In the 1984 movie The Muppets Take Manhattan, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Rizzo the Rat and pals negotiate various setbacks including scheming producers, jealous lovers, and memory loss to achieve their dream of appearing on Broadway. And now in a new twist, it looks as if it might actually happen for real.
At the end of last month Disney Theatrical Productions quietly began exploring the potential of a live stage show featuring the Muppets by putting on an elaborate 15 minute showcase for staffers.
Directed by Tony-nominated director Alex Timbers, who is also credited with successfully transferring the boxing flick Rocky to Broadway, we’re told that 85 puppets were used and Kermit performed The Muppet Movie’s “Rainbow Connection” (although it is not known whether or not the old, curmudgeonly duo Statler and Waldorf heckled the cast from the balcony).
It is believed that the presentation was intended to work out if it would indeed be possible to even put on such a show, taking into account the puppetry needs with audience sightlines as well as other theatrical demands. Unlike the other Broadway puppet smash, the Tony Award-winning Avenue Q, which has the puppet masters visible on stage, those pulling the Muppets’ strings are kept firmly out of the spotlight and anything that might reveal how they are operated is banned by the company.
It’s too early to tell if the show will be family friendly but when the Muppets performed two shows at Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival last year, children under 12 were ordered to stay away. It’s also unclear why it’s taken such a long time for Kermit and Miss Piggy to hit Broadway, as it seems a natural step for them after umpteen television series and films (although Jim Henson did dally with the idea in 1972, it never came to anything).
And while you’ll have to travel to New York to see the Muppets on Broadway, British fans shouldn’t be too green. While promoting The Muppets movie a couple of years ago, Kermit hinted at his West End ambitions, telling one interviewer, “I’ve never performed on the London stage. That would be kind of interesting”. (Webbed) fingers crossed.