Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Look Inside Mr. Snuffleupagus after 7 Years, Actor Serious about Large Role

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Look Inside Mr. Snuffleupagus after 7 Years, Actor Serious about Large Role

Article excerpt

Byline: Nancy McAlister, Times-Union staff writer

OK, so it's fairly obvious that Mr. Snuffleupagus is the largest Muppet on Sesame Street. But did you know the big fella's first name is Aloyisius? And that he's only 4 years old?

Noland McFarland, a cast member of the stage show Sesame Street Live, has been living inside Snuffy's pachyderm fur since production of Let's Be Friends began seven years ago. Placed in rotation with two other Live shows, Let's Be Friends comes to Jacksonville this weekend with six performances at the Jacksonville Coliseum.

McFarland, a singer/dancer by training, takes his particular Muppet quite seriously.

For one thing, he won't divulge much about the massive costume he dons to play a life-size Snuffleupagus on stage. "Snuffy is like 7 feet tall and 15 feet long," he said during a break on national tour. And even though the original voices heard on the public television series are the ones heard during Sesame Street Live, McFarland likes to know his character's motivation.

"I'm an actor," he said. "I don't think a lot of the dancers think about those things. I go beneath the surface and figure out why this action is taking place. There's a meaning behind it. All of our shows are written that way. Everybody doesn't see it right away."

Let's Be Friends, which punctuates its story with dancing and nearly two dozen songs, begins when Elmo and Zoe start an exclusive friendship club. At first, the qualifications for membership are that you must be a monster with orange or red fur. Later, that's amended to include birds, bugs, grouches and anyone who speaks other languages.

But even with an open-door policy, Snuffleupagus and his large dimensions pose a mammoth challenge

"He's very, very big," said McFarland. "All the club members have to figure out how he'll fit in."

The actor called the dilemma an example of the underlying messages Sesame Street regularly incorporates on TV and in its Broadway-style stage shows.

"When we look at how kids relate to each other, there's always this thing of fairness," he said. "Will we let so-and-so play in the ball game? There are some really great lessons for kids. …

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