This article contains spoilers.
The Muppets Take The O2 was the first time The Muppets have performed a live stage show in the UK. So just to be there, sitting in the area knowing that behind the curtains I’m about to watch characters that I have loved since childhood was a truly humbling experience.
Looking at the audience, you saw the legacy left by the legendary Jim Henson. In one instance, there were three generations of the same family. The people in attendance spanned different ages, ethnicities and backgrounds. Everyone was in the same boat, there was that excitement in the air, we were all ready for a most sensational, inspirational, celebrational and Muppetational show.
Music plays a massive role as part of The Muppets experience, and thanks to Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, we were treated to some belters. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (Queen) and ‘Suffragette City’ (David Bowie) added to the likes of ‘London Calling’ (The Clash) and ‘Maybe It’s Because I’m A Londoner’ (Hubert Gregg). But of course, we are also there for some Muppets classics. ‘Can You Picture That?’ and the infectious ‘Mahna Mahna’. The sing-along atmosphere made you feel part of the show.
The comedy itself was vintage Muppets. In between the live sketches, there was pre-recorded material that you watched on the big screens. This was necessary to allow the stagehands to prep the stage for the next sketch. But just because you found yourself watching a big screen, it took nothing away from the experience. The backstage skits blended into the live stage performance and Statler and Waldorf provided plenty of entertainment. My favourite pick of all the pre-recorded material was their Netflix inspired ‘Muppstream’, which saw various Muppets acting out a range of TV shows, both US and UK. You had Kermit in ‘Frogglebox’ (Gogglebox) and my personal favourite, The Swedish Chef in ‘The Walking Bread’ (The Walking Dead). His rolling pin had barbed wire on!! Just another example of how The Muppets can appeal to so many different demographics.
The Friday show saw David Tennant and Kylie fill the guest spots. Seeing Tennant as The Doctor would have been amazing, but a line in that skit included “I don’t want to go”. I don’t think I could have lived through that again. So instead, our showing (Saturday night) had Peter Davison reprising his role as the Fifth Doctor. I was very pleased with this, as Davison is one of my favourite Doctors. The Swedish Chef cooking sketch included Adam Hills (The Last Leg). I love Hills and this was probably one of the funniest things I have ever seen live. The rapport between these two was fantastic and the comedy was on point throughout the sketch.
Charles Dance was the special guest announced for the Friday night slot, but in the programme, our guest was simply down as “special guest”. Boy did we get a surprise! It was only Anthony Head (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)!! He came on to perform a reading of William Wordsworth’s ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’. However, he was soon interrupted by the one and only Pepe the King Prawn. A minute later, Head is dancing around the stage to rave music. It was brilliant and surreal in equal measure.
Having since seen clips of Kylie, from the opening night performance, I’m satisfied with the guests we had for our performance. I was there to see The Muppets, and at times it looked like Kylie took away from that a little, shifting the focus in a counterproductive way.
Away from the guest stars, I can not go any further without mentioning the outstanding work of the people underneath the characters.
The muppeteers included the legendary Dave Goelz alongside Bill Barretta, Eric Jacobson, Matt Vogel, David Rudman and Peter Linz. But it wasn’t just the main performers, everyone performing on that stage, no matter how small a role, was integral to the show running as it did.
The fact that Dave Goelz is still performing at 72 is a testament to the man himself. Speaking of which, there have been some negative comments online about being able to see the muppeteers. Total nonsense, it does not ruin ‘the magic’ of the show, in fact, it enhances it. To see these unbelievably gifted performers in action was truly astonishing. They are all performing with such energy and scooting around on wheeled office chairs to present a seamless performance for their respective Muppets. When you see how much expertise goes into making the show, you truly appreciate The Muppets even more.
The show ends with an emotional rendition of ‘Rainbow Connection’, in which the Muppets are joined by the guest stars. I was lucky enough to witness a truly beautiful moment, where Anthony Head sings lovingly at Scooter (See here). This was a touching moment in what was, overall, a truly once in a lifetime experience.
As you’d expect, we had an encore, in which all the Muppets and guest stars returned to the stage. Only they where not alone. Now joined by an enormous choir, they belted out a fantastic rendition of ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’. What a showstopper! As the curtains drew to a close, the final on-stage bows where left for the main Muppet performers (Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, Eric Jacobson, Matt Vogel, David Rudman, Peter Linz).
Everyone was sent home with smiles on faces and there was a real feel-good atmosphere amongst the crowd leaving the O2. We had all been part of history. Finally, on a personal note, I finally got to see The Great Gonzo, my favourite Muppet. This was a big moment for me, as Gonzo taught me from a very early age, it’s fine to be different and to be yourself. In a somewhat personal moment, and not audible to others, I thanked him for this. I doubt I was alone in having these personal moments, as the kid inside all of us was brought out that night.
The Muppets Take The O2 was an incredible experience. The craftsmanship of the performers, the humour and warmth of the characters, everything just clicked into place seamlessly. The special guest stars added to the night, rather than causing a distraction. This was a show that crossed generations. Young and old alike were thoroughly entertained. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait too long before The Muppets return to the UK!