Henson Perspective: Guest-starring Valerie Harper!

The Muppet Show sticks its toe in the waters of meta-narrative, which encourages Pete to try and get Ben to finalize his grand theory of just what kind of show The Muppet Show actually is. Pete, in turn, works on his Muppet-based philosophy that “Peoples is peoples”, much to Ben’s repeated chagrin.

Sources and References:

You, too, can take a couple minutes to investigate earlier “serious” versions of “Tit Willow”, from the light comic opera The Mikado and see how the song is perhaps intended to be performed. It’s required; after all, all Gilbert and Sullivan is about duty. Here are filmed performances from 1939 and 1965. At the end of them, you may well, like Sam, remain utterly confused as to their virtue. So far, the only thing that has gone some small way of convincing me of the potential appeal of The Mikado is this duet between Groucho Marx and his daughter Melinda on an episode of You Bet Your Life, which is unreasonably adorable.

When it comes to Broadway productions, Ben is, as ever, aided by the invaluable Internet Broadway Database, which provided him with quick perusals of the career of Alan Jay Lerner and the trivia about the early appearance of Giancarlo Esposito in Seesaw.

This episode was recorded prior to the death of Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim, although that may not have changed Ben’s opinion of the merits of “Broadway Baby”. The outpouring of deserved praise for the composer has mentioned Follies a moderate amount in his career retrospectives, but the song itself remains largely unheralded. A search of the back catalogue of New York Magazine produced both a review of both the 30th anniversary revival in 2001 and rumors of a 50th anniversary film adaptation for 2021 before someone finally mentioned the song. Hidden at the end of the 2011 40th anniversary revival, it’s name finally emerges, albeit with strong support: “it’s a wrecking ball of a number, delivered in belts and body blows, by [Jayne Houdyshell,] a performer of such focused life force, such irrepressible comic timing, such bulletproof un-self-consciousness, [that] we’re momentarily transported…” Not a perfect endorsement, but delivered as evidence that the revival was not to be missed. So someone disagreed with Ben that it could, in some form, actually be performed as a show-stopper and not evidence of a rusty or subtle performance.

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