I learned a few things at the Sesame Street “Elmo Makes Music” concert last night:
1. Triangles have three sides;
2. The letter “J” is a big sponsor;
and 3. I never want to do that again.
The concert itself was actually really well done based on the portions I could hear. It was nice to take a sometimes nostalgic trip down memory lane as the characters busted out the old school Sesame Street rhymes. But roughly 12 minutes into the show, the majority of kids had met their threshold and were ready to go home. Rather than sit quietly and enjoy the colors, dancing, and fancy lights decorating the stage, they sat in their seats blathering with outside voices as though nothing was going on around them.
Of the 2,400 folks in attendance, approximately 1,400 were children. Of the 1,400 children, approximately 6 watched in silent awe. The rest mindlessly chatted away or wailed uncontrollably when a cotton candy salesman would stride by and leave them empty-handed. Every 12-15 seconds these vendors would walk by with $8 bags filled with 16 cents worth of whispy sugar. Which means that every 12-15 seconds, Bert & Ernie’s duet would be muffled by a chorus of calls for overpriced treats on a stick.
Being a father of three, I know full well that a child’s attention span is equal to that of an amnesic gnat. Unless you’re able to maintain constant focus, which requires the use of firecrackers, you’ll lose them. And once you lose them, you’ll come to realize that you blew $90 on a memory they’ll never retain.
Prior to the start of the concert, kids were bouncing in their seats, talking loudly, and ignoring parental pleas to remain still. But once those lights went down and the Sesame Street creatures took the stage, the kids turned, stared, and marveled as the stage came alive. Then, around the 12-minute mark, they resumed bouncing in their seats, talking loudly, and ignoring parental pleas to remain still.
Kamryn wasn’t among the obnoxious but she did prattle away without any regard for those around her. She wasn’t wrestling in her seat or jibber-jabbing without a point. Instead, her boisterous chatter was more cerebral in nature. She would ask questions like, “Is that the REAL Elmo? Or a fake Elmo?” To which I assured her that all of the characters were real. Seemingly satisfied with my answer, she turned and stared intently at the stage.
But what I thought was a gaze of childhood wonderment was actually a discerning look of growing doubt. Minutes later, she turned to me and asked in an almost mocking tone, “If they’re real, then why don’t their eyes blink?”
I don’t know how these performers could stand it. Granted, they get paid whether any child realizes they’re up there or not, but it would drive me crazy to be singing, dancing, and asking the audience rhetorical questions knowing so few were paying attention.
Jenny, the human aspect of the show, was terrific. While the characters themselves just had to dance their routines as a soundtrack played over the loudspeakers, she had to do all of her talking and singing Live. To be honest, Elmo made very little music of his own. This was clearly Jenny’s show, but Elmo has the notoriety, and the producers are smart enough to know that they won’t sell nearly as many tickets with a marquee that reads, “Jenny Makes Music.”
Elmo is the draw, and I’m sure he draws an equally fat check.
If you ever decide to attend a child-oriented concert, expect to see very little of the child-oriented concert. It’s like being on that nightmare flight when the kid six rows up is crying, kicking seats, and demanding treats. Only this particular flight has 1,400 unruly passengers all striving to annoy you in unison.
There were several times when I turned to Heather to ask if these kids even knew the concert had started. It was actually quite unbearable, and considering parents were either seated next to these blabbermouths or beneath them as children contorted in their laps, I’m amazed that 2+ hours passed without so much as a “Shhhhh!” or a frazzled Big Bird peering into the crowd and shouting, “HEY KIDS? SHUT THE F*** UP!”
Throughout the concert, Jenny would be prancing about the stage trying to whip the crowd into a frenzy over the fact that The Count had made it all the way to the number 8. Yet, repeatedly, her calls for a collective “EIGHT!” from the crowd were met with a smattering of halfhearted replies. Staying true to the script, Jenny would compliment us on how fantastic we were at counting, even though 98% of the children had no clue she’d even asked them to participate. Even so, this didn’t stop the group from taking credit with the round of applause Jenny suggested we give ourselves.
From a parental standpoint, I give the show a 9 out of 10, and I’d give the audience a negative three. I asked Kamryn what she thought of the show and she replied with, “I want a balloon.” Based on the cash flying out of parental wallets throughout the night, it’s clear that from a childhood perspective, the merchandising was a 10. Cotton candy? A 10. The show? Well, most would be hard-pressed to realize there was one.
The concert’s ambiance aside, we did enjoy a special night with our daughter. Following the show, we took her to a Japanese-style Steakhouse so she could watch them cook on the Hibachi grill in front of us. Judging by the fact that she never took her eyes off the chef’s mechanics and still hasn’t stopped talking about it, I think Elmo can take away a lesson here. If you really want to capture and maintain a child’s interest, you need to add a dimension of fire and juggled knives.
Granted, the fuzzy costumes present somewhat of a fire hazard, but you have to admit that watching a flaming Elmo frantically roll around the stage would absolutely provide the kind of long-lasting memory we’re after as fleeced parents.
Now THAT is a ticket I’d buy.