Sunday, January 14, 2007

Here's Johnny (and the Sprites)

Really good children's television, programs that children and adults can enjoy together and are educational as well as entertaining, is hard to come by nowadays. Even "Sesame Street" has lost some of its wit and replaced it with boring segments like "Elmo's World." So, it's a relief that Disney had the good sense to bring back John Tartaglia's "Johnny and the Sprites."

"Johnny and the Sprites" began as short segments in between Playhouse Disney programs in 2005. The segments were successful enough to convert into half-hour shows. The new "Johnny and the Sprites" premiered on Saturday and it airs every Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m.

"Avenue Q's" John Tartaglia created the show. He plays Johnny, who moves to the woods to work on his music. There he meets the Sprites, colorful puppets who only he can see. Moms will surely enjoy "Johnny and the Sprites" for Tartaglia's adorable facial expressions and boyish charms and children will love him because he doesn't talk down to them. If that isn't enough, Tartaglia enlisted the help of some of the best musical composers currently working on Broadway to create memorable songs.

Stephen Schwartz ("Wicked") wrote the catchy theme song that would fit perfectly in "Avenue Q" with raunchier lyrics. Mark Hollman ("Urinetown"), Robert Lopez ("Avenue Q"), and Michael Patrick Walter ("Altar Boyz") also contributed. In one episode, the characters try to spot a rare bird, a Nospotalotacus. The clever song with its nonsense lyrics like "Give it a shotocus" could fit right in with Cole Porter and Ira Gershwin phrases, except this song also teaches children about team work.

Tartaglia's costars, the Sprites have personalities that children can relate to-- Basil is bookish, Ginger is stubborn, and Lily is serene. Tartaglia also voices Sage, known as the oldest and wisest Sprite, although he is actually forgetful and likely to fall asleep in the middle of conversations.

Another Avenue Q alum, Natalie Venetia Belcon (she played Gary Coleman), plays the only other human, Johnny's friend who has about as many jobs as he has songs.

Whether he's playing off puppets or humans, Tartaglia makes every scene believable. Not since Jim Henson has the bar for children's television been set this high.


Anonymous said...

I can't wait for the cast of "Altar Boyz" to be on this show. It is going to be so cute!


Anonymous said...

I love this show alot. I've liked it when it was a 5 minute "mini-show". Now that it's a longer show it's even better. I can't wait until the Altar Boyz are on it.


Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see the boyz on the show! It'll be too cute!