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Welcome to Avenue 'D' - USA TODAY 1/12/07


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  • Welcome to Avenue 'D' - USA TODAY 1/12/07

    Broadway sings sprightly in kids' series 'Johnny'

    Posted 1/11/2007 9:00 PM ET

    Johnny and the Sprites: John Tartaglia and Lily and Root.

    By Robert Bianco, USA TODAY

    Welcome to Avenue "D."

    The folks at the Tony-winning musical Avenue Q apparently liked spoofing children's shows so much, they've put together a real one for the Disney Channel. Premiering Saturday at 10 a.m. ET/PT, Johnny and the Sprites boasts music from Q's musical director, Gary Adler, and a headline performance by Q's Tony-nominated star, John Tartaglia.

    And they're not the only Broadway connection. The series, a puppet show for preschoolers about a guy who discovers magical sprites in his backyard, also has songs from Wicked's Stephen Schwartz, who wrote the show's theme, and performances by Thoroughly Modern Millie's Sutton Foster and Q's Natalie Venetia Belcon.

    Granted, it is something of a leap for Tartaglia and his Q friends to go from such songs as The Internet Is for Porn and Everyone's a Little Bit Racist to sweet preschool songs meant to bolster sprites' (and children's) self-esteem. But while there are no adult lyrics, the show is designed to introduce children to complex adult harmonies, performances and chord progressions.

    "Sixty years ago, Broadway music was pop music," Tartaglia says. "Some of the best composers I know are Broadway composers. … A lot of children's television music is very simple and repetitive, and I wanted to tell a story with this music and introduce them to music they may not otherwise be exposed to."

    And who knows? If the show's a hit, kids might even be introduced to new music from the most revered Broadway composer of our time: Stephen Sondheim. "He said he's thrilled about the show and wants to work on it. … I'm very honored by that."

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