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After 25 Years, Celebrating All Things Muppet

Kermit the Frog hosts MuppetFest! in Santa Monica, two days in Jim Henson's world.

December 06, 2001|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Delayed two months by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the first-ever MuppetFest! arrives at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium this week for a two-day celebration of--according to the Jim Henson Company--"comedy, mayhem and magic of the Muppets." And in honor of the 25th anniversary of the syndicated, award-winning music variety series, the whole Muppet gang will be in town for the festivities. Kermit the Frog--who else?--is the host.

It was the milestone anniversary of "The Muppet Show"--which premiered Sept. 26, 1976-- that spurred the Jim Henson Company to create a celebration of everything Muppet.

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Friday December 7, 2001 Home Edition Part A Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 1 inches; 31 words Type of Material: Correction
MuppetFest!--In an article about MuppetFest! in Thursday's Calendar Weekend, the wrong day of the charity event "An Evening With the Muppets" was given. The event will take place Sunday night at the Palace in Hollywood.

"We were thinking of a way that would commemorate that anniversary and have a fan celebration to celebrate the puppeteers, the characters and the fans who have been around for so many years," says Debbie McClellan, Henson's vice president of corporate communications.

Because the company is located in Los Angeles, the decision was made to have the first festival here. Among the highlights of the family-friendly event are:

* Live appearances by such Muppet characters as Kermit, the Great Gonzo, Rizzo the Rat, Statler & Waldorf, Bobo the Bear and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker.

* A behind-the-scenes look at the Muppet magic with puppeteers including Bill Baretta, Kevin Clash, Dave Goelz, Jerry Nelson and Steve Whitmire.

* Jim Henson's Creature Shop, offering a backstage look at its work.

* You're the Star: selected audience members performing scenes with Muppet characters on stage.

* Historical footage of the Muppets and Jim Henson.

* The History of the Muppets: a panel discussion with Jane Henson, the widow of Jim Henson, and other talents behind the Muppets.

* Muppet Sound-Alike Competition.

* Live Muppet music and sing-alongs.

Tied into the festival is "An Evening With the Muppets," a charity event Saturday night at the Palace in Hollywood, benefiting Save the Children, which will be the first live performance of a "Muppet Show" by many of the original puppeteers, as well as a tribute to Jim Henson. Paul Williams, who composed "The Rainbow Connection" for "The Muppet Movie," Lionel Ritchie and Brooke Shields are scheduled to appear.

The MuppetFest!, says McClellan, is for kids of nearly all ages. "Maybe it is not for small, small children, but we think the adults will love it because they will remember back to their days watching 'The Muppet Show,' and then there will be a new generation of kids who are getting to know the Muppets now."

The event will also feature characters not connected to "The Muppet Show," including creatures from "Fraggle Rock," which aired on HBO, as well as Bear from Disney's "Bear in the Big Blue House." Such Henson theatrical films as "The Dark Crystal" and "Labyrinth" will be explored. And fans will get to meet and interact with puppeteers such as Steve Whitmire, who took over the performing duties of Kermit after the death of Jim Henson in 1990.

"A lot of people never get to talk to the Steves of the world and interact with them," says McClellan.

"We don't get much opportunity to really meet the people who enjoy the show, the fans," says Whitmire. "So it is a great opportunity for us to do that. At this stage it is a bit surreal, I don't know quite what to expect. We are not used to people knowing who we are.... That is going to be a little strange. I am hoping the fans will be gentle with us."

*

MuppetFest! takes place from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1855 Main St., Santa Monica. Admission is $26 daily in advance; $31 daily at the door; general admission is also available for children ages 3-10 at $16 daily. Age 2 and under admitted free. Preferred seating is $56 daily in advance and $66 daily at the door. A Gold Weekend Package, which features the best preferred seating for both days and entrance to the charity "An Evening With the Muppets" performance, is $299.95. Information: (818) 409-0960, Ext. 225 or go to www.Henson.com.

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