John Tartaglia

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John Tartaglia
John Nicholas Tartaglia

(1978-02-16) February 16, 1978 (age 42)
Other namesJohn Nicholas Tartaglia
Jonathan Nicholas Tartaglia
OccupationPuppeteer, actor, singer, dancer
Years active1994–present
Michael Shawn Lewis
(m. 2012; div. 2016)

John Nicholas Tartaglia (born February 16, 1978)[1] is an American puppeteer, actor, singer and dancer.

Early life[edit]

Tartaglia was born in Maple Shade Township, New Jersey, USA,[2] and graduated from Upper Dublin High School in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania in 1996.[3]

Tartaglia joined Sesame Street's puppetry team at the age of 16 part-time, making him one of the youngest Sesame Street puppeteers in the show's history. He performed as a right hand and many minor characters, including Phoebe and being the understudy for Kevin Clash's Elmo. He performed as Ernie for the second season of Play with Me Sesame and as Oscar the Grouch for Sesame Street 4D. He became a full-time part of Sesame Street at the age of 18.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Tartaglia is openly gay. Regarding the matter, he has stated "I'm less worried about being a positive role model as a gay person than making sure there's no negative stereotypes of any sort." He considers "nothing more addictive than the sound of an audience laughing" and regarding the possibility of being "pigeonholed" as a children's entertainer, stated "If I get pigeonholed, I get pigeonholed. When I do my dark, one-hour miniseries on Lifetime, you'll know!"[4] In 2004, he helped to raise $525,000 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.[5]

He married Michael Shawn Lewis in New York in 2012.[6]


In 2003, he performed DJ 2 in Animal Jam.

Tartaglia created and puppeteered the roles of Princeton (the recent college grad) and Rod (the closeted Republican investment banker) in the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Avenue Q, which opened July 31, 2003.[7] For the roles, he was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical in 2004. He left the cast on January 30, 2005.[8][9]

Tartaglia appeared in 2004 at the 14th annual Broadway Bares, which was a great success raising $525,000 to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.[10]

Tartaglia reprised his roles as Princeton and Rod in the Las Vegas sit-down production of Avenue Q, starting in August 2005[11] until December 11, 2005. He then appeared in the musical Newsical 2006: The Next Edition in New York City, in a limited engagement in December 2005.[12]

Tartaglia joined the cast of Beauty and the Beast as Lumière on November 21, 2006 until early June 2007.[8][13][14]

He appeared in his own television series for Playhouse Disney called Johnny and the Sprites as creator, executive producer, and star. While the episodes began as only 5-minute interstitials, the show began a full 30-minute series on January 13, 2007.[15] The show began filming Season 2 during mid-2007.[14]

In 2007, Tartaglia provided the voice for Mr. Bluelight in Kmart commercials.[16]

He played the roles of Pinocchio, Puss in Boots and the Magic Mirror and puppeteered the dragon in Shrek The Musical.[17][8] After a try-out in Seattle the show opened on Broadway at The Broadway Theatre beginning December 14, 2008. He performed in the show until August 16, 2009 and was replaced by Robb Sapp. He returned on December 14, 2009 and stayed until it closed on January 3, 2010.[8]

Tartaglia created and wrote John Tartaglia's ImaginOcean which was produced Off-Broadway at New World Stages, running from March 31, 2010 to September 4, 2011.[18] The show has music and lyrics by William Wade, with puppets designed and built by The Puppet Kitchen and the set design by Robert Kovach.[19][20] This is a puppet show meant for audiences between the ages of 2 and 8 about fish. They glow in the dark while the actors are in black, giving the effect that the puppets are floating. The show was nominated for the 2010 Drama Desk Award, Unique Theatrical Experience.[18]

He performed in Los Angeles at The Blank Theatre Company production of The Temperamentals, running from April 9-May 22, 2011 at the 2nd Stage Theatre.[21][22]

He played the role of Genie in the production of Aladdin in St. Louis at the Muny from July 5–13, 2012.[23]

In 2011, Tartaglia was named a "Givenik Ambassador" from the Broadway / charity site Givenik.

Tartaglia hosts a radio show on Sirius XM On Broadway called Sunday Funday with John Tartaglia.[24]

In 2016, he created the series Splash and Bubbles for PBS Kids, where he voices Splash and other recurring characters.[25]

In 2017, he performed Hank in Julie's Greenroom.[26]


  • Play with Me Sesame - Ernie (Season 2)
  • The Book of Pooh - Puppeteer
  • Fraggle Rock: Rock On! - Gobo Fraggle (taking over from Jerry Nelson); Boober Fraggle, Uncle Traveling Matt, and Wembley Fraggle (puppetry only)


Year Title Role Theatre Notes
2003 Avenue Q Princeton/Rod Vineyard Theatre Original
John Golden Theatre
2006-2007 Beauty and the Beast Lumiere Lunt-Fontanne Theatre Replacement
2008 Shrek Pinocchio 5th Avenue Theatre Original
2008-2009 Broadway Theatre
2012 Aladdin Genie The Muny


  1. ^ Heller, Karen. "From 'Sesame Street' to Broadway John Tartaglia, raised in Maple Shade and Ambler, has had a hand in presenting Elmo on PBS. Now his animated face is on view as he stars in a surprising new stage hit, Avenue Q.", The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 21, 2003. Accessed February 3, 2013. "Young John, who grew up in Maple Shade and then Ambler, wrote Jim Henson a fan letter."
  2. ^ a b "John Tartaglia". IMDb. Retrieved 2018-01-20.
  3. ^ Heller, Karen. "From 'Sesame Street' to Broadway John Tartaglia...", September 21, 2003
  4. ^ Riegel, Katie (March 19, 2007). "Broadway Buzz - John Tartaglia". Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  5. ^ "John Tartaglia | The Official Masterworks Broadway Site". The Official Masterworks Broadway Site. Retrieved 2018-01-20.
  6. ^ Wong, Curtis M. "John Tartaglia, 'Avenue Q' Star, Gets Personal With 'Decade Three' Show At NYC’s 54 Below" Huffington Post, September 6, 2013
  7. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Avenue Q to Close in September",, June 29, 2009
  8. ^ a b c d "John Tartaglia Broadway", accessed January 4, 2016
  9. ^ Gans, Andrew and Hernandez, Ernio. "Tartaglia to Depart 'Avenue Q' Jan. 30", December 27, 2004
  10. ^ Lenzi, Linda (2004-06-24). "Photo Coverage: Broadway Bares 14: Now Showing". Retrieved 2008-10-10.
  11. ^ Hernandez, Ernio. "Double Down: 'Avenue Q' Opens New Second Run at Wynn Las Vegas, Sept. 8", September 8, 2005
  12. ^ hernandez, Ernio. "John Tartaglia Comes Back to New York for 'Newsical 2006: The Next Edition'", November 16, 2005
  13. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Tartaglia and Freeman to Join Broadway’s 'Beauty and the Beast'", November 13, 2006
  14. ^ a b "John Tartaglia, Jonathan Freeman to Join Beauty and the Beast". 2006-11-13. Retrieved 2007-08-08.
  15. ^ Gold, Matea. "'The Sprites' thrives in Broadway's ecosystem" Los Angeles Times, January 7, 2007
  16. ^ "Mr. Bluelight". Behind the Voice Actors. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  17. ^ "Brian d'Arcy James to play Shrek". USA Today. 2008-03-20. Retrieved 2008-03-21.
  18. ^ a b "'John Tartaglia's ImaginOcean' Off-Broadway", accessed January 5, 2016
  19. ^ Gans, Andrew. "John Tartaglia's Imaginocean to Play New World Stages", February 9, 2010
  20. ^ Thielman, Sam. "Review: 'John Tartaglia’s Imaginocean'" Variety, April 6, 2010
  21. ^ "Review: 'The Temperamentals' at The Blank Theatre Company"[permanent dead link] Los Angeles Magazine, June 1, 2011
  22. ^ Gans, Andrew. "John Tartaglia, Erich Bergen, Patrick Scott Lewis Set for Blank Theatre Company's 'Temperamentals'", March 3, 2011
  23. ^ Gans, Andrew. "'Aladdin', with Robin de Jesus, John Tartaglia, Curtis Holbrook, Francis Jue, Plays the Muny Starting July 5", July 5, 2012
  24. ^ "Weekly Schedule", accessed January 4, 2016
  25. ^ Mercedes Milligan (May 21, 2016). "PBS KIDS Dates Premiere for Henson's 'Splash and Bubbles'". Animation Magazine. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  26. ^ "BWW Interview - John Tartaglia Gushes Over Netflix Co-Star Julie Andrews, Talks Broadway Return Hopes & More!", April 23, 2017

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Jerry Nelson
Performer of Gobo Fraggle
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Alice Dinnean
Performer of Phoebe
Succeeded by