My journey creating and producing puppetry... trials, tribulations, inspiration and contemplation.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Stuffed and Unstrung

I will never forget, as a young Muppet fan, eagerly writing the Muppet Show Fan Club and asking them about the possibility of coming to see a taping of the Muppet Show. At the time, I had no clue that it was taped in the UK but, that was beside the point. I received a reply from some staffer at the fan club explaining to me that the Muppet Show was not taped like a regular show with an audience. I may have been young but, this, I understood because I was eager to see the process! I was chomping at the bit wanting to see how it was actually done! As a young puppeteer, I needed to see my creative peers in action. Alas, my dreams would be put on hold for a good 30 years.

Last Saturday, April 10, I had tickets with friends to see Stuffed and Unstrung at the Union Square Theater in Manhattan and finally got to see the process in all its glory. The giddy 10 year old inside was unleashed as I purchased a Stuffed and Unstrung t-shirt. I spied the tarp-covered mound of puppets on stage as the neon "Stuffed and Unstrung" sign flashed above.

When the actors took the stage and the familiar "Puppet Up" theme played out before us, I eagerly anticipated the merriment and [very] adult comedy that would keep us all in stitches for a nearly 2 hour show. How lucky I felt to see skits like the aliens visiting an erotic bakery or the news story of Justin Bieber after being attacked by Godzilla - or the Hot Dogs in their 12-step program breaking their addiction to Tiger Woods. These were all so hysterically portrayed but, because of the fact that this is improv, would be unique to the time I saw the show. Thinking of how many different skits were made up on the spot like that during the run of the show just made you appreciate what they are actually creating all the more.

It warmed the true fan's heart to see a couple of classic Henson skits worked in to the program. Brian creates a skit on the fly after intermission that makes your jaw drop when you realize what's happening. After having mastered that piece, he must have a blast creating it every night. Still, he drops a little improv into it to make it unique for every show. The audience participation skits are a lot of fun and each person invited up on stage looked like they were re-living a part of their childhood too. How can you not smile with these incredible puppets within arms reach?

I thought it was cute and kind-of telling when a staffer parked herself at the front of the stage during intermission to guard the puppets. You would have to actually have a pretty good reach or jump up on stage to get close enough to the puppets but, I guess they must know there's enough rabid fans out there with little self control.

If you can make it to Manhattan, Stuffed and Unstrung is running through Saturday, May 29 and, beginning April 29, all 9pm shows will be moved to 8pm for all those who cherish an earlier bed-time. Go see this fantastic show! You will be happy you did.