Muppet Retro Reviews: Elmopalooza


Michael Wermuth, Jr. – Elmopalooza is a special celebrating the 30th anniversary of Sesame Street. Unlike other anniversary specials, this one does not include clips from the show. Instead, it features new musical performances of songs from the show, as performed by many pop stars along with familiar Muppet characters, and most of the numbers are done in the style of music videos.

The main plot of the special revolves around Jon Stewart, who is set to host a Sesame Street music special. But right before showtime, Elmo accidentally locks Jon, producer Prairie Dawn, the door repair man, and the entire crew except for a stagehand (played by David Alan Grier) inside Jon’s dressing room, so the Sesame Street Muppets decide to put on the show themselves. The Count provides the countdown, Bert directs, and Elmo decides to host, in an attempt to make up for his mistake.

This special also has a B-plot, in which the adults plan to come to the studio by limo, but their driver ends up being Grover. Grover assures them that even though he does not know the way, he will get them there because he has a video map. But it turns out it was not a video map after all, but a video game. Fortunately, Grover does end up getting them there before the closing number, but not before getting them lost in other places, like the desert.

For a special celebrating the music of Sesame Street, particularly an anniversary special, most of the songs included are NOT ones casual fans might expect. We don’t get celebrities singing new versions of “Rubber Duckie”, “C is for Cookie”, “Bein’ Green”, or other songs like that. Instead, most of the songs are what I’d consider secondary or lower (“I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon” is what I’d call the only A-list song to be included). In fact, some of these songs I hadn’t heard (or even heard of) until I saw this special (and a few of them I still haven’t seen or heard the original performances of). But pretty much all of the performances are great regardless.

Among the songs given music videos are “Caribbean Amphibian” with Jimmy Buffet and Kermit, “I Want a Monster to Be My Friend” (a song not seen or heard on the show since 1984) with En Vogue and the monsters, “Mambo I,I, I” with Gloria Estefan and Rosita, and “One Small Voice” with Kenny Loggins, among other numbers. At one point, Elmo and Rosie O’Donnell take the stage to perform “Nearly Missed”, and when Elmo accidentally causes the set to fall apart, he starts feeling bad about himself as host, but he gets better. In addition to all the singers, there are cameos by non-singers like Richard Beltzer (who has a stunt double try to break down the door), Chris Rock (who considers hosting the show, until Prairie Dawn tells him “No dirty jokes!”), and Conan O’Brien (who interviews the Martians).

Eventually, Jon Stewart breaks free of his dressing room, Elmo’s spirits are lifted, and they are able to sing a great closing number, “Songs”, joined by the cast (and the stagehand). This sequence includes a medley of some of the more famous songs one would expect to see in a special like this, like “Rubber Duckie” and “C is for Cookie”. It’s a grand finale, followed by a closing credits montage of all the celebrities in the special singing a verse of the theme song.

So that’s Elmopalooza. I would have preferred the special to have clips from the show, as that’s what I normally expect from anniversary specials, but despite the lack of show clips, this is a great special. I enjoy the various celebrity performances, and it’s cool that the special focuses on lesser-known songs, and the special features most of the 1997-1998 cast (plus Forgetful Jones in the background of some scenes). Elmo may have his name in the title, but it’s a lot more than just Elmo. It’s an anniversary special worth watching.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier,

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