Twenty-five year-old Lauren Nestor lives the message that her Sesame Street Live character Kay helps deliver to audience members during the “Elmo’s Super Heroes” show: “You can be a hero by having lots of energy, wanting to help people and being ready for action.”
When Sesame Street Live arrives at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza March 14, it will feature the 2009 Penn State University graduate with more than 100 shows to her credit this season performing as fan- favorite muppet Ernie and Kay, a live human. The 5-foot-2-inch musical theatre professional dons everything from heels to overalls as Kay, an adult who arrives on scene when Super Grover “loses his superness.”
That’s when she will help the cast discover they need four healthy habits to regain super powers: exercise, nutrition, proper hygiene and getting a good night’s sleep.
And she demonstrates the energy of an athlete in the role of Ernie. At the season’s start, while wearing size 15 sneakers and a sweater made from one mile of yarn, Nestor picked up the pace, learning the choreography in one week.
“I’ve taken dance for 10 years, but to me it was never something I was quite as confident in…” So she’s been getting into the routine by “building up stamina and really just becoming a better dancer to do the character work as well.”
She said all her extra hours of training pay off at every show.
“You always see kids getting up and dancing…. It’s great that you’re kind of instilling that in kids in a fun way.”
And though her first jobs out of school included performing on a Disney cruise line and in a Broadway version of PBS’ “Angelina the Ballerina,” Nestor was overwhelmed by the Sesame Street Live fans.
“I never expected the reaction that you get from the kids…. You know you’re going to have fun and it’s all very exciting for them. But you always see a child in the front row whose eyes just light up when they see their favorite character come out.
“And I guess I just didn’t really realize how much every show was going to make you have this amazing, rewarding feeling. Even though it’s dancing and hard work it gives you such a great feeling to know that every show a kid’s dream is coming true.”
What makes this leg of the national tour especially meaningful for the Pennsylvania native is a chance to take the stage where her family and friends can easily attend performances. Her parents were planning to attend an Erie performance.
“Of course mom and dad had me playing the piano and taking dance classes to be well rounded,” she said of her childhood. Growing up in Trafford, near Pittsburgh, Nestor took part in community theater with costumes of “lots of sparkles and taffeta.”
“It’s really a dream to be able to say you’re working in something you graduated from college and something you loved, too.”
Performances will take place March 14 through 17, with ticket prices starting at $13. For details, visit the Pennstar Box Office at Mohegan Sun Arena, online at www.ticketmaster.com or charge by phone at 800. 745.3000 or any Ticketmaster outlet.