Pinocchio lies, actor Tal Moseri makes enthusiastically clear, but he does not. “It’s said that if an actor accepts a role, it’s because something in him identifies with the character. I don’t lie, but what I do identify with is that Pinocchio is the first to say that to be different is great, that he’s for the right of everybody to be different.”

We’re talking over the phone on a break between rehearsals for Shrek: The Musical and his day job as the host with the most on the kids’ TV channel.

In Shrek Museri plays the wooden puppet who wants to be a real boy, and whose nose grows every time he tells a lie, “and it does. Right onstage,” Moseri says delightedly. “They brought the gadget that does it from New York.”

Shrek, the prize-winning musical version of the 2001 Dreamworks movie, closed January this year after more than 5,000 performances off-Broadway.

The Hebrew language version opens at the Mann Auditorium August 9 with Dvir Bendek in the title role of the ogre with a heart of gold, and Moseri as leader of all the fairy tale people who rebel when wicked little Farquaad banishes them from Duloc.

It’s a musical, so Pinocchio sings of course, but it’s a high countertenor, “higher than I’ve ever sung,” Moseri laughs. “I’m working very hard, in rehearsals, with a coach, and you know what, I’m surprising even myself.”

He saw the show in New York – and loved it. “What’s so neat about Shrek,” he says, “is that there are jokes that only the kids will understand and jokes that only the grownups will get. It’s a musical that doesn’t take itself seriously, even parodies the genre a bit. It’s an opportunity to sit back, rejoice in childhood for a bit.”

Moseri didn’t audition for the role. As probably the most visible and certainly – according to a recent poll – the most popular host on the children’s channel, the producers came to him. That has more or less been the pattern.

BORN AND raised in Tel Aviv, Moseri graduated from the Thelma Yellin performing arts high school in theater and spent his three years in the army as a member of the Education Corps troupe. His director there was one Shmuel Hasfari, who cast him as Shlomi in the production of his Shiva that he directed for Bet Lessin.

“Shmulik gave me the script about two months before my release. I said ‘you haven’t auditioned me.’ ‘I’ve been auditioning you for three years,’ he said.” and so Moseri went from the IDF to Bet Lessin where he won the Israel Theater Prize’s Most Promising Actor award in 1997 for his role in the production.

Six months into Shiva, the Children’s Channel grabbed him and he’s been there ever since.

“I hadn’t thought much about TV, and certainly not about kids,” he says, “but once I was there I fell in love with the camera, the whole studio atmosphere and the children. So I stayed.”

Moseri’s first TV show, which he’s still hosting, was and is Sheshtus, in which third- to sixthgraders from schools all over the country compete to fulfill various missions. The entire winning class gets to fly abroad – with Moseri, of course.

The most recent program Moseri participates in started just after Pessah this year, runs live, and is called The Real Place.

Then there have been the live shows, like the Festigal, or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Moseri also has his own children’s variety show that he tours around the country with, when he has time.

There won’t be much of that available in the next two months, as he shuttles between Shrek and the studio. He’ll make time though, for his son, now two and a half, his wife Noam, and his kid brother, Ido, who’s followed him successfully into the profession.

There’s also his blog on the Children’s Channel website. The children write to him, and, he says, “I do my best to answer them personally. Yes. I do have somebody [who answers for me], but the kids know at once if it’s me or somebody else writing.

They’re important to me, so I really try to listen to them, to respond because that way I can know what’s important, what makes them happy.“Children have become my world,” he sums up, “and I’ve chosen to go deep into theirs. Shrek is part of that. I want to see them in the audience laughing, and having a good time.”

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