Pee-wee Herman is Amazing…Infinity!
I recently had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Paul Reubens revive his long-gone but never forgotten character of Pee-wee Herman in his new Broadway show. It was spectacular. And although Pee-wee asserted throughout the show that he’s the luckiest boy in the world, I disagree. After seeing Pee-wee Herman live, I think that I’m the luckiest boy in the world.
So what’s the reason for all of this gushing? Well Pee-wee Herman, and his TV show Pee-wee’s Playhouse, was a huge part of my childhood. I learned more from Pee-wee than I ever did from my parents, teachers, and friends. I can fondly remember taking a cue from Pee-wee and putting scotch tape around my nose and ears. I remember starting and giving up on countless foil and rubberband balls. I remember stuffing both feet into one sock and hopping around like Roger, Pee-wee’s one legged, one-eyed alien neighbor. I remember putting pennies over my eyelids and pretending I was Penny of claymation fame. The point is, Pee-wee’s Playhouse was the highlight of my childhood.
So when I heard that Pee-wee was coming to Broadway, I knew I had to go. Now I hate going to New York City. The noise, the smell, the people, the smelly people – I can’t stand any of it. But the chance to see Pee-wee was enough to lure me away from the comfort of the Armpit America, pay the ridiculously expensive New Jersey Transit train fair, jump on an overcrowded and outdated train, and ride through a dark tunnel underneath the Hudson River.
After surviving the treacherous journey to Manhattan, we walked through Times Square (ughhh) to the Steven Sondheim Theater. After getting our seats and looking through the Playbill, I was thrilled to see that Lynne Marie Stewart was reprising her role as the effervescent Miss Yvonne. I was also pleased that John Paragon was back playing Jambi. Unfortunately, Lawrence Fishburne didn’t return to play Cowboy Curtis.
Once the lights went dim, I stuffed the Playbill under the seat. The show started when Pee-wee walked onto the stage. I couldn’t believe it was really him. Right in front of me. It’s been about 20 years since Pee-wee’s Playhouse went off the air, but no one told Paul Reubens that – he looks exactly the same. Now I did see recent pictures of him as Pee-wee, but seeing my childhood hero looking the same way as he did during my childhood was truly something else. The only thing that could beat that would be if the Muppet Babies walked out and joined Pee-wee on stage.
As for the show itself, I won’t give too much away for those who plan on seeing it. But it was essentially a 90-minute long episode of Pee-wee’s Playhouse, without the disappointment of him getting on that scooter and blasting away after half an hour. Pee-wee was the same sassy, hyperactive, mischievous man-boy everyone knows and loves. And you can clearly tell how much Reubens enjoys playing him. As for the rest of the cast, Stewart’s portrayal of Miss Yvonne hasn’t lost a step. Reubens must be sharing his anti-aging regimen with her, because after 20 years, she still earns her title as “the most beautiful woman in Puppetland.” And it was great seeing Paragon back in the green makeup and purple box – no one else could play Jambi like him. The rest of the cast, including Cowboy Curtis, Mailman Mike, and a dancing bear were all great, too.
But the real stars of the show are the puppets. Where else can a plastic pterodactyl marionette get a huge round of applause? That’s right, everyone’s favorite effeminate dinosaur puppet Pterri was there. As were Conky the robot, Magic Screen, Globey, and Clocky. I was especially happy to see resident badass Randy make an appearance as well. And, of course, the most famous playhouse puppet of all, Chairy, was as delightful as ever. (She and Pee-wee even share a slow dance!)
Again, I can’t say enough how good the show was. It was just like watching an old episode of Pee-wee’s Playhouse, but with plenty of new pop culture references (like the BumpIt and ShamWow) and double entendres thrown in for good measure. The special effects were amazing, the puppets were expertly handled, and that last scene where Pee-wee “flies” was just amazing.
After the show ended, we were walking around outside the theater and saw a bunch of people crowding around the stage door, apparently waiting for Pee-wee to make an appearance. One of the security guards made the disappointing announcement that he wouldn’t be signing autographs. But still, once Pee-wee came outside with a megaphone and started interacting with the crowd, all was forgiven. After joking around with everyone, Pee-wee went into Paul Ruebens mode. He got all serious and walked up down the crowd, making eye contact with everyone (myself included!) and thanking us for the support. It really was clear just how much he enjoys performing as Pee-wee and how much he appreciates the fan support after going through so much undeserved crap.
Anyway, after Pee Wee went back inside, Lynne Marie Stewart came out, still in her Miss Yvonne costume and wig. When I saw that she was signing autographs, I tried to get her to sign the poster I bought at the theater, but she didn’t stay out for very long. No big deal, I still got some pictures of her and her 2-foot wig. Before going inside, she also thanked everyone for coming and said how much it means to Pee-wee to see all the support.
This entry turned out to be longer than I expected (that’s what she said), but the show really was that good. Now I can’t recommend it to everyone – if you’ve never seen Pee-wee or don’t have a sense of humor, you’ll probably walk out within the first few minutes. But if you grew up with Pee-wee like I did, then this show is for you. I may even try to see it again, it was that much fun – AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I just said the secret word!
After the show, we went for dinner to the legendary Katz’s Deli. The walls are covered with pictures of the restaurant’s celebrity patrons. After getting our table and looking at the wall, all I saw were boring “celebrities” like Dennis Franz and Sam Waterston. I looked a little higher and who do I see? Pee-wee effin Herman! It felt like he was right there with me, sharing my pastrami and kishka!