Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Puppeteer, Actor and Director John Tartaglia Has Become a Muny Star

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Puppeteer, Actor and Director John Tartaglia Has Become a Muny Star

Article excerpt

Across the country, people think of John Tartaglia as a puppeteer, the performer whose very special skills brought him to Broadway with "Avenue Q" (playing Princeton and Rod), "Shrek the Musical" (playing Pinocchio) and to off-Broadway with his own glow-in-the-dark musical, "John Tartaglia's ImaginOcean"

TV audiences never saw Tartaglia in the flesh on "Sesame Street." But they certainly were familiar with his work as any number of characters. He was still a New Jersey high school student (but already a puppetry veteran) when he first hit the "Street"; later he created another acclaimed children's show, the Disney Channel's "Johnny and the Sprites."

But in St. Louis, he's famous for a different reason: Here, he's turned into a Muny star.

In recent seasons, the blue-eyed charmer has starred there as the Cat in the Hat in "Seussical" and as the Genie in "Aladdin." He also directed its productions of "The Wizard of Oz," "Tarzan" and "Shrek."

Now he's returning to the big outdoor stage in Stephen Sondheim's bawdy farce, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum."

Tartaglia plays Hysterium, house-slave to an aristocratic family in ancient Rome. A nervous fellow, Hysterium is constantly and reluctantly dragged into the crazy schemes concocted by another slave, Pseudolus (played here by TV star Peter Scolari). The family includes a lecherous husband, an overbearing wife and a son who has fallen for a beauty he can only glimpse at the house of the procurer next door.

"I love being a sidekick," Tartaglia says. "We did 'Forum' my freshman year in high school. I played a eunuch, and I didn't get any of the jokes.

"Then a few years later, when I had just moved to New York to work on 'Sesame Street,' I had a friend who did the wigs for the Broadway revival (starring Nathan Lane). It was the first show I got to see from backstage as well as from the house.

"That's when I thought, 'OK, yes. This is what I want to do with my life.'"

He meant show business, not specifically "Forum." But in fact, "Forum" still seems perfect to him.

"I had forgotten how right that role is for me," Tartaglia says. "Hysterium is pure hilarity, always on high alert. …

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