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Muppets in Moscow

By: Natasha Lance Rogoff,Gary Knell - afterword
Narrated by: Emily Lahey Shoov
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Summary

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the timing appeared perfect to bring Sesame Street to millions of children living in the former Soviet Union. With the Muppets envisioned as ideal ambassadors of Western values, no one anticipated just how challenging and dangerous this would prove to be.

In Muppets in Moscow: The Unexpected Crazy True Story of Making Sesame Street in Russia, Natasha Lance Rogoff brings this gripping tale to life. Amid bombings, assassinations, and a military takeover of the production office, Lance Rogoff and the talented Moscow team of artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, and puppeteers remained determined to bring laughter, learning, and a new way of seeing the world to children in Russia, Ukraine, and across the former Soviet empire. With a sharp wit and compassion for her colleagues, Lance Rogoff observes how cultural clashes colored nearly every aspect of the production—from the show’s educational framework to writing comedy to the new Russian Muppets themselves—despite the team’s common goal.

Brimming with insight and nuance, Muppets in Moscow skillfully explores the post-Soviet societal tensions that continue to thwart the Russian people’s efforts to create a better future for their country. More than just a story of a children’s show, this book provides a valuable perspective of Russia’s people, their culture, and their complicated relationship with the West that remains relevant even today.

©2022 Natasha Lance Rogoff (P)2022 Natasha Lance Rogoff

Critic reviews

"In this thrilling debut, television producer and filmmaker Rogoff recounts her mission to bring Sesame Street to Russian audiences.... The resulting tale is one of perseverance and creativity that illuminates how even the most disparate cultures and perspectives can find common ground." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

What listeners say about Muppets in Moscow

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Good insight into complex Russia.

I never thought to check YouTube for episodes of the show until after I finished the book, but they’re there. Worth taking a look at the finished product that no doubt you’ll be invested in by the time you get to the end. It’s good insight into the Russian character in a time of great uncertainty.

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  • Buretto
  • 15-01-23

Intriguing in measures, needs Russian counterpoint

There are parts of this book that are quite interesting, namely the interactions with Russian artists, media executives and middle men (and women). Frankly, the book could have been even better with greater input from the Russian side of the negotiations and preparations, though how feasible that would have been is clearly problematic. What we're left with is the neuroses of the author navigating the gordian knot of post-Soviet Russian media bureaucracy. These parts are quite compelling, hearing the paranoia (probably well-founded) of Russian fears of American cultural imperialism. The author does her best to show her understanding of these concerns, while seeking to maintain the Sesame Street aesthetic. These are the best parts of the book.

Where it has trouble is when the focus is less on that rollercoaster process, and more on the author herself. A story not really in need of filler, it nevertheless goes off on tangents of the author lamenting her lack of a social life. It's clear where this subplot is going, and it does, I suppose, get paid off at the end, but most of the preliminaries of her personal life are little more than a distraction. There's not shortage of false modesty, either. Overly effusive praise of co-workers and partners becomes clear coding for self-aggrandizement. To be fair, that's reasonable, as this whole enterprise seems to have been a massively stressful undertaking. But it's when she takes such great pleasure in the contributions of talented women (a legitimately positive development, both for American and Russian cultures), yet at the same time admitting being intimidated by a female Russian partner, largely due to her designer shades and stiletto Christian Louboutin heels..., really? Her credibility takes a bit of a hit. But maybe that's just her own insecurities talking. I'm willing to take those distractions in stride, and put them aside, because what is good about this book, is really good. As such, though tempted to call it Pretty Good (3), I'll give it a 4.

Note to Audible: Is it common to accept a review from author themselves, albeit effusively praising the narrator (see above for speculation on the motive for that.)?

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  • K. Ollis
  • 18-01-23

Excellent story

Fascinating story! It should be required reading for all to show the human side of Russians and how we all hope the world will live in peace!

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  • Natasha Lance Rogoff
  • 28-12-22
Listener received this title free

Pitch perfect narrator

Muppets In Moscow narrator emily lahey shoov is a natural - bringing to the story of making Sesame Street in Russia - voices that are distinct characters, compassionate and she dies so performing Russian accents that she is familiar with as she was born in Russia but also is a native English speaker. This is the best audiobook I have listened to in years!