BWW Interview: Make a New Friend with SESAME STREET LIVE's Ernie, Kayla Renee Smith
Sesame Street LIVE is a fun way for your kids to experience live theatre while seeing their favorite, familiar characters come to life right before their eyes.
Because the show has made its way to the Theater at Madison Square Garden, BroadwayWorld was able to chat with Kayla Renee Smith, who portrays everyone's favorite roommate (except Bert's) Ernie.
Check out the interview, below!
So, what is the show about? Is it different from the usual Sesame Street fair?
So the show is called Sesame Street LIVE: MAKE A NEW FRIEND and that's pretty much exactly what we're going to be doing: making a new friend named Chamki. She's Grover's friend from India and she's coming to Sesame Street for a day. We get to learn all about her culture, her language and even some of her favorite foods. And then, kids get to hang out with all of our family favorite characters like Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Abby Cadaby, Bert an Ernie. Even Oscar joins in on the fun as they all get to learn about her. Some of the themes that we get to learn are the universal theme of friendship and that it doesn't really matter what your background is, we can still all be friends. We also learn about how to make new friends but keep our old ones at the same time. It's a lot of fun! The show is written on a lot of different levels, so the parents and grandparents should enjoy it as much as the kids will.
Did you ever watch Sesame Street when you were younger?
I did watch Sesame Street as a kid. Cookie Monster was my favorite growing up, but I'm a little partial to Ernie now.
When did you get into performing?
I started performing at the age of 3. My mom told me she thought I was awkward and uncoordinated and that dance would help. (Laughs) But I fell in love with it immediately and I've danced since then.
How did you wind up getting the role for the show?
Well, I went to Oklahoma City University for dance. Once I graduated I ended up moving up to Orlando from a small town in Oklahoma and I just went to the audition. After, I got a phone call and they asked "What are you doing for the next 9 to 10 months of your life. Want to be a part of SEASME STREET LIVE?" and I said absolutely. And now this is my second season with them. Last year I played some different roles but this year I'm hanging out with my dear friend Ernie and he's a lot of fun. After this tour will finish up, there will be three states left that I haven't been to, which is pretty cool. MSG is a new theatre for me because I've never played there, but I'm really excited about that.
Do you use puppets like in the TV show, or do you wear costumes?
We are in full body costumes and we try to bring the characters to life as much as humanly possible because they are exciting and kids love them. Sometimes the kids might think they're a little frightening because we're a bit taller than they might actually be, but it's a lot of fun and on stage we look like we're normal sized.
So how does it feel to play a character that's a kid's dream come true to see in person? Is it a surreal moment?
Oh, for sure. I love my job. Even the days where I'm like "Man, do I really want to put this costume on," as soon as you step on the stage and see the kid's faces light up, every moment is worth it. When you get to go through the audience and meet and greet with them and you just see their smiling faces or they give you high fives and hugs, or scream "I love you Ernie!" it just kind of melts your heart. You know every minute is worth it because of that. It really is like performing at a little mini rock concert for kids.
They must be the best crowds ever.
Yeah, they're so fun. Sometimes even parents are more hype than the kids are, and that's so fun.
Do you get to meet the kids in costume before the show or is it just on stage?
The show will be playing at the Theatre at MSG from the 16th to the 26th. We have the normal ticket package and they we also have a ticket package called "Sunny Seats" which includes the front row area to the show and a 20 minute meet and greet with Elmo and a couple of friends an hour before the show, so we do get to interact with the kids at that level, too.
Are there any funny stories you have from any of the meet and greets with the kids?
One of my favorite stories is when we were playing St. Louis last year and it was very cold, and we had a small child come in the room a little bit late and he was dressed head to toe in a puffy, zip up onesie coat. He could just barely movie because it was so much clothing around him, and he just saw Elmo, smile and almost took a step towards him and ran the other direction, but it wasn't really running but more like waddling, because he got a little frightened. Then his dad picked him up and he was ok, as most kids are more comfortable meeting the characters once their parents pick them up. But, I can't get the image of him waddling in his little outfit.
No matter where you're from or where you've been, everyone is special - so join in! Elmo, Grover, Abby Cadabby, and their Sesame Street friends welcome Chamki, Grover's friend from India, to Sesame Street. Together, they explore the universal fun of friendship and celebrate cultural similarities, from singing and dancing, to sharing cookies! Join the fun and make a memory with your friends and family!