The Muppet Show you know and love landed at the Hollywood Bowl this past weekend—and I couldn't help but cry happy tears. Multiple times.
I'm no Muppets superfan, certainly not compared to the very enthusiastic attendee who squealed in delight over every appearance from deep-cut duo Wayne and Wanda. But like many of us born in the past half-century, Kermit, Gonzo, Fozzie and the gang were a warm and fuzzy part of my childhood; their periodic return over the years, regardless of the quality, has at least always been welcome.
“The Muppets Take the Bowl” ticked all of the boxes for what you should find in a classic episode of The Muppet Show: frantic backstage banter between Kermit and Scooter, memorable songs like “Mahna Mahna” and “Happy Feet,” vaudevillian puppet sketches and celebrity guests (Bobby Moynihan hosted, with pre-recorded appearances from Danny Trejo and Jimmy Kimmel). This weekend's shows added in digital shorts, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra arrangements and a plugged-in performance from Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem (as well as a recreation of that “Bohemian Rhapsody” video).
We can only hope the three-night run was some sort of trial for a longer engagement. Even when the writing wasn't as sharp as it could be, “The Muppets Take the Bowl” captured more of the warmhearted spirit and sense of delirious fun than anything else Muppets-related in years.
Here are the five times I cried during the show.
1. The Muppet Show intro
The thought of ever seeing The Muppet Show live had never even been a thought. Yet there I was at the Hollywood Bowl as the cast of the Muppets, tuxedoed purple Mutations and all, filed through the familiar marquee-light arches. By the time the ensemble was singing about tonight's “sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational” show, the waterworks were in full effect.
2. The opening medley
Is there a more wholesome road trip song than “Movin' Right Along”? Kermit and Fozzie kicked into the jaunty The Muppet Movie tune as part of a medley early on in the show. It turns out a frog and a bear in a flattened cutout of a car is enough to make me cry.
3. A frog, a log and "Rainbow Connection"
Just a couple of strums on the banjo is enough to elicit a teardrop from this sincere classic. Add in a duet between Kermit and the song's scribe Paul Williams, plus the rest of the Muppet crew, and you have the recipe for a hot face full of tears.
4. The Kermit quotes during the fireworks
As the main set drew to a close and the fireworks finale began, we were treated to “a few words from Kermit the Frog” as Muppet movie and TV show quotes flashed on-screen—many of which sound as though they could've come directly from the late Jim Henson. “I've got a dream too. It's about singing and dancing and making people happy. I found a whole bunch of friends who have the same dream and it kind of makes us like a family.” Thanks, Jim.
5. The entire cast singing “With a Little Help from My Friends”
Beatles covers are overwhelmingly lousy. But Joe Cocker's slow, gospel cover of “With a Little Help from My Friends” is one of the few exceptions. And a performance of that version by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, with the entire Muppet cast and a 30-person choir? The perfect ending to the evening.
Photographs taken by Craig Mathew at the Hollywood Bowl, provided courtesy of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.
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