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BWW Interview: John Tartaglia Talks Hosting A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS and More

John Tartaglia. Photo by Richard Termine.

John Tartaglia, Tony-nominated actor who has appeared on Broadway in Shrek, Avenue Q, Hair and Beauty and the Beast, as well as TV's Sesame Street, has a long history of collaborating with The New York Pops.

He will reunite with the Pops' Music Director Steven Reineke this Saturday to narrate a brand new family concert version of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, based on the beloved TV special by Charles M. Schulz.

Tartaglia recently chatted with BWW about guiding the audience through what he hopes will become a new holiday tradition, using his family programming background to his advantage, and directing the new musical Because of Winn Dixie, currently running in Little Rock.

You're sort of "hosting" the show as the narrator. Can you talk about your role a little bit?

I'm super excited. I get to basically tell the story of A Charlie Brown Christmas, which everyone knows so well and loves so much, so it's a great responsibility. I get to play some of the characters, and I get to sing a new original song that's being written for the show, so it's really cool. It's a special that I've always been very endeared to and obsessed over as a kid, so it feels very real to make a part of the holiday season by telling it. My hope is I'm kind of like the audience's guide through the program.

Talk about working with Steven [Reineke] again. I know you guys have collaborated on a lot of different projects.

The Pops, they feel like home to me. I love everyone involved; the organization is amazing. And Steven is a great leader, and I respect him so much for the work he does. He's such an incredible conductor and musician, and he's so much a part of these concerts in the obvious way, which is his conducting, but also he has such a good understanding of storytelling and audience flow. he's just incredibly smart, and I love working with him. It always sort of feels like we're brothers collaborating on a project together; it's a lot of fun.

Do you have a favorite part of the performance?

My favorite part of the special, which is definitely going to be reflected, is when all of the meaning comes together at the end and the whole story of Christmas and the way Linus tells it so pure-of-heart. But also when all the kids come and decorate Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. I love that. I love the story of the little Christmas tree and how no one else sees it for what it really is except Charlie Brown. I've always been a sappy person, so I love everything about the heart of the concert. Of course, I also love the famous dance to the Vince Guaraldi music -- I don't know what it's officially called, that piece -- but [sings the tune]. I think it'll be fun to hear that played by a huge orchestra.

You've worked with Sesame Street and the Muppets for years -- how do you think that will help with this being a family show and also working with the kids from TADA?

I've done so much work for family and for young audiences, and I hope that all comes through. The one thing that the Muppets has taught me over the years is that kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. Kids identify BS faster than anyone else does. So if you're not being honest with them, and you're not really talking to them on an equal level -- the minute you start treating kids like kids, they know. They pick up on it. And so I always try to remember how intelligent they are.

I think the best entertainment works on two levels. So, with something like A Charlie Brown Christmas, the reason why it's still so popular is not just because kids love it. It's because as adults you can watch it and see the meaning. The best kind of entertainment for families does that. It's not just something you bring your kids to and let them run around and clap their hands while you sit there texting on your iPhone, it's something where you are just as engaged as they are. And I think with A Charlie Brown Christmas, you couldn't pick a more beloved family classic.

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