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The Muppets at Lincoln Center

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Lincolncenter

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

In 1972, Jim Henson proposed a Broadway show that was accepted, but ultimately unproduced, by the Lincoln Center. Several artistic concepts survive from the project, some of which can be seen on display in the Jim Henson's Fantastic World traveling exhibit and reproduced in the pages of Jim Henson's Designs and Doodles.

Designs and Doodles includes artwork for the male and female Koozebanian creatures, Sclrap Flyapp, and the Snerfs; the Clodhoppers (showing the performers dressed in black); Big Boss Man (again with a black-suited performer shown) and a small, five-legged, blue and green furry creature with two eyes; and a Gawky Bird towering over a Big Bird-like bird. One early piece pitched for the show involved a scene with Rowlf, who's podium would collapse and reveal Jim and Frank Oz performing him.[1]

Jim Henson's Fantastic World includes artwork of eleven performers holding hands on stage, some of whom are halfway into full-bodied Muppet suits; a woman dancing with two feminine faces in the style of Limbo with some pink and purple squares and triangles similar to Henson's animation work in Time Piece; and black-suited performers manipulating what appear to be larger versions of the realistic sea gulls seen in episode 309 of The Muppet Show.

From Jim Henson's Designs and Doodles:

Henson loved the theater and considered doing a Broadway show that featured the Muppets. In 1971 he had developed several pieces that were performed live in a Las Vegas show hosted by Nancy Sinatra. He also toured with Jimmy Dean, which gave him a taste for live performance.

The following year, Henson made a formal proposal to a group of theatrical producers to create a live revue to be performed at New York City's Lincoln Center. Made of brightly colored cutout collage and marker drawings, this proposal had a more polished look than some of his earlier proposals. It contained images of earlier ideas, including Sclrap Flyapp and Big Boss Man, as well as concepts for new pieces, including The Clodhoppers, which were full-bodied, rod-operated puppets, and Gawky Bird, a colossal fifteen-foot rod puppet.

The Muppets never made it to Broadway, but Jim always kept this idea in the back of his mind. As Jerry Juhl recalled, "Every couple of years, when Jim would take a week off, he would come in and say, "We gotta do that Broadway show".

Even today, the idea for a live show comes up for discussion in company production meetings.

Sources

  1. Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones, page 185

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