There are those who talk about the big planetary alignment
that's supposed to occur at the end of 2012 and what that then means for the
fate of mankind.
But me? I'd prefer to talk about the planetary alignment
that just happened this past weekend at Carnegie Hall.
Seriously. Someone must have moved heaven and earth prior to
Saturday's "Jim Henson's Musical World" concert. Because there
onstage right alongside the New York Pops were ALL of the Muppets.
To explain: Ever since December 2000 (which is when EM.TV --
the German media consortium that, at that time, owned The Jim Henson Company --
sold the Sesame Street Muppet characters off to Sesame Workshop), the Muppets
have been a very fractured family. With the Walt Disney Company acquiring the
classic Muppet characters (i.e. Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie et al) and the
"Bear in the Big Blue House" characters in February of 2004, while
the characters created for "Fraggle Rock," "Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas," "Jim Henson's the Storyteller," "Farscape"
as well as the feature films "Labyrinth" and "The Dark Crystal" remained the property of the Henson Company.
So now that this trio of major media companies had divvied
up this once-solid set of characters ... Well, given the layer upon layer of lawyers that were
involved now, it seemed highly unlikely that the Muppets were ever going to
have anything approaching a family reunion.
So how exactly did Saturday's two (one at 12:30 and a second
performance at 3:30 p.m.) concerts happen? Well, legendary comedian Lenny Bruce
wondered just the same thing as his famous midnight performance at Carnegie Hall Concert
was getting underway back in February of 1961. As he remarked to the 3000
people who came out that night (in a blizzard, no less) to hear him do stand-up
on that venerable venue:
... (given that) this is the 12 o'clock scene, maybe the
people who own this place don't even know that we're here. (Maybe we were all let in secretly after-hours
by) a good and corrupt janitor (who said) "Alright. Just don't make no
noise and clean up after you're finished, alright?"
But given that there were posters & programs printed up
(not to mention tickets sold) for Saturday's concerts, I'm afraid that the
"good and corrupt janitor" theory isn't going to work this time
around. So whoever it was that managed to distract Disney & Sesame
Workshop's attorneys for an entire afternoon, I thank you. Because "Jim
Henson's Musical World" was a genuinely magical event.
The concert kicked off with a grainy bit of black-and-white
video which showed the very first time that a Muppet had performed at Carnegie
Hall. Which was back in November of 1965, when Rowlf the Dog had shared the
stage with country singer Jimmy Dean during a taping of ABC's "The Jimmy Dean Show." As the lights came up again in Carnegie Hall, a real-life
Rowlf the Dog puppet popped up behind a black curtain at center stage. Rowlf
acknowledged the applause of the crowd, then remarked that " ... I always
knew that I'd be invited back to Carnegie Hall. I just didn't know that it
would take 47 years. Which -- in dog years -- is a very long time."
Rowlf and Jimmy Dean (Dean is the one on the right)
Which pretty much set the tone for the afternoon of entertainment
that was to follow. Which was this skillful mixture of nostalgia and silliness.
In fact, I'm betting that Jim Henson himself would have
approved of the running gag that veritably galloped through "Jim Henson's
Musical World." Which was that the host of the show -- "Avenue
Q" star and "ImaginOcean" creator John Tartaglia -- had somehow
gotten the date wrong. Which meant that all of the special guests which were
supposed to show up and take part in this hour-and-15-minute-long concert
weren't actually due to show up at Carnegie Hall 'til next Saturday.
But Tartaglia (who was still in his pajamas when Steven Reineke
-- the music director and conductor of the New York Pops -- gave him a call at
home on the video phone to let John know that he was overdue for his hosting
gig) quickly hustled on down to 57th & 7th Avenue. And mere moments later,
Tartaglia -- still wearing his PJs, mind you -- was strolling up the center
aisle of this grand old concert hall, singing that Joe Raposo favorite,
"Sing (Sing a Song)" from "Sesame Street."
John and Stephanie back during their "Avenue Q" days
From there ... There were "Avenue Q" reunions
(John and his Tony Award-nominated cast-mate Stephanie D'Abruzzo performed
"Steppin' Out With a Star" from "The Great Muppet Caper" live
onstage), Fraggle appearances (In his usual getting-it-wrong style, Uncle
Traveling Matt explained to Red & Wembley that Carnegie Cave had actually
been built by the Doozers as a summer palace for the Gorgs), surprise celebrity
guests (Tartaglia pulled Paul Williams
out the audience and up onstage, so that Paul could then explain how he came to
work with Jim and write the music for "Emmet Otter's Jug-Band
Christmas" and "The Muppet Movie "), even a short and somewhat
bizarre appearance by a "Saturday Night Live" cast member (Rachel
Dratch playing Carnegie Hall's stage manager. Which -- given those short-lived
& rather bizarre "Land of Gorch" sketches that the Muppets
appeared in during "Saturday Night" 's debut season back in 1975 -- only
Which was all great fun. But one of the true highlights of Saturday's
"Jim Henson's Musical World" concerts arrived when the New York Pops launched
into the "Sesame Street" theme song. And who comes walking up the center
aisle but Bob McGrath, Loretta Long, Roscoe Orman and other human members of
the "Sesame Street" cast. And given the way that the youngsters in
the audience reacted when Elmo suddenly popped up onstage, you'd have thought
that Elvis had entered the building.
The baby boomers in Carnegie Hall had a similar sort of
reaction when Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy and the rest of the gang sang
Muppet favorites like "Just One Person," "Movin' Right
Along," "Bein' Green" and "The Rainbow Connection."
Then when you factor in Essential Voices (i.e. the human
choir that backed up both the human performers as well as the puppeteers during
various numbers at Saturday's performances) as well as Muppet pioneer Jerry
Nelson's off-stage announcements, these concerts truly were "a musical tribute
to Jim Henson's great legacy through song and puppetry."
The only downside to this wondrous event was -- due to the
fact that three different major media companies now own the various Muppet
characters -- there was just no way in hell that The Walt Disney Company,
Sesame Workshop and The Jim Henson Company were ever going to allow "Jim Henson's Musical World"
to be recorded. (In fact, that was one of the only annoying aspects of
Saturday's event. The ushers at Carnegie Hall who were constantly rushing
around, telling people to turn off their cameras and/or put away their iPhones.
Because recordings of any kind at these concerts just were not allowed.)
So if you're a Muppet fan and you weren't in New York City
this past Saturday afternoon, you really missed out. Because who knows when --
if ever -- the planets are going to align like that again. And all of the
Muppet characters are going to be allowed to be in the same place at the same
time to celebrate Jim Henson's creative legacy.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
So here's hoping that -- just like when "The
Sweatbox" popped up on YouTube late last year, finally allowing animation
fans everywhere to see this long-locked-in-the-Disney-vault documentary about
the making of "The Emperor's New Groove" -- someday an obviously
highly-illegal bootleg recording of "Jim Henson's Musical World" will
turn up on the Web.
So maybe -- just like
Lenny Bruce said back in 1961 -- some "good and corrupt janitor"
allowed someone with a camera or a recorder to sneak into Carnegie Hall on
Saturday. Because these "Jim Henson's Musical World" concerts really
do deserve to be seen and/or heard by a far wider audience than the 5000 or so
folks who experienced this out-of-this-world entertainment this past weekend.
Well, guess there's only one way to solve this: Disney has to buy Sesame Workshop and The Jim Henson Company. This thing sounded great. Should've been a PBS Great Performances special.
I rarely post on your site Jim, but I had to in this case.
Jim Wrote: "So if you're a Muppet fan and you weren't in New York City this past Saturday afternoon, you really missed out."
I feel, as a long time loyal reader, that I did indeed end up missing out, and I'm not sure if I should blame you personally for not reporting about this prior to the show so that I could have attended (and then writing what you did above which really rubbed it in), or if I should be upset at whoever was marketing this show for not really getting the word out to Disney websites about this.
I guess I may just need to look elsewhere for more comprehensive Disney news besides JHM and the other handful of sites I frequent.
How about frequenting MUPPET fansites (Muppet Central, Tough Pigs, etc.), 'cause they mentioned this months ago.
An RSS feed might work as well, too.
I'd buy both cd & dvd.
Nanny, nanny, boo-boo!
The companies should agree to release the recording, and donate all the profits to charity. Only letting 5000 people see this gem of an event is just cruel!