by Henson Alternative
a kate west review
on tour now! http://www.stuffedandunstrung.com/
check here for local dates: http://www.stuffedandunstrung.com/tickets.php
The Jim Henson Company sprung into being from one of the most endearingly creative minds in entertainment and son Brian Henson beautifully carries on Jim Henson's talented legacy (for several years now) with "Stuffed and Unstrung", an improv show with puppets. Formerly "Puppet Up", this run of unscripted delight continues to impress fans, now embarking on a nationwide tour (check the website to see if it's coming to you).
Like many improv shows, it is heavy on audience suggestion, so be prepared to shout out fun ideas for scenes. Host Patrick Bristow impeccably moderates and fields the most appealing leads. Just so you know, some of the very brave seated in the orchestra may get “volunteered”. But don’t worry, everyone is there to support and love you – the puppeteers are anyway (you can never be sure about puppets). If you don’t believe it, click the link below for one of the sweetest moments on stage.
This amazingly professional cast can improvise the heck out of any suggestion so part of the fun is watching their wild and crazy characters act out scenarios as if they happen every day. Like Brian himself says, “It can be a little disturbing to see unrequited love between a goat and a fish, but we find it delicious and surprising ….” And audiences cannot agree more. You don’t have to be a fan of Henson’s beloved “The Muppet Show” or even “Sesame Street” to enjoy the antics, but it is awfully nice to see some vintage pieces incorporated into the show (you may recognize some early Jim Henson). The best part is finally being able to watch what the puppeteers have to do in order to create the magic. As in all live shows, not every night goes 100% smoothly, but that's the secret joy of improv. And the lovely nostalgia factor (along with the talent) is always there. Guaranteed.
In short, there are two shows – one you can watch on the monitors which show the actual puppets acting out a screen on video (like you are used to with Kermit and Miss Piggy) and the other is on stage, where you can watch the dark-clothed puppeteers maneuvering their puppet characters. If you don’t think puppeteering is hard, try holding your arm up for an entire scene and training your brain to move right in order to have a character move left on screen. Fascinating. You’ll also get to see a truly multimedia interactive scene from the patented Henson Digital Puppetry Studio with a robotic version of a puppet (needs to be seen to be understood).
Although Henson has added many new features since 2005 (previous reviews of the gentle silliness here and here), the essential joy and puppet artistry is definitely still present and stuffed people and animals on sticks make for a remarkably real and touching evening. Squirrels might be foster children, hot dogs may need intervention and James Bond may even appear (anything goes with puppets!) And none of the puppetry magic would even be possible without the supremely fantastic cast (listed below). Rotating different casts for different tour dates works well for them since everyone goes through the same rigorous training process. If you weren’t in awe of this company before (and really, who isn’t?) you will be after they take your town by storm. Once you experience this uniquely delightful show, you’ll want to come back and bring a friend. Or two. Enjoy!
p.s. There is a reason the above is billed as “adult” so if you don’t appreciate strong language, stay home. But come on, you know you really want to see a puppet swear.
Like Father, like son ....
Catch them on YouTube here
(includes the best audience participation scene: http://youtu.be/S7c25whalgQ)
Previous reviews here:
Brian Henson (Creator, Producer, Performer) is Chairman of The Jim Henson Company and an award-winning director, producer, writer and performer. In recent years, Henson served as Executive Producer on the television projects It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, Muppet Wizard of Oz, Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars (which he also directed) and Jim Henson’s Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story (which he also co-wrote and directed). Previous television projects that Henson produced include Farscape, Bear in the Big Blue House, Gulliver’s Travels, The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss, Muppets Tonight and Dinosaurs. Henson’s long list of film credits includes The Great Muppet Caper, Labyrinth,The Witches, Little Shop of Horrors, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island.
Henson also oversees the groundbreaking work at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, one of Hollywood’s pre-eminent character building, digital and physical visual effects facilities. Henson was part of the team that first created and utilized the Henson Performance Control System, a powerful custom-based interface for puppeteers, which won an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science Scientific and Engineering Award in 1992. Recently, he has been leading the Shop’s work with its revolutionary puppeteered animation system. He recently directed Battleground, an episode for TNT’s anthology series Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King.
Patrick Bristow (Co-Creator/ Director/ Host) is best known for his numerous television appearances most notably as Peter on the groundbreaking ABC series Ellen. Other television credits include, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld, Friends, Mad About You, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and others. Film credits include Twilight Of The Golds, The Longest Yard, as well as the first Austin Powers, So I Married An Ax Murderer, and the accidental comedy Showgirls. Bristow is also an alum of The Groundlings Main Company where he has performed, taught, and directed. He won a Garland Award for his performance in The Break-Up Notebook and though nominated for an Ovation award for the same role, didn't manage to snag that one.
Direction credits include Hot Dog TV for the Cartoon Network, IronSink.com 's Freakdom Of Speech, Improvatorium's current hit show, Zombience! He has served as an improv consultant for The WB, Bravo's Significant Others, Disneyland, Fox TV, and others.
He lives in L.A. with his wonderful partner of 16 years, Andrew Nicastro.
He sincerely hopes you enjoy Stuffed And Unstrung.
Grant Baciocco is the producer and host of the Henson.com Podcast, the official podcast of The Jim Henson Company. He is also the creator of several other award winning, family friendly podcasts including The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd, Did This Happen? and Grant's Advent Calendar Video Podcast. His comedy music act, Throwing Toasters, has toured clubs and colleges across the country, played a sold out show at the Tokyo Dome in Japan, had several #1 hits on the Dr. Demento show and opened for "Weird Al" Yankovic. He is also an Associate Producer on Joel Hodgson's Cinematic Titanic. Find out more at www.MrGrant.com. "What I enjoy most is not what the puppets are saying or doing that makes the audience laugh; it’s if the audience knows what the puppets are thinking and they laugh…then I know it’s funny.”
Jennifer Barnhart is a performer with one foot in the human world and one in the puppet world; she enjoys when those worlds intersect, as in her recent appearance in Jim Henson's Emmet Otter up at Goodspeed. She is an original cast member (Outer Critics Circle Award) of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Avenue Q. Favorite stage roles includeThe Angel in Angels in America, Olivia in Twelfth Night, and Jack’s Mother in Into the Woods. She has appeared on Law & Order: SVU and As the World Turns; puppeteering credits include Sesame Street, Between the Lions, Lomax: the Hound of Music, Johnny and the Sprites, and Bear in the Big Blue House.
Bill Barretta began his twenty-year relationship with The Jim Henson Company playing “Earl” on the hit series Dinosaurs. In addition to creating Muppet characters such as Pepe the King Prawn, Bobo the Bear and Johnny Fiama, he has gratefully taken over Rowlf the Dog, The Swedish Chef and Dr. Teeth, characters originally created by the late great Jim Henson. Performer, writer, producer and consultant credits include Muppets Treasure Island, Muppets Tonight, Muppets From Space, It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas, Muppets Wizard of Oz, and Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story (co-writer and “Thunderdell the giant”).
Julianne Buescher is an actor, writer, Second City alum, and founding member of Stuffed & Unstrung. Stage credits include Velma Kelly in Chicago, Kate in Old Times, and Helen in Baby with the Bathwater. TV/Film credits include The Middle, Criminal Minds, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, 24, Supernatural, The Simpsons, Pirates of the Caribbean, Robot Chicken, Mr & Mrs Smith, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and E! (narrator/host). She also created and starred in the award-winning film Resculpting Venus: a Comedy about Breast Cancer, and created many of the puppets featured in Stuffed and Unstrung. “Nothing says 'Love' like a dog puppet humping your arm."
Tyler Bunch has been working as an actor/puppeteer in the NYC area for eighteen years. In addition to performing such characters as Parris in The Crucible, Bottom in Midsummer Night’s Dream and Pooh Bah in The Mikado, he may also be recognized by youngsters (or the young at heart) for his performances as Pop, Treelo and Doc Hogg (Bear in the Big Blue House), or Grampu, Dr. Nitwhite, Winslow or Baby Cookie Monster (OOBI, Between The Lions, It’s a Big, Big World, Sesame Beginnings). “I am surprised at how amazed the audience is to see how we do what we do. Working with puppets for a long time, I forget that the audience hasn’t had a lot of opportunities to see behind the magic. The fact that we’re throwing that all out there in this show is a really new thing.”
Leslie Carrara-Rudolph is an Emmy-nominated puppeteer and multi-faceted entertainer whose stage credits range from the Beggar Woman in Sweeny Todd to the numerous characters in Lilly Tomlin's Search For Signs Of Intelligent Life In The Universe. TV / film credits include Sesame Street, Johnny and the Sprites, Muppets Tonight, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Wubbulous World of Dr. Suess, The Simpsons, and Nickelodeon's Tough Puppy. She created The Wahoo Wagon, a stage show for Disney's El Capitan Theater and will be premiering her new musical “Wake up Your Weird” at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek this September.
“I find it comforting that in this show a cavewoman can go on a blind date with an alien that her beaver buddy set up with a mutual ferret friend who is married to a punk rock monkey with a fish fetish. I feel like I fit in."
Brian Clark co-produced, co-storied and starred in Sizzle (an improvised Borat-style comedy about global warming). A member of the Groundlings, he later discovered puppetry, a helpful skill when he was cast in Puppet Up! and as a puppet panelist on the Game Show Network’s Late Night Liars. Writing credits include That Gay Ghost, In the Club, Yokies, Baydogs and The Children of Toromiro. Brian co-founded the sketch comedy group The Deviants and though he regularly fails at relationships, he currently employs himself by giving sex advice to women from the male perspective as a contributing writer for Betty Confidential.com. “Performing in Stuffed and Unstrung is like being possessed by multiple demons at the same time. Only these demons are made of felt and when they make you say something bad, technically it's still your fault.”
Stephanie DAbruzzo is a Tony and Drama Desk-nominated performer best known for originating her roles in Broadways Avenue Q (Theatre World Award, Outer Critics Circle Award). NYC stage includes Dont Say Another Word, Plaisir DAmour, Austentatious, Kiss and Makeup, I Love You Because, If You Give a Mouse A Cookie & Other Storybooks, and Gravid Water at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Other cities have seen her in [title of show], The Guys, and Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical. TV includes Sesame Street (17 seasons), Oobi, The Wonder Pets!, Jacks Big Music Show, Sheep in the Big City, The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss, I Love the 70s Part II/80s 3D, and Scrubs. Go U Northwestern.
James Godwin Puppeteer credits include: Book of Pooh, Bear in the Big Blue House, Between the Lions, Oobi, Blue’s Room, Saturday Night Live, Chapelle’s Show, the Spike Lee-directed commercial for iam.com, and It’s A Big, Big World for PBS where he plays the character BOB. James also co-founded the puppet company The Elementals. The Elementals have performed at P.S. 122, Dance Theater Workshop, HERE, the Walker Art Center, and in the Henson International Festival of Puppetry.
Drew Massey is an actor, puppeteer, and voice-over artist whose film credits include Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Hangover, Men In Black, Muppets From Space, The Producers, Doctor Dolittle, and Team America: World Police, among others. Drew has also performed in TV shows such as: Angel, Greg the Bunny, Warren The Ape, Malcolm in the Middle, Muppets Tonight, and Crank Yankers. He is nice to the elderly, loves animals, and is convinced that dairy products are bad for him. He also helped create some of the many puppets featured in Stuffed And Unstrung.
Ted Michaels is an alum of the performing company at the Groundlings Theater in Los Angeles where he was featured in their main stage shows. He also performed with Eddie Izzard in Mr. Izzard's One Word Improv stage show in Los Angeles. Recently, he puppeteered characters for MTV's spinoff of Greg the Bunny, called Warren The Ape. In addition to many commercial appearances, his television credits include roles on The Comeback, Campus Ladies, According to Jim, Girlfriends and Mad TV. “My favorite moments in the show are when we strike on an absurd idea and everyone goes nuts with it- piling on nonsense from every angle until that absurd idea somehow begins to make perfect sense.”
Michael Oosterom is an actor whose stage credits include the American Conservatory Theater, The California Shakespeare Festival, The San Francisco Mime Troupe and the national tour of Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile. TV credits include Nickelodeon's The Amanda Show, The District, and Help Me Help You. Recent puppet credits include Where The Wild Things Are, Pushing Daisies, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Dante's Inferno. He is an alumni of The Groundlings Sunday Company. “I love the warthog puppet. So ugly and yet so beautiful.”
Paul Rugg, a founding member of the ACME Comedy Group in Hollywood and an award winning writer for TV animation, has lent his vocal talent to shows such as Animaniacs, Pinky and The Brain, Histeria, Buzz Lightyear Of Star Command, Dave The Barbarian, Toonsylvania, American Dragon, and Catscratch. Paul also wrote, produced and starred in Freakazoid as well as the Manny The Uncanny segments for ABC’s One Saturday Morning. Recently he also performed Ditch in the animated web series for PBS KIDS GO!, Wilson & Ditch: Digging America.
Colleen Smith is a Groundlings Sunday Company alum and currently teaches improv at the Groundlings school. She is a correspondent on The Showbiz Show with David Spade. Her other television credits include The Office, World Cup Comedy, The Singles Table, Carpoolers, and King of the Hill. She is the co-creator of an original series called Danger Force Five. She is also the co-creator of DateGarden.com, a fictional dating website, and of The Smith Brown Project, a two woman show which ran at The Comedy Central Stage and UCB.
Allan Trautman began his performing career as an actor, noted for his portrayal of “Tarman” in the cult classics Return of the Living Dead: Parts One and Two. He has gone on to puppeteer in such features as Muppets From Space, Cats & Dogs, Babe, the Men in Black films, and Dr. Dolittle (for which he was also performance coordinator). His television puppeteering credits include Greg the Bunny, Unhappily Ever After, Muppets Tonight and Dinosaurs, and he was nominated for two Emmys for his work on D.C. Follies. He is currently featured in the web series, Lost Untangled, which can be seen at abc.com. “With television, you only get to see half the fun we have. Now you can see what happens when the cameras stop rolling."
Victor Yerrid is an actor and puppeteer who likes calling people “Hank” regardless of their name. His credits include The Hangover, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Team America, Men In Black II, Robot Chicken, The Sarah Silverman Program, Warren The Ape, Crank Yankers, Angel, Greg The Bunny, Sid The Science Kid, and Sesame Street. Victor enjoys most berry-based smoothies and adores his wife Janet. “The best part of my night is when somebody comes up to me after the show and says ‘Wow, you were fantastic! How do you come up with all of that ridiculous stuff?’ Then they usually say ‘Wait…you’re not Ted Michaels."
Jen Schriever – Lighting Designer
Recent Designs: Hairspray (Oasis of the Seas), An Evening Without Monty Python (L.A. & Town Hall), A Streetcar Named Desire, The Winter's Tale (Berlind Theatre), Kaboom (Cherry Lane), The Epic of Sunjata (Loft), Lend me a Tenor, Other People's Money (Engeman), As Far As We Know (Flamboyan). Upcoming Design: Pearl Fishers (ENO), Premiers: Inner Voices Solo Musicals (59E59). Recent Associate Design - Broadway: Fences, A Behanding in Spokane, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, You’re Welcome America, American Buffalo, 13 - A New Musical, A Catered Affair, Cymbeline, The Vertical Hour, The Color Purple, The Threepenny Opera. First foray into puppets: Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas (Goodspeed). BFA: Purchase College.
Kerry McDonald – Sound Designer
Kerry has produced live and recorded sound across the globe for the past 8 years. He has made sonorous contributions to listeners’ ears as a record producer at his studio Viva La Fuzz! and as a live sound Audio Engineer for Eddie Izzard, Camera Obscura, Passion Pit, The Vaselines, Isobel Campbell, Frightened Rabbit, Rogue Wave, Matt Nathanson, and Pinback. He has designed, repaired, and teched systems for The Eddie Izzard Stripped tour, The NYC Fringe festival, Memphis band shell, and NASCAR. He currently resides in NYC and is the Audio Production Manager for Bentley Meeker lighting and staging. He is also an advocate of the theory that Mexican food improves ones hearing.