Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Muppets Won't Take Manhattan

Chad Jones recently wrote an interesting piece which I found by way of Prince’s blog (even though I read Chad’s blog too, I just came across Prince’s first) where he questions why the Muppets have never had their very own Broadway musical, citing the success of Avenue Q as a sign that the time is more than ripe (if not long overdue) for such a thing.

Now, I'm not a seasoned puppeteer, but I do actually have experience performing puppets in a live stage musical. Last year I was in Un-Scripted's Great Puppet Musical and next month I'll be in The Great Puppet Bollywood Extravaganza! To me, if you need an explanation for why the Muppets have never had their own Broadway musical, look no further than Avenue Q itself. I’m not saying that musical in any way ruined the concept of a Muppet Broadway Musical, but rather Avenue Q points out the logistical reasons a Muppet Broadway Musical will most likely never happen.

In Avenue Q the puppeteers frequently sing out directly to the audience, upstaging the puppets they are supposed to be performing. That, my friend, is not the Muppet way. (In truth, it's bad puppeteering and something we don't do in our shows.) Muppet performers are invisible. You never see them. Ever. That would be nearly impossible to achieve in a live theater piece.

Even if you could convince a bunch of Broadway singers to shed their egos and desires for attention and recognition and perform a show in which they are never seen, technically and logistically how would you accomplish it? Often you will see modern puppet shows performed with the puppeteers in all black or white blending in with the scenery to become nearly invisible. We suspend the disbelief and pretend not to see them. Again, that doesn’t cut it with Muppets. Muppets exist as living things through clever staging and camera angles. We can never know that there’s a puppeteer there controlling them.

Now, I don’t know what the official rules and codes are for a Muppet performer, but I do know they exist. I know no member of the general public is ever to see a Muppet on its side, limp, or in anyway not lifelike. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are strict rules about how a performer can be seen.

That is why you’ll never really see the Muppets take Manhattan.

Avenue Q (Notice how the puppeteers face the audience and do as much or more acting then the puppets. In fact, the puppet might as well not be there.) :

The Muppets (We never even know the puppeteers are there):


  1. I think the best example of what puppets can do was in The Lion King- but in that case, the puppets were on such an enourmous scale that they became a PART of the actor, rather than a seperate entity.

  2. have youever seen a muppet performed where you can see the puppeteer there so good you dont notice the guy. also a few years ago there was a fan convention called muppetfest and they did the muppet show live and it worked just fine


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.