For Justin Baret, the way to Sesame Street was sprinkled with magic. Baret plays Justin the magician in “Sesame Street Live: Make Your Magic.” That he shares a first name with his character is a coincidence – and part of the magic, he said.
In the show, the magician is going to put on a show for the neighborhood, and Elmo wants to be a part of it. The problem is Elmo doesn’t know magic. So Elmo and friends learn about the “power of yet” – meaning “you can do anything as long as you put your mind to it,” Baret said.
Much like Elmo, Baret didn’t know magic when he was hired for the show. But now, thanks to practice – and a magician hired to teach the cast – he has more than a few tricks up his sleeve, including making a flower, or 16 foam balls, appear.
“Learning magic was my ‘power of yet’ story,” he said. “It was really, truly, ironically enough a magical experience for me.” Being a “Sesame Street” show, there are lots of lessons embedded in the story, all of them tucked into the theme of the “power of yet.”
“We also teach the kids that there’s magic in everyday life,” Baret said. That magic comes out in lessons about the science of shadows, the power of primary colors, counting and baking cookies.
And there’s no age limit to learning from the show, Baret said. “The magic that ‘Sesame Street’ brings is applicable to not only children, but to people my age and people older.” He especially sees that in the meet-and-greet sessions cast members do before shows.
“Parents come up and hug Elmo, Cookie Monster or Grover, and thank them for the impact that they had growing up, teaching them something,” Baret said. People will also tell them “Sesame Street” helped them learn English or become more confidant in math.
“We have our show focused to children, but it’s just so nice to see how the show has helped so many people over so many years,” he said. And, yes, Baret was a “Sesame Street” fan when he was a kid. His favorite characters were Elmo and Grover because they’re the funniest, he said.
Having Elmo or Grover or Big Bird calling him by name – and that it’s his real name – “It’s like your wildest childhood dream come to life.”
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