Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

February 28, 2013

Making music with Elmo and the gang

Niagara Gazette — People may try to get to “Sesame Street” to see Elmo, but Denise Pajak feels Bert is the real reason to take the trip.

The Western New York native is in her fifth year playing Bert. This year, she portrays the cantankerous first half of “Sesame Street’s” favorite duo in “Sesame Street Live: Elmo Makes Music,” which begins a five-day run at Shea’s next week.

Pajak said she can remember loving Bert (and Cookie Monster) while watching the show early in her childhood in Cheektowaga.

“He’s really my go-to buddy,” Pajak said in a phone interview from Detroit, where the show recently completed a four-week stay at the Fox Theatre. “There’s something about him I just really connect with. I really like his sarcasm. The children may go crazy over Elmo, but the parents love Bert and Ernie.”

Those who check out this version of “Sesame Street Live” will see all the characters they love. The show follows a music teacher named Jenny who moves to Sesame Street but loses her musical instruments along the way. The residents of her new home improvise with everything from rubber duckies to trash cans and cookie jars to make sweet songs in lieu of Jenny’s more traditional methods. The score of the show features covers of old-time songs such as “The Hustle” and “Rockin’ Robin.” Mixed in are familiar favorites from the show.

“You get a little bit of everything,” she said.

Despite beginning her quest toward a degree from Buffalo State College, Pajak couldn’t resist the call once Vee Corporation called her asking her to join a tour. She auditioned at her sister’s urging and didn’t get the job, but she got the call the following year while attending school and working at a shoe store at the Walden Galleria Mall. She’s been dancing since age 3, so she considered it an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up.

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