Tuesday November 21st 2017

Henson Alternative “Stuffed and Unstrung”

First of all, let me tell you that this is not your usual Muppet show! Not even close! It is 90 fun filled minutes of us watching ( and participating) in an improv show performed by a number of different Muppet creations called the “Miskreant puppets” who are worked by The Jim Henson Puppeteers- “PUPPET-UP” is what the audience screamed scene after scene and emcee Patrick Bristow ( who is also the co-creator and director of this production) finds audience members to help keep the action fresh and alive.I must tell you that the opening night audience ( myself among the loudest) laughed from start to finish, and the only reason I cannot highly recommend the show is that it is not “family” material , and we know how our families loved watching the muppets as a family- not this show! It is purely adult!

The stage is set with stools on one side and a wall of creatures ( puppets/muppets) on the other side. Stage center has a special camera and two projection screens make the entire show visible to the entire audience. Yes, we get to watch the puppeteers do their thing, and yet, even though we know they are right there working their magic, we lose them as the characters they create come alive. The six puppeteers are all multi talented as they sing and dance with their characters creating stories from the suggestions yelled out by the audience. While I am sure they use some of the same basic story-lines, it seems very natural and fits the improv mode that Chicago audiences are used to at Second City, but here, we have muppets, controlled and voiced by masters of an art. It is great to know that what Henson began some 40 years ago is still alive, not just on TV and movies, but now, live -onstage for adults ( most of who grew up with Cookie Monster,Ernie and Bert,Grover,Big Bird, Oscar and the wonderful world Henson created for Sesame Street.

The yelling out of “Puppet-Up” is from the 2006 HBO special of the same name with uncensored added to it, an dthis show follows that tradition in that almost everything you can think of is in the show , which is why no kids should be taken despite the cuteness of the amazing muppets/puppets used to make us laugh. Bristow makes a great host ( many of us have seen him on television shows such as “Seinfeld”,”Curb Your Enthusiasm” ,”Whose Line Is It Anyway ( where he gets to do improv himself) and many others. He is funny and adorable a she plays with audience members and brings them to the stage so they can do a scene with the puppets or perhaps even become a puppeteer themselves. Each perofrmance is unique and different as each audience sets the tone of what these glorious performers will do.

There are two exceptions that just might bring back some memories as they recreate two of the early numbers that Henson and Frank Oz did in the early days. I know these brought back some memories for me. We also get a peek at Henson’s Performance control system, an interface for puppeteers that allows computer technology to create special and unusual performance by the muppets- it is like looking in from backstage and seeing how the scenery gets moved in a Broadway play!

The Puppeteers, as I said earlier, are multi-talented specialist and deserve all the applause the audience gave them. There are many as part of the crew, but only a portion of them work each performance, but if they have been trained by Henson, I am sure whoever you get to see will amaze and astound you for the 90 minutes of magic on the stage of  The Bank Of America Theatre located at 18 West Monroe Street , through the 17th ( yes, you will have to hurry on this one). The performance schedule is as follows:

Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m.,Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7 p.m. ( still gives you time to grab a bite or head up to Old Town for some more improv.

Tickets range from $25-$60 and can be purchased at any of the Broadway In Chicago box offices, The Broadway In Chicago kiosk at Water Tower Place, by clling the Broadway In Chicago Ticketline-800-775-2000, at all Ticketmaster outlets and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com

To learn more about this show and where it is heading next, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com

to see more on the show, visit the STUFFED and UNSTRUNG page at www.theatreinchicago.com

 

 

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