If you are expecting to go and see the "Pee-wee’s Playhouse" you remember from the 45 episodes that aired on CBS between 1986 and 1991, you won’t be disappointed. As you enter the theatre there are vera-lights swirling around the room creating patterns of light on the audience. The kitchy lounge-like music enhances the mood.
The audience goes nuts the minute Pee-wee takes the stage and again when the curtain rises to reveal the familiar playhouse set. Somehow seeing it in person it sparkles a little more under the lights of Broadway.
As Pee-wee, Reubens doesn’t come close to looking his 58 years. It’s still the same ol’ Pee-wee. There are three other actors in the show who have been with it since the early days. Lynne Marie Stewart as Miss Yvonne (the most beautiful woman in Puppetland), John Moody as Mailman Mike, and John Paragon as Jambi have all returned to the roles they originally created. Laurence Fishburne, the original Cowboy Curtis has been replaced here by Phil LaMarr. Jesse Garcia is Sergio; he does a wonderful display of Spanish dances near the top of the show that are ridiculously funny. Josh Meyers is the hunky Firefighter who appears to put out Pee-wee’s deep fryer fire when he tries to fry some onion rings. Meyers does double duty as he voices no less than five of the animated household objects, including a talking, flying Shamwow. Yes, that staple of late-night infomercials has a cameo.
While you can feel safe taking the young-ones to see The Pee-wee Herman Show, the adults will have plenty to cackle about as Pee-wee lets the double-entendres fly. Reuben’s has a hilarious visual where he is describing the chastity ring he is wearing, all the while making a motion mimicking masturbation with his hand to showcase the ring. It’s subtle enough for the kids to not notice and at the same time a not-so-subtle jab at his arrest years ago for masturbating in a porno movie theatre.
The set by David Korins is delightfully sparkly with pastel-hued colors. Ann Closs-Farley’s costumes are quite festive and work perfectly with the set. Both do an exceptional job recreating the Playhouse. The puppetry is by the talented Basil Twist. Twist has helped create a talking window, a talking chair, a flying pterodactyl and much more. All of these are characters that are worked and voiced by actors behind the scenes. We get to see them during the curtain call wearing their blacks.
Alex Timbers (also represented on Broadway this season by Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, which he directed) has directed here as well. It’s apparent he does quirky brilliantly. The writing team is listed as Reubens, Bill Steinkellner and John Paragon (additional material). They can write all the material in the world but Reuben’s Pee-wee is worth a thousand words without saying one. One of my favorite moments was Pee-wee with an inflated balloon. For 60-90 seconds he slowly releases the hair with the glee of an eight-year old, not speaking a word. I was in tears.
In case you haven’t figured out, I was thrilled to be back at Pee-wee’s playhouse and I wasn’t the only one. The two elderly ladies in front of me (who had already visited the Pee-wee merchandise stand) seemed to enjoy it just as much as the five-year old girls sitting three seats down. How cool is it that in these difficult times we can count on something from our childhood that is still here to make us laugh, thanks Pee-wee.
The Pee-wee Herman Show is playing through January 9, 2011.