From the New York Post
If you’re a certain age — 40 and up should do it — you’ll have fond memories of the Muppet movies, particularly 1984’s “The Muppets Take Manhattan,” which finds Kermit and friends in New York trying to put on a show.
With Broadway in thrall to the family audience — “Newsies,” “Cinderella,” “The Lion King,” “Matilda,” “The Cripple of Inishmaan” (hey, it’s got Harry Potter!) — a Muppet musical seems inevitable.
And, indeed, I hear the Walt Disney Company, which bought the Muppets from Jim Henson’s family in 2004, is exploring the possibility of just such a show with Jujamcyn Theaters, which would love to have a long-running kiddie musical in one of its five Broadway theaters.
Sources say the show is a ways off, but, as one says, “Who doesn’t love Muppets?”
“The Muppets Take Manhattan,” with its showbiz plot, seems an obvious starting point. It has some bouncy songs by Ralph Burns and Jeff Moss, which could be supplemented with some showstoppers by Bobby Lopez and his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who wrote the ubiquitous “Let It Go” from “Frozen.”
On the other hand, the old Muppet TV show might inspire a vaudeville-style musical, with those grumpy old critics, Statler and Waldorf, in their box seats heckling the acts. If one or the other is indisposed, I’m sure John Simon could fill in.
How to translate a bunch of hand puppets to the stage? I don’t think Disney will go the Julie Taymor route. It’s hard to imagine Roger Bart, say, or Brooks Ashmanskas wearing a Bali-inspired Kermit the Frog headdress. That would be creepy.
It’s probably better to go the “Avenue Q” way, which lets the audience see both puppets and puppeteers. But please: no life-size Muppet costumes. Let’s leave those to the panhandling Elmos in Times Square.
It seems “Side Show” will indeed come to Broadway in the fall, possibly to the St. James Theatre, if “Bullets Over Broadway” can’t withstand the inevitable post-summer box office plunge.
Henry Krieger and Bill Russell’s musical just wrapped up a run at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, where it received strong notices from Peter Marks of the Washington Post and Charles Isherwood from the Times, a combination that makes Broadway producers salivate.
A flop when it opened on Broadway in 1997, “Side Show” — about Siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton — survived largely on the strength of its score, which is heavy on power ballads. Bill Condon gave it a brand-new production, notable because the actors are made to look like circus freaks.
Darren Bagert is the lead producer, though I suspect a chunk of the money — the show will cost nearly $10 million — will come from the Kennedy Center’s chairman, David Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle Group. He’s worth $3 billion and coughed up a lot of the money for the Kennedy Center’s fine “Follies” revival in 2011.
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