1 The Muppet Mindset: The Muppets Take Manhattan... AGAIN

Apr 13, 2012

The Muppets Take Manhattan... AGAIN

No... this isn't a sequel to The Muppets Take Manhattan, it's an unprecedented new partnership between The Muppets and New York City. Earlier today, New York named The Muppets their Official Family Ambassadors for 2012 and beyond. This morning at a press conference in New York, Mayor (and Letters to Santa co-star) Michael Bloomberg made the exciting announcement with the help of Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Gonzo the Great, and Pepe the King Prawn. Check out official video of the announcement below! Be sure to skip ahead to about 10:40 to jump right to the Muppets!

This is huge news because it means we're almost guaranteed to see some New York-specific Muppet content advertising all the incredible tourist destinations in the city fairly soon. Right now you can even go to New York City's Official Tourism Website and get some written tips on shopping, itineraries, attractions, dining, tours and sightseeing from Miss Piggy, Kermit, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Walter, Animal, Swedish Chef, Bunsen and Beaker, and Pepe!

This hugely exciting news is just another reason why I wish that I could be in New York City this weekend. With the Jim Henson's Musical World show at Carnegie Hall tomorrow, every Muppet performer and countless people associated with The Jim Henson Legacy are in town rehearsing and preparing for a show that sounds more incredible than I would have ever imagined. Earlier today, The New York Times released a bit more information about the performance. Check out some of it below and prepare to be even more upset that you aren't there either.

Concert programs rarely get the advance secrecy accorded to Pentagon reports and Super Bowl playbooks. But elements of the events to be presented on Saturday by the New York Pops aren’t just classical, but classified.

“I’ve been given very specific instructions about what can be announced ahead of time and what can’t,” said Steven Reineke, the Pops music director.

One thing’s certain: “Jim Henson’s Musical World,” to be performed twice, will feature melodies and Muppets. It will also differ from other family concerts by the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall.

“It’s a real show,” Mr. Reineke said. “I have to learn lines, which is unusual for a conductor. There’s a story as well.”

A story? Yes, it’s mostly classified, but it will have much in common with the work of Henson (1936-90), right, the designer, puppeteer and filmmaker who created the Muppets. Written by Craig Shemin, president of the Jim Henson Legacy, an organization perpetuating Henson’s work, “it has to do with sort of bringing out the best in people,” Mr. Reineke said.

A few details: After an overture and a video montage he will introduce the actor, writer and puppeteer John Tartaglia, who first approached the Pops about a Henson tribute. But Mr. Tartaglia, the scheduled host, fails to appear. After Mr. Reineke calls him (Carnegie Hall will forgive the cellphone use), Mr. Tartaglia will be seen on video in his rubber-duckie pajamas, completely unaware that the concert is on Saturday. He’s not alone.

“It becomes this running gag,” Mr. Reineke said. Fozzie Bear is enlisted to help gather his fellow Muppets. Among those appearing are Gonzo, Kermit, Miss Piggy and the ornery Statler and Waldorf, who “just razz me throughout the show,” Mr. Reineke said. But he’s sworn to silence on performances by “Sesame Street” characters. Hints emerge from a few songs in a medley: “Rubber Duckie,” “C Is for Cookie” and “I Love Trash.”

Human guests are no secret. They’ll include the ensemble Essential Voices USA; the comedian Rachel Dratch; “Sesame Street” cast members present and past; and the singer-songwriter Paul Williams, whose “Rainbow Connection” (written with Kenneth Ascher) will be an audience singalong.

Despite the concert’s title, the 13 numbers won’t be Henson’s musical world, exactly, but worlds. “I don’t think anyone’s ever put ‘Sesame Street,’ the Muppets and ‘Fraggle Rock’ all on a stage together,” Mr. Reineke said. But of course they’ll harmonize.

Seething with jealousy yet? Good. Then I'm not alone. Hopefully the performance will allow audience members to videotape the proceedings... because we've been informed that an official videotape of this will not be done--or at least not released publicly. So, if I were you, I would head over to ToughPigs.com and pester Joe Hennes about bringing his video camera until he caves.

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

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