I am of course going to be meeting the Muppets at the o2 tonight, yes, thanks to my Catwoman Fiancée (gifting it to me as an early birthday present) I have a meet and greet with the Muppets- the only information I have thus far (officially) is that it will be with Kermit, Miss Piggy and friends… But what friends? How long will the meet and greet be?
As I write this, its two days after the initial meet and greet and to be honest, I feel like I’ve awoken from the best dream possible, the first real bit of Magick I experienced on Friday was when I was in the o2 itself, I had just been interviewed by an Irish radio station (RTE)
Friday started off in a very interesting way, the night before I had painted my nails Kermit green, I’d donned my Kermit onesie which I’ve worn for nearly every Muppet encounter I’ve had, and a pair of jeans that I last wore during the taping of when Kermit and Constantine were on the Alan Carr show, my rucksack was getting heavy, and I nearly decided to take out my iPad (thankfully I didn’t *) my Kermit Muppet, and Miss Piggy and Gonzo dolls went in, as did a small bag of goodies for Dave (Goelz) and made my way to the bus stop.
On the bus, I chatted with the driver who when I told him I’m going to be seeing the Muppets made a rather political joke stating that the British Prime Minister and American President reminded him of Statler and Waldorf, this was fun to hear, once of the bus I'd gone to HMV and picked up the ‘We’re doing a best of The Muppets.’ Cd afterwards I went to the train station and began to plan the rest of my journey to the o2, once in London I made a detour to Westminster where I made my way to get onto one of the riverboats (before now when I’ve been to anywhere in London or indeed ever gone to the o2 I’ve always gone by tube but today was a very special day for all kinds of reasons. So I decided to get a river boat) as the boat rushed me along the River Thames I couldn't help but think of all the wonderful moments that would be ahead of me, we’d finally arrived at our destination and so I made my way to the o2 itself, a quick bag/security search was done and in I went, saw a few fellow Muppet fans sitting down and then went to find the toilets where I sloshed some cold water all over myself to be refreshed with, once out of the bathroom I sat down with the Muppet fans, started to charge up my iPhone and presently a chap from RTE came over and started interviewing me.
Bit later on I went to the merchandise stall and with some money gifted to me by my other half I bought one or two bits of merchandise then went for another sit down, and who should walk by? Only Matt!!!!!!! Was I really the only Muppet fan who recognised him? And then Jane (Gootnick) walked past too!!! No one batted an eyelid, they had both gone to the merchandise stall, on her way back I said hi, she remembered me from the Muppets Most Wanted prem, and on his way back I had a quick chat with Matt, we spoke briefly about him being Kermit and how wonderful a job I thought he was doing - I guess it was quite something that the man responsible with continuing Jim Hensons legacy and arguably the Worlds greatest well known character could walk about without being recognised (apart from a rare few who knew what Matt looks like) but without Kermit on his hand :)
About an hour later the number of us who were lining up outside the VIP meet and greet assembly point had risen, I was first in line and started chatting to a number of the vip hosts who told us more or less what would be happening, a table came out with specially designed Meet and Greet lanyards and a tote bag which inside had a glossy of a number of the Muppets, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and a plethora of others which I guess was for us to get signed, although the programme had two pages dedicated to Dave, Matt, Eric, Bill, Peter and David too.
Whilst we were all getting ready to have our bags searched and checked one of the special guest stars of the night, none other than Doctor Who himself, David Tennant walked past us, I said a quick ‘Hi David.’ Had also noticed Peter (Linz) had come from the opposite direction and had walked past us all.
The time had come for us to be escorted through the hallowed halls of the o2, through a rabbit warren that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in Labyrinth, this was uncharted territory knowing that soon I would be reunited with those wonderful performers who I’ve met briefly before and meeting new ones, we then had to wait in the penultimate corridor and as I was first through I noticed the guys through the doors lining up getting ready to come through, I waved at Dave and Bill who waved back, this was really going to happen, in the meantime Kirk (Thatcher) had come out I had a quick chat with him after he jokingly said ‘I’m not famous!’ Lol, I asked him if he would sign my pic, he told me he would on the way back (I dont know if he was going to the toilet or had to do some last minute rehearsals) in the meantime, the excitement was at fever pitch as the doors opened and out came Matt, Eric, Dave, Bill, Peter and David, I was in a state of ultimate pure Muppetdom at that point seeing the guys all like that.
A whole heap of pleasantries were exchanged:
Matt: How are you? Good to see you again, how’ve you been? Dave (Goelz): Nice to see you- this is King Richard!
Peter: King Richard?
Me: (Surrounded by the guys) This is one of the best moments of my entire life.
Bill: We’re having a good time.
Dave: I saw you in October. How’ve you been?
Bill: (Whilst in Pepes voice) I give you a hug.
I like to think that Jim Henson was there watching over these proceedings and looking over us.
Once the others had their bits signed they went through to the VIP lounge, I also had a bit more time with the guys as we said hi again, I then picked my stuff up and went through to the lounge still in quite a state of shock, knowing that the best was still yet to come, other fans were just sitting down in the lounge are just chilling out checking their phones whilst the friendly bar tender was popping bottles of beer for those needing a cool refreshment.
I started to line up for THE queue of all queues, the moment those of us who had VIP meet and greets were really there for, it was the queue to get our photos taken with THE MUPPETS!!!!!!! As the queue went along the utter excitement was clearly there, above the noise of the crowd I could make out hearing Kermits voice, this made what was about to happen even more better, once out and by the room we were going into I had to make a quick decision- what would be a better device to take THE picture with? iPhone or iPad? I asked the two ladies behind me and they suggested iPad, I asked the vip host and she said iPad, that's when I put my stuff down and took out my iPad, took off my jacket etc and went in to the room of all rooms, there in front of me were THE GUYS!!!!!!!
A professional photographer from Pinewood was there and it was him I gave my iPad to whilst holding my iPhone, Jane Gootnick complimented my Tshirt and admittedly the next part was kind of a blur, Dave said ‘Hi Richard, I like that sweatshirt-’ ‘Oh my God!’ I exclaimed as I went up to Miss Piggy and SHE actually spoke to me, admittedly I did touch her hair, and her snout until Dave gave me a friendly piece of advice ‘Kermit is going to get mad at you!’ Lol, in the group picture Miss Piggy had placed her left hook on my Kermit the Frog tshirt/sweatshirted chest, I remember joking to others later that ‘Yep, that will make the tabloids! Miss Piggy in other man shocker whilst Kermit is RIGHT there.’
As the professional photographer took the pictures with my iPad, I had my iPhone in my hand and I was going to grasp this opportunity to get what I so wished for for so long, and I asked Dave if I could get a selfie with MY HERO! The Great Gonzo! It happened, it actually happened, I got the selfie, that was a real moment for me, and even now (since that happened a week ago I changed my wallpaper on my iPhone from when I met Mark Hamill when he visited my hometown last year to THE selfie with the King of Weird, Gonzo) I was so elated, I said bye to the guys then made my way out of the vip area, spoke to the host and said I needed a drink, so I picked up my bits and pieces and made my way to the VIP lounge bar sat at the bar and ordered a cool and crisp Budweiser (although other beers are readily available) once it was opened I just sat there not quite believing what had just occurred, I got my #Catwoman figure, my Crystal, Kermit and Gonzo Muppet and Doll and took a selfie to capture the moment and went through the pictures the photographer had taken, Joseph, the bar tender liked them too. He also poured the beer into a plastic glass so I could take that into the arena itself when the VIP host told me it was time to go.
Once out of the vip area I made my way into the arena, found my seat which interestingly was right on the aisle, which would be perfect and made myself comfortable, eager fans of all ages were dotted all around me and we just chatted about this wonderful experience - whatever the next two or three hours had in store for us we knew this much, that it would be an experience of a lifetime.
Just after eight o'clock the arena lights went down and the chatting subdued, a tingle of excitement could be felt, the first thing we saw was the set for the opening intro, a drumroll played out which saw a massive whooping and cheering from the crowd, the spotlight hit Sam Eagle as he hit the stage being expertly performed by Eric, this right there was when I realised how awesome this show was going to be, seeing the Muppet Performers bring their Magick to life, within the first few seconds there was a nod to current affairs which the younger audience members wouldn’t have got but those knowing of global issues would have laughed at, at this point Sam was joined on stage by Scooter, David did a fine job at this and then after the brief intro ‘Cue the other nonsense…’
The squeals of utter delight as the beginning theme of the Muppet Show played out whilst characters of old introduced as new to delighted newcomers danced and frolicked on stage, Miss Piggy, Janice, Link, et al made their way through to the infamous arches whilst overhead a massive led screen with the rest of the Muppets was played - the atmosphere was beyond electric and we all knew we were in for the time of our lives, Statler and Waldorf sequences were prerecorded and played out during scene and Muppet changes, and then Kermit ably assisted by Matt came out to welcome us all and it was fascinating seeing the expressions on Matts face as he was performing Kermit, the next crowdpleaser came when during Kermits intro Gonzo joined Kermit onstage and spoke about going to the Tower of London:
Gonzo: Do I have time to go to the Tower of London?
Kermit: Right now?
Gonzo: Yeah they have a great spa there.
Gonzo: (To audience) Their iron maiden is fantastic!
Kermit: Gonzo, that is not a spa.
(Tyler Bunch appears in a black hood)
Gonzo: That's Reggie, my masseur.
Kermit: Go, just be back for your number.
Gonzo: Thank you. Hey Reggie, just want you to know, by the way, my safe word is Lichtenstein.
Admittedly there didn’t seem to be many who got that last joke but I just cracked up, shortly Kermit was joined by Scooter and then cue the entrance of entrances by Miss Piggy herself, the banter was like old school Muppets and it just felt as though we the audience were there in the real Muppet theatre of old, seeing production number after production number, fan favourites and many a nod to England and the o2 - including Kermit talking about how England is very close to the Muppets hearts considering that's where the Muppet Show was filmed.
There was a hysterical sketch with Charles Dances es, quoting ‘William bleedin Wordsworth’ much to the dislike of Pepe which culminated with a bunch of young and nubile dancers taking part in a massive rave and showing how bored they were with Wordsworth, then Charles said ‘Dance’ and so everyone did, including to much amusement Charles dancing himself.
Another highlight was Pigs in Space, and David Tennant coming aboard the swine trek in his iconic role as Doctor Who, to the sound effect of the Tardis, and a bit later on sounds of the sonic screwdriver playing out, after a bit of interplay with Miss Piggy, Link and Julius Link was regenerated into all the doctors from over the years who've played the iconic Timelord, and ending with the latest incarnation, Jodie Whittaker.
During the interval just after Doctor Teeth and the Electric Mayhem performed a radical set, the drum kit and set up was a photo shoot must that saw fans of all ages swarm to the front row, excited adults getting selfies with Animals drum kit (Yeah, I bet even if Keith Moon were there he'd have squealed with delight) geeky parents taking pics of their kids, this was such a friendly environment, there was a lady who introduced herself to me (we knew each other from Muppet Guys Talking below stage pass) and we had a quick chat, there was another lady who had her son with her, he was clearly very excited and his eyes lit up when I asked if he’d like a pic with my Kermit, Miss Piggy and Gonzo, his Mum took the picture.
This show was written with both a real love for the Muppets and the British audience, evident from how was very clear for all to hear and see - this was a real wonderful boost of nostalgia for those of us who grew up with the shenanigans of Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo and Fozzie and the madness that ensued not only in camera frame but the camaraderie between the Muppet performers below frame.
And its the Muppet performers who should be celebrated, I was luckily very close to the stage and not only was it a delight to see Matt, Dave and Eric perform with much loved characters, but also see the expressions on their faces, one personal favourite was their rendition just after the interval of Bohemian Rhapsody, seeing the silhouette of Dave, Julianne and the other performers get Gonzo and his harem of chicken into the air, also another thing noting is that NOT ONLY did the splendid performers, both perform and rush about like headless chickens (Sorry Camilla) to get their menagerie of characters on stage but all the songs were performed live as well.
Very often its the performers who wrongly get overlooked for their artistry and skill in bringing felt characters to life and bringing with it such wonderful emotions - and so I felt it was very fitting that at the very end, it wasn’t the guest stars, Kevin Bishop, Charles Danceses, David Tennant and Kylie Minogue that got the final bow… No. It was the performers themselves, and then the core performers gave their final bow, it was quite a moment when Bobby Moynehan said, ‘Featuring, David Rudman, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, Matt Vogel and Eric Jacobson!’
As a great man once infamously said, ‘My hope still is to leave the world a bit better than when I got here.’
Many thanks to my #Catwoman fiancée for gifting me the meet and greet VIP golden ticket of a lifetime and encouraging to fulfill my lifetimes ambition, Dave Goelz for making me proud to be a weirdo and getting that selfie with Gonzo, Matt Vogel for doing a perfect job with everyone's favourite frog, Eric Jacobson for just being terrific, David Rudman for being fab, Peter Linz for being cool and getting a Pepe hug from Bill Barretta.
And those who continue to keep Jim Hensons perpetual legacy in all our Hearts… And funny bones wocka wocka wocka!
29th July 2018