John Tartaglia is to our householdÂ as the Beatles are to Rock ‘n Roll.
WeÂ followÂ John’s career with such great enthusiasm and eagerness because the guy has talent for miles and he keeps showing up in our favorite places in theatre and television.Â From his MySpace page, I learned that John started doing work part time as a puppeteer for Sesame Street at the age of 16 as one of their youngest puppeteers ever.Â He worked there for 11 years.Â And if you’re playing six degrees of separation, he was born in Maple Shade, New Jersey and we live in Maplewood, New Jersey!Â Â What a connection!Â That makes us “neighborsÂ inÂ my head” at theÂ very least.
TartagliaÂ arrived withÂ a bang on theÂ New York theatre scene with Avenue Q — every one’s favoriteÂ R-rated puppet musical.Â Â The show was produced by and opened at the Off-Broadway Vineyard Theatre in March 2003 and transferred to Broadway in July of that year, winningÂ several Tony Awards, including the award for Best Musical.Â John’s work as characters Princeton and Rod (the gay Republican with a girlfriend … in Canada, beloved by anyone who ever had a soft spot for Burt on Sesame Street) was also nominatedÂ for a Tony asÂ Best Actor in a Musical.Â
TartagliaÂ was recently right in front of my eyes when my daughter Lucy and I were invited to Chelsea Studios in Manhattan for a sneak preview of Broadway Theatrical’s production of John Tartaglia’sÂ Imaginocean!.Â Â An original concept puppet musical for the whole family, Imagineocean! is set to debut on November 20, 2009 on — of all places — the Royal Caribbean’s newest ship Oasis of the Seas, the largest cruise ship ever built.Â How cool is that?
Partnering with composer William Wade, John hasÂ created an adorable story of friendship and adventure featuring wonderful puppet versions of our favorite sea creatures.Â Â The puppets are created by Tartaglia, Michael ShawnÂ LewisÂ and the team at The Puppet Kitchen, LLC andÂ innovatively use black-light, neon colors andÂ neon bubbles.Â Three fishes named Tank, Dorsel and Bubbles travel the ocean in search of a hidden treasure, finally find it only to discover it is actually three, simpleÂ friendship bracelets.Â Too cute.Â The showÂ has the humor and charm represented in all of John’s work.Â AndÂ thanks toÂ my five-year-oldÂ Lucy, IÂ know all that work very, very well.Â
He captured my daughter’s ear and heart with his Disney series Johnny and the Sprites which featured his many talents.Â Â The show was created for, is produced by, and stars John and features Stage-Mama favorites Sutton Foster and Natalie Venetia Belcon, a cast mate from his Avenue Q days.Â It also includes music by some of the theatre world’s finest young composers including Gary Adler, Benj Pacek and Justin Paul, Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich, Bobby Lopez, Michael Patrick Weller among others.
He returned to Broadway last fall asÂ poor, poor Pinocchio in Shrek: The MusicalÂ and was fantastic with the albeit abbreviated version of Shrek’s Pinocchio.Â The movie did the character better justice than the musical did, and John’s real talents weren’t truly capitalized on, but letting his Â ”Freak Flag Fly” in the show’s penultimate number made us all remember what a wonderful entertainer he is.
Â The day after our trip to see Imaginocean! I came home from work to find Lucy had created out of wax thread, a friendship bracelet for me.Â Thanks, John, for teaching us yet another lesson about the joy of celebrating friendshipÂ through music and play!Â
What’s next for Tartaglia?Â Well, I think he should do Mamet.Â Definitely Mamet.Â
Thank you to producer Philip Katz for the generous invitation to John Tartaglia’s Imaginocean!Â We have a friendship bracelet waiting for you too.
For more information on the great work Broadway Theatrical is doing, click here.Â