Pee-Wee Herman @ Club Nokia 1/21/2010
For 30 years, Pee-Wee Herman has been making audiences laugh with his bratty kid persona under which beats the heart of a boy who knows how to do the right thing. The right thing, lucky for all of us who have been waiting patiently for his return, is to go back to his roots: the stage of a theater in Los Angeles.
Thursday night I got to be 8 years old again. I was instantly transported back to a time when most of my mornings started with the words: “Good morning boys and girls, please stand and join me in the Pledge of Allegiance”. The lights came up, and I heard those words onstage, where I looked up to see Pee-Wee Herman smiling. Without a second thought every last one of us got up and put hands over hearts.
For the next 90 minutes we were treated to a LONG list of gags that came back to nearly everyone in the audience who clearly ranged in ages from late 20s to early 50s. We were informed by Pee-Wee’s pal Conky of today’s Secret Word, shortly thereafter we were shown just how big Pee-Wee’s foil ball had gotten after nearly 20 years, and within minutes the flowers alerted us to the presence of a handful of our old friends including Cowboy Curtis (played by Phil LaMarr who you might remember as Marvin from Pulp Fiction who was shot in the back of Jules’ car of whom The Wolf was summoned to dispose), Miss Yvonne (Lynne Marie Stewart reprised her role from the TV and stage show), and Chairy, Magic Screen, Flowers and Fish (voiced exquisitely by Lori Alan whose work includes Spongebob’s “Pearl the Whale” and Family Guy’s anchorwoman “Diane Simmons”).
The set was full of its brilliant colors and pop art decor as well as the staples including the screen on which they showed a “Golden Age” cartoon: “Balloon Land” from 1935 as well as a film called “Lunchroom Manners” from 1960. There was a new character: Sergio, and some of the older characters were reworked and changed slightly. But for the most part, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse was in full form.
Without spoiling, my favorite moments included comedy gold “balloon song” gag, the extra long “nooooo” and the computadora bit which takes the Playhouse well into the 21st century. The best part of the production was how “authentically Pee-Wee” the whole thing was, right down to the low-budget feel of the production which takes it right back to the days when they were selling out The Roxy in the 80s. The only part that was hard to accept was Miss Yvonne as the young, hot “most beautiful woman in puppetland” or as LATimes’ Charles McNulty wrote “who now looks like Miss Yvonne’s mother”. The guy next to me commented the same thing at the end of the show. If they plan to take the stage show to NYC, I would recommend finding someone a little younger to fill those poofy dresses.
All in all, it was a wonderful night which culminated in a lovely post-show Q & A which carried on for a solid hour or more after the production with Paul answering questions from the audience, describing his next project and hugging teary-eyed fans from the audience who were so excited to hug their hero. The evening ended with teary-eyed Paul Reubens extending a heartfelt thank you to the audience for their support and love for him and his world for so many years. Dry your eyes Pee-Wee, we love you! And THAT makes you the luckiest boy in the world!