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The usually private doors to Jim Henson Company studios were opened to the public for the first time Saturday for a very uncensored one-night puppet improv show called Puppet Up! — Uncensored. It was a Willy Wonka moment for those who purchased tickets to the sold-out show as the iron gates opened to what formerly was Charlie Chaplin’s studio, where guests explored the grounds before the participation-heavy show, with audience members shouting out topics including BDSM, Trump Towers and Justin Trudeau.
“Yesterday this was a TV show, today this is a theater,” exclaimed Brian Henson, chairman of the Jim Henson Company onstage with co-creator Patrick Bristow. The pair welcomed Henson Alternative puppeteers to perform with 85 puppets onstage.
The same puppeteers previously worked on kid-friendly characters of Kermit and Miss Piggy, but this night they channeled what Henson called the company’s more “miscreant” characters. A talking crab reported “breaking news” that Justin Trudeau was being arrested for chugging maple syrup; Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was mentioned as a frequent customer at a BDSM shop; and alien puppets sung about wiretapping and “golden showers,” a reference to President Donald Trump. Even La La Land was shouted out as a suggestion for performing a film title that “sounds pretentious and would win a lot of Tonys.”
When the audience shouted out places for puppets to be stranded at in a 1950s horror movie, both Uranus and Trump Towers were suggested. Someone in the audience then replied, “What’s the difference?”
The show combines improv, classic Jim Henson musical numbers and digital puppetry. It’s a production that Brian feels his father, Jim, would approve of, because it gives audiences a look at how puppeteers operate offscreen and shows just how risque Henson company Muppets would get during his father’s era, when the cameras stopped rolling.
“He was also very naughty,” Brian told Heat Vision of his father. “His sense of humor was very naughty and very blue.”
Although Puppet Up! debuted for the first time on the Henson lot, the show has made its rounds across the globe for 10 years in locations including Australia and Vegas after premiering in Hollywood in 2007. And with each show not being the same as the one before, you never know what might happen. Brian said he hopes to open the doors to the lot again for another show.
“The funniest comedy that we’re doing right now with puppets is the R-rated adult stuff,” said Brian who is currently working on getting the casting just right for his R-rated puppet crime thriller Happytime Murders, which is set in Hollywood where humans coexists with puppets.
“It’s basically our world, but there is a minority population of puppets,” said Brian. “The studio, they are so excited about it that they are being very careful about the human casting … It’s thrilling to me that they love it so much, but it’s frustrating that it’s taking a while to get exactly the cast they want working with the puppets.”
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