|Old Muppet Show poster|
Photo courtesy: MuppetCentral.com
Now all this talk of the Muppets being on Broadway brings to mind the times during the late '70s/early '80s that Broadway actors visited the Muppets' variety show and performed their most famous songs in whimsical new ways. There were about 15 guest stars through the years that I would consider to be Broadway stars, and all of them made great appearances. So in chronological order, here are my five favorite performances by Broadway actors on the Muppet Show.
1. Joel Grey- "Wilkommen" (Season 1, Episode 3, aired October 1976*)
The first big Broadway star they pulled in to guest star on The Muppet Show was recent Tony Award-winner (for Cabaret, 1966) of the time, Joel Grey. Check out one of the performances from the episode: a kid-appropriate version of Cabaret's iconic opener "Willkommen," sung by Grey with help from the Muppets, of course.
2. Ethel Merman- Broadway medley (S1, E22, aired February 1977)
The woman with possibly the most iconic voice in Broadway history joined the Muppets in their first season. They had to perform "There's No Business Like Show Business," but since they didn't have time to fit all of the Tony Award-winner's famous songs in the episode, they performed a cute medley on the show. Check it out below!
3. Bernadette Peters- "Take a Little One Step" (S2, E12, aired November 1977)
Yet another now Broadway legend appeared on The Muppet Show back in the day. My favorite thing about this, though, is that this was clearly before Bernadette Peters became known for her curly red hair. She's a blonde in this episode! Of course, at that time, she wasn't the star she is now, but she already had seven Broadway shows under her belt. Check out this adorable clip of her teaching awkwardly large monsters of some kind to dance!
4. Julie Andrews- "I Whistle a Happy Tune" (S2, E17, aired February 1978)
I'm assuming it's a given that we all know that Julie Andrews is perfect. So it makes total sense that following her Academy Award for Mary Poppins, famous portrayal of Maria in The Sound of Music, not to mention her three starring roles in successful Broadway shows, she would be in high demand. To my knowledge, she is not particularly famous for singing "I Whistle a Happy Tune," but here's one of her performances from the night.
5. Carol Burnett- (S5, E15, aired December 1980)
Though she is known as one of the queens of American comedic television, Carol Burnett did have a few Broadway credits to her name. She was most famous for Once Upon a Mattress, which she starred in before she landed a great starring role on the screen (the first of which may have been the movie adaptation of the musical). Here is the first part of her Muppet episode. In this one, you get to hear her sing, see those hilarious facial expressions, and of course, that iconic, elaborate scream that she does best. Fun fact: Carol Burnett is also known as one of Julie Andrews' best friends.
Though these days, stars of all kinds appear on Sesame Street, there is nothing like The Muppet Show with its variety show style and of course the guest stars, many of whom went from famous modern actors to now being considered some of the best actors of all time.
Sally Henry www.BroadwayWorld.com/author/Sally-Henry // Twitter: www.twitter.com/bwayginger // Facebook: www.facebook.com/singularsensationbway
*dates are from IMDb.com, but some of them don't quite make sense...