Mahna Mahna: A Muppet Cabaret at The Pheasantry
Since the 1960s The Muppets have infiltrated popular culture and captured a place in our hearts. From the meek, introspective Kermit to the rambunctious, flirtatious Miss Piggy, Jim Henson’s world of foam and fur has ignited our imaginations and left us crying with laughter. Cabaret performers Paul L Martin and A Girl Called Fred have created an ode to their favourite childhood characters, delivering a compilation of songs made famous by the anthropomorphic creatures accompanied by special guests The Voice Squad and Champagne Charlie.
Nestled below a bustling Pizza Express in the heart of Chelsea, The Pheasantry is a sumptuous haven oozing with Hollywood glamour. Candlelit tables surround an intimate stage framed by a sweeping art deco staircase, allowing guests to watch the entertainment over pizza and a glass of wine. The Voice Squad are first to burst into the restaurant’s peaceful confines. A youth choir dressed in a startling concoction of clashing colours, they break into shrill song with the theme from The Muppet Show. Collecting around the tables they shake each diner’s hand, although their attire – a strange collection of policeman’s helmets, tie-dye balloons, sheep hats and fluorescent lycra – screams primary school dressing up box rather than Henson’s eccentric puppeteering. Martin, dressed in a Kermit green suit and Fred donned in hot pink top hat and tails are next to grace the stage, where they announce what turns out to be the evening’s ultimate flaw: unless you are willing to pay extortionate royalty fees it is illegal to dress up and imitate a Muppet in any way.
As the evening plods along it becomes immediately obvious that watching middle-aged English adults enact the zippy songs from your childhood isn’t all that fun, in fact it’s a little embarrassing. With Fred on the piano the pair churn out Lydia the Tattooed Lady, Happy Feet, I’m in Love with a Big Blue Frog and It’s Not Easy Being Green, yet not even the choir’s enthusiastic faces or Champagne Charlie’s vigorous tap dancing can make up for the lack of googly eyes, flying foam hands and cartoon voices that made Henson’s creations so endearing.
In the 2011 film The Muppets, Fozzie Bear, after falling on hard times, creates a tribute band named the Moopets. Shoddily dressed they unenthusiastically sing uninspired songs to a decidedly underwhelmed crowd and unfortunately tonight’s cabaret is more Moopets than Muppets.
Mahna Mahna: A Muppet Cabaret is at The Pheasantry from July 16th until July 17th 2014. For further information or to book visit the show’s website here.