1 The Muppet Mindset: Muppet Retro Reviews: Muppet Classic Theater

May 23, 2013

Muppet Retro Reviews: Muppet Classic Theater

Kyle Mahoney Muppet Classic Theater was a straight to VHS feature-length production released in 1994. In a similar vein to the previously released film The Muppet Christmas Carol, the Muppets are retelling classic stories. It takes place in the Muppet Theater where Gonzo and Rizzo once again become the narrators as the rest of the gang act the story on stage.

The six stories told are The Three Little Pigs, The Midas Touch, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, (followed by a brief intermission) then Rumpelstilskin, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and The Elves and the Shoemaker. This production was significant in that it was one of Bill Barretta’s first Muppet productions. This also was the debut of some Muppets Tonight faces: Andy Pig, Randy Pig, and the Elvises.

Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Rizzo, Fozzie, and even Robin the Frog each take the stage, some in several roles, bringing their own flair and classic breaking the fourth wall into these timeless tales. Each story featured one original song by Philip Balsam, Dennis Lee (both of Fraggle Rock fame), Mark Radice, and Michael and Patricia Silversher.


Some of the best moments of the video include Miss Piggy sending the Big Bad Wolf into orbit via fireworks, Gonzo (as a Satyr) taking a nap in King Kermit’s rose bush, and Norman the Ox thwarting another wolf. Other hilarious moments are Piggy finding out Rumplestiltskin's name by looking at the name his mother had sewn into his clothes, Robin revealing that Emperor Fozzie was scammed and is in his underpants, and lastly the Elvis Elves receiving Sequin Jumpsuits as thanks.

One of the writers, Jim Lewis, had this to say about the project:

"My personal favorite among my own projects is Muppet Classic Theater which I co-wrote with Bill Prady. It was done relatively soon after Jim's passing, and it was in many ways a re-gathering of the clan. It was fun. Plus it's just silly, with no great message. I'm fond of it and hope it sees the light of DVD someday."

Although Muppet Classic Theater has only been released on VHS, you can watch it all right HERE with this link to Part 1.

All in all Muppet Classic Theater is an absolute delight. The songs are catchy and the script is fantastic in giving the Muppets their classic humor while also giving respect to the original stories.






The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

4 comments:

  1. I hadn't had the chance to see the full video, though I did see The Elves (or Elvises) and the Shoemaker at a Jim Henson event in town about eight years ago, and it was HILARIOUS (and it helped that before that, they showed the Tony Bennett episode of MUPPETS TONIGHT!, which of course featured the Elvises).

    It seems like this video often receives a lot of negative reviews and criticism, again, I haven't seen all of the stories in this video to know if said criticism is justifiable, but based on just The Elves and the Shoemaker, I see really no cause for complaints.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love this production! I had it on VHS until recently (my VCR ate it about 3 weeks ago). I'm so glad though that my kids had a chance to see it. They loved it. I really wish the new Muppet movie coming out next year would revive the Gonzo/Rizzo pair. They are by far my two favorites and play off each other so well. I know some older fans don't appreciate it as much, but for those in their late 20's or early 30's, the 90's productions are a big part of what we love.

    --Jenn

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The part I remember the most is the hyper weasel during the "Gotta Guess That Name" song in "Rumplestiltskin".

      Delete
  3. I've had the liberty of watching it on YouTube and I must list the pros and cons of the production. Let's start with the pros, shall we?
    Pros:
    - Gonzo & Rizzo's chemistry is completely solid. I especially love their banter at the beginning regarding "fables of old".
    - Piggy's personality doesn't really suffer here like it does in later productions. The most karate chopping she seems to do is in the Midas Touch story, otherwise she's playful with her love for glamour, very protective of her Frog (hence why she chopped so many characters in said Midas tale), and surprisingly patient with Andy & Randy.
    - The Jerry-performed wolf they built for this is possibly one of the best designed Muppets I've ever seen! Pure testament to how far the Henson puppet building had come since the days of Sam & Friends. Shame it seems like that's the only time he was ever used, I would've loved to see more appearances by him.

    Now for the cons:
    - the ensemble is basically whatnots, bunnies, and background puppets from Dog City. What's the matter? Why not throw in a monster/Frackle, frog, or even more chickens and penguins the mix?
    - Apart from Kermit, Piggy, Gonzo, and Rizzo, no other major characters appear. Even Fozzie and Robin, though they're in it too, are underutilized. I would've liked to see Strangepork as Papa Pig, Sam Eagle as either the Bailiff or the Banker, silent cameos by Rowlf and Electric Mayhem, etc. Heck, even a Lew Zealand appearance onstage or Beauregard backstage would've been nice.
    - The layout of the a Muppet Theater in this show is completely hokey, even for a direct-to-video children's thing. This sure doesn't look like the theater Statler & Waldorf like to do their heckling in, or housed guest stars like Rudolf Nureuv and Leslie Uggams. I'd give Rachel Bitterman and/or Tex Richman full permission to raze this pale imitation in no time flat.

    ReplyDelete