Review of 'The Muppets Take the O2'

muppets.jpg https://www.theo2.co.uk/events/detail/the-muppets-take-the-o2

I have to admit, we had not originally planned on going to see the Muppets and primarily it was because of the cost (£45 to £100 for seats) but also not knowing what to expect. When we were given an amazing offer on tickets we really had no excuse and we are very glad we went as the show was absolutely amazing, full of the fun and humour that we have always enjoyed from the Muppets.

The set consisted of a stage at one end of the huge O2 onto which familiar sets were wheeled on and off. Throughout the performance the puppeteers were in full view of the audience as they moved about the stage, dressed completely in black (including a black veil) to help maintain some of the illusion and, for the most part, it worked. The video screens only showed the Muppets with no view of the performers much as you may remember from their long-running television show from the late 70s/early 80s “The Muppet Show”. All of the iconic acts played out on the stage to a delighted audience.

The 2 hour (plus 15 minute interval) show started fifteen minutes late with Sam the Eagle coming onto the stage to apologise in advance for the “indignity” of the show which promptly kicked us off into the “It's time to start the music”, the introduction from the original Muppet Show complete with the Muppet cast marching onto the stage. During this we were introduced to comedian Bobby Moynihan who was the guest for evening. Moynihan did a great job getting into the spirit of the show (Moynihan was in the cast of Saturday Night Life for almost ten years – no, I didn't know either).

  • “Pigs in Space” featured the three from the original series (including, of course Miss Piggy) with a special appearance by one of the doctors himself: Peter Davidson (Doctor Who, 1981-1984). Davidson was very game for the whole experience and it was a joy to beyond complete with his slightly over-exuberant (though typical) “sprig” of celery in his jacket pocket.
  • Kermit appeared complete with feet for “Happy Feet” where he teamed up with Moynihan for a bit of a song and dance with the later's complaint about being unable to dance resulting in a pair of enormous green legs being provided for him to perform the number.
  • Anthony Head came on to add some English class to proceedings as he attempted to read Wordsworth's poem “I wandered lonely as a cloud” only to be thwarted by “Pepe the King Prawns” repeated amusing attempts to introduce a bit of excitement. Speaking of culture, “Wayne and Wanda” made several attempts to perform suitably refined material only to be, as always, continuously thwarted by things such as roving sharks…
  • Kermit's nephew “Robin” and his “Croak-A-Pella” singing group never really jumped to the occasion but “Electric Mayhem” really did ending the first half with a series of high-energy numbers including their trademark “Can you picture that?” (from the original Muppet Movie).
  • After the twenty minute interval we continued with the musical theme with a hilarious rendition of Queen's “Bohemina Rhapsody” featuring most of the cast.
  • “Muppet Labs” made a welcome return with Beaker being sent to the “cloud” for a series of rather violent encounters with the residents there…things do not end well.
  • Rowlf (the dog) entertained us on the piano with “Maybe It's Because I'm a Londoner” with the crowd joining in enthusiastically with the word projected onto the screens. Earlier he had entertained with a witty song tribute to a number of London tube stations.
  • An attempt by Fozzie the Bear at a comedy world record ended in abject, but humorous, failure as he attempted to make it onto the stage…
  • The “Sweedish Chef” made a welcome, if somewhat incomprehensible, return with guest “Adam Hills” (an Australian comedian with a t-shirt “The Börk Stops Here”) who upset the chef by suggesting neither knew Swedish then attempting to sing the chef's theme song. Getting down to cooking the two attempted to create Haggis “on the hoof” with a live sheep…this also did not end well.
  • The very first episode of “The Muppet Show” featured “Mahna Mahana” and their amazingly addictive, though unintelligible, song of the same name. They performed again with the eventual assistance of “Steps” (British pop group from the late 90s) who “happened” to be sitting in the audience.

The most poignant moment had to be end of the show which had Kermit sitting on a log singing the song that began the Muppet Movie and somewhat encapsulates the Muppet spirit, “Rainbow Connection” followed by “Life's Like a Movie, Write Your Own Ending…” where he was joined by the entire Muppet and human cast. The encore saw them all return to the stage (after 5-6 minutes) with the Beatle's “I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends” where the Muppet performers had taken off their veils. Later the curtain call saw the key performers take their bows as they were individually introduced by Moynihan.

There was a lot of taped material in the show which I suppose is to be expected with such an elaborate production process. It was amazing to see that the Muppets were so incredibly real as they interacted with themselves and the human guests with no fumbles or mistakes that we could perceive. The incredible talents of the Muppet performers were obvious throughout. It was amazing to see the characters I have grown up with “in person” on the stage with performers, though not original, certainly keeping them alive and kicking.

I have to say the sound was often quite distorted and muffled throughout and, as I mentioned earlier, it was quite a pricey show. The show with it's relatively small (physically) characters also seemed a bit lost in the immensity of the O2 with some reviewers suggesting a stint in a smaller theatre in the west end perhaps more appropriate which I tend to agree with. Otherwise, I found the show to be incredibly entertaining, and, of course, nostalgic. Having said that I think audiences not having seen the original series would still find the Muppets amusing and not just for kids, the adults around me were having just as good a time after they eventually got into it (showing an initial, typical, English hesitancy to letting loose and enjoying the insanity of it all).

This is the first time this stage show has been seen outside of America and I most certainly hope it comes back.

Rating:

Review Date: 2018-07-14



London O2 Arena

Location: London (England)

Address: Peninsula Square, London SE10 0DX ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE North Greenwich

Telephone: +44 (0)20 8463 2000

URL: http://www.theo2.co.uk/

Originally the “Millennium Dome”, this was the site of an exhibit during the millennium which then fell into disuse for quite a number of years before being re-purposed as a multi-purpose venue with the massive 20,000 seat “arena” taking up the majority of the space under the dome (when inside the arena you cannot see any of the large tent above you - it is just a large…arena). Under the tent and surrounding the arena are a number of restaurants (some are not that bad), a cinema and a few other smaller entertainment venues. The restaurants now extend to other buildings surrounding the O2.

Seating can be problematic here which is typical for such large arenas. As it is rectangular and artists perform at the one end visibility and cramped necks are an issue. Ideal seating is in the first, ground level of seats but NOT in front the stage (unless you are in the first few rows the person sitting in front of you is going to block your view). Cheaper seats in the second level are quite steeply raked and it can also get hot up there.

Food in the arena itself is quite expensive and you are not allowed to bring in external drinks unless you remove the lids (and they are, of course, non-alcoholic). In fact, any drinks you purchase on site have their lids removed, evidently to avoid the bottle being used as a weapon.

Getting in and out of the arena is generally extremely good with the proximity of the tube station on the Jubilee line (running high capacity trains) very helpful in quickly allowing people to leave. If attending an event on the weekend be sure to check if there are any engineering events though as this has been known to happen during popular performances…