Street: The Musical" coming to Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta from June 5-Aug. 4.

Credit: Curtis Brown

icon to expand image

Credit: Curtis Brown

“‘Sesame Street’ has over a 50-year history of really great scripts, characters and songs,” Rockefeller said. “We were working out what sort of narrative would combine these really awesome stories and characters together that’s digestible for today’s audience.”

Rockefeller wanted to bring “Sesame Street: The Musical” to the Center for Puppetry Arts when the show was still active in New York. It was the first call he made to tour the production.

“There was no other proper place to put on this show,” Rockefeller said

Center for Puppetry Arts executive director Beth Schiavo says “Sesame Street: The Musical” is in its “natural home.”

“We’re excited about everything related to the Jim Henson legacy,” she said. “We feel a strong passion for what he’s done not only to puppetry arts as a profession but in utilizing puppetry to educate and communicate with children.”

In 2002, a 17-year-old Rockefeller got a job as director Baz Luhrmann’s assistant while the filmmaker was working on the Broadway version of the opera “La Boheme” in 2002. The production introduced Rockefeller to live theater.

In January 2015, Rockefeller started his production company, Rockefeller Productions, while he was producing his live theater debut, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show” in collaboration with author Eric Carle.

“It was a really good place to begin to show that the genre really worked,” Rockefeller said. “We like to do things that are fun, a little bit different, and not necessarily for kids but the kid inside of all of us.”

In December 2023, Rockefeller opened The Rock Shop, his in-house workshop where he and his creative team build every puppet, prop and set, to outsource his services and collaborate with other show producers.

One of the main features that The Rock Shop created for “Sesame Street: The Musical” are posters that parody past Broadway shows. Expanding his puppetry empire is Rockefeller’s way of keeping other creatives encouraged to work in live theater and the arts.

“It’s important to have a bunch of really talented, like-minded artists who could construct the vision of what we all were doing together,” said Rockefeller, calling his members of his staff “Rocketeers.” “They’re really tremendous and great at sewing, building and sculpting.”

The best part of making “Sesame Street: The Musical” or any other puppet show is seeing audience members of all ages leave happy, Rockefeller said.

“There’s no greater joy than sitting in the back of the audience where no one can see me and seeing everyone laughing, smiling and enjoying themselves. Bringing shows to a new audience that hasn’t seen it before is always so much fun.”


IF YOU GO

“Sesame Street: The Musical”

June 5-Aug. 4. Two sensory-friendly afternoon performances June 23. $29-$79. Center for Puppetry Arts, 1404 Spring St. NW, Atlanta. 404-873-3391, puppet.org.