Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Voice from the Past Entertainer Shari Lewis, Lamb Chop Hit Branson

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Voice from the Past Entertainer Shari Lewis, Lamb Chop Hit Branson

Article excerpt

A woman approached the diminutive, redheaded children's entertainer with great skepticism.

"Are you the original Shari Lewis?" she asked.

"I had to tell her I was the original Shari Lewis, with almost all the original parts," Lewis recalled on stage, drawing confused smiles from children and knowing laughter from their parents.

Four decades after she first appeared on television with her puppet Lamb Chop, Lewis continues to get international recognition as a performer and innovator in children's programming.

While children's programming has changed dramatically, Lewis' themes have been remarkably consistent. The lessons of sharing, cheating, separation - as told through humorous songs and personified socks - have managed to persevere in the age of the Mighty Morphin Power Ranger.

"I think there's a simplicity to Lamb Chop that is an important part of her appeal," Lewis said before a recent show at Andy Williams' Moon River Theatre.

Lewis' celebrity dates back to 1957. She landed her own TV show that year after a single appearance with Lamb Chop, a white sock fixed up to look like a lamb, on the "Captain Kangaroo Show." Her show went off the air in 1963, when most children's programming went to animation.

Lewis then became a Las Vegas performer. When Vegas went rock and country, she did the celebrity game-show circuit. When those went off the air, she conducted symphony orchestras.

It took three decades to come full circle.

In 1992, she returned to children's television - with a bang. This year she captured her fifth consecutive Emmy award as the outstanding performer in a children's series for "Lamb Chop's Play-Along" on PBS.

There's no vulgarity, violence or profanity during any of Lewis' performances, which also feature Lamb Chop's friends, Hush Puppy and Charlie Horse.

Nor are there in-depth discussions of tough issues like family breakups or death.

" `Sesame Street,' which does wonderful research, has never been able to deal with divorce because there are too many questions that need to be answered and can't be answered on a one-way medium," Lewis said. …

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