Puppet Up

a kate west review

directed by Patrick Bristow
at Avalon Hollywood
1735 N Vine St., Hollywood , CA 90028
Next shows - April 18 & May 22, 2009
8:00 PM (doors open 7:00 PM)
contact (323) 462-8900
or www.wantickets.com

The Jim Henson Company continues to impress, decades after Kermit the Frog's gentle humor on "Sesame Street" led to the beloved "The Muppet Show". Henson's legacy lives on with his son Brian Henson, who has formed a delightful combination of puppets and improv in "Puppet Up" now playing at the hip Avalon in Hollywood.

Puppets, improv and alcohol? It is sure to be an enchanted evening. Be forewarned however; there's a reason it plays late at night. The adorable little furry creatures are capable of doing and saying almost anything. Innuendos and curse words fly as Director Patrick Bristow takes suggestions from the audience. After a delightful introductory "Puppet Up" song with a full cast of puppeteers, a la "Muppet Show", the improvisers do scene after scene, making up choice witticisms on the spot. One is often undecided what to focus on - the actors with their tireless hands up in the air holding puppets, or the side monitors showing the actual televised scene with full puppet characters. Try watching both if you can. You'll learn a lot.

The majority of the cast is strong and the characters they don even more impressive. You'll meet a bulldog in diapers, an intellectual orangutan, a trustworthy newscaster, one-eyed extraterrestrials and hot dogs on sticks, to name but a silly few. You'll be amazed at amount of characters these professionals can jump in and out of, even in the same scene. One highlight featured Drew Massey singing a Bond-like theme song while the rest of the cast floated in and out of the camera lenses, creating a very real and sexy 007 look. It's also fun to see Brian Henson in his element, leaping from one brainstorm to the next. Not everything works entirely well every single night, of course. Sometimes a scene or two can get off track at times, but there's plenty more zaniness where that came from. And every night is wildly different.

The audience doesn't get away scott-free either as often members are pulled up on stage and nurtured kindly into entertaining the rest of us. One such scene featured the puppets reenacting a couple's first date while the pair in question dinged or buzzed according to what the improvisers got right. Imagine the hilarity when the characters uncover different perceptions of the same evening. Some lucky "volunteer" might even get to try handling an actual puppet. You'll have to wait and see.

A clever idea indeed, "Puppet Up" is the logical next step for an innovative company that tries anything, without ever using malicious or mean-spirited humor. It's all good fun. Can't say clean exactly as this is the evening show and those puppets take over the actors at times. But as the puppet-less cast will tell you in the end - all those ideas came from you.

The cleverness behind "Puppet Up" - Cast and Production:

Brian Henson

Brian Clark

Julianne Buescher

Drew Massey

Allan Trautman

Victor Yerrid

Ted Michaels

Willie Etra - Musical Director

Patrick Bristow - Director and Host

["Puppet Up" Cast, Edinburgh Festival, Scotland]

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