Big Bird and those original Sesame Street characters haven't aged since first appearing on PBS stations more than 40 years ago.
However, the live show featuring those characters constantly is evolving.
Jim Waters, as a producer and senior vice president of production, with the Vee Corporation, is one of the people responsible for staying true to the beloved characters and creating a stage production that can compete with the sensory overload offered by other entertainment targeted to young children.
''The pacing, some of the visuals have gone up a little bit,'' Waters said during a telephone interview from Vee Corporation's office in Minneapolis. ''The production value and the quality has gotten better technically, and everything else has kept up with the look of the television show.''
Waters has been with Sesame Street Live since the beginning, working as an art director on that first production.
''33 years later I'm still doing it,'' he said.
When You Go
WHAT: Sesame Street Live - ''1-2-3 Imagine! with Elmo & Friends''
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday, 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday
Auditorium, 260 W.
Federal St., Youngstown.
HOW MUCH: Tickets range from $12 to $45.
The latest Sesame Street Live production is ''1-2-3 Imagine! with Elmo & Friends,'' which opens Friday for a five-performance run at Powers Auditorium.
And it takes about a year to develop and bring a new production to the stage.
While the Vee Corporation is separate from the Children's Television Workshop, which produces the television series, Waters said they do consult with the folks on the television side.
''We'll speak with the head of production and research what they are working on,'' he said. ''We'll place the show as close as we can with the subject matter and see what parallels we can make with it ... We always use 'Sesame Street' writers who are familiar with the show, remember what the good songs are. They're extremely helpful with staying within the brand. But we understand the characters quite well now.''
Once the script is finished, designers start working on the set and the visual presentation while the songs and the dialogue are recorded.
''It's a unique group of highly talented people who do the dialogue,'' Waters said.
Then actors are cast to play those familiar characters in front of an audience.
For its on stage performers, Sesame Street Live draws largely from young dancers, Waters said, ''But there is much more acting than people ever imagine. They have to get into character, they have to bring it it to life. Even in a full body costume, they bring in quite a lot of visual material in the interrelationships between characters.''
Once a show is launched, it will tour for several years. Sesame Street Live has three productions touring the United States simultaneously, Waters said, and those shows will tour internationally after they finished in North America.
In ''1-2-3 Imagine,'' the Sesame Street gang starts dreaming of traveling to far away places after mail carrier Sam delivers postcards from exotic locales. Sam tells them they can take those journeys using their imaginations, which allows Ernie to sail the ocean on the Good Ship Rubber Duckie, Elmo to dance in an African rainforest and Bert to interact with an octopus that has the blues. Songs from the television show are mixed with familiar tunes like ''She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain'' and ''Surfin' Safari.''
''The characters are visually funny and humorous, but also the content is very smart,'' Waters said. ''There's a double layer of humor, a lot of parodies ... But it's still really good clean fun and not fun at the expense of anyone.''
Sesame Street Live acknowledges the adults in the audience by incorporating older pop hits and including some jokes that will be better appreciated by those who already can tie their own shoes, but the shows never lose focus on who the target audience is.
''I think it's the first true theater experience for the kids,'' Water said. ''It's such a visual stimulus, big and bright. And after the first couple of minutes, they settle in and enjoy it.
''For parents it's their first opportunity to see their children exposed to it. It's a building block for the parents, but the real show for them is watching their kids. The kids look at the stage; the parents are looking to the left and the right.''