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The Jim Henson Retrospectacle

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by Amily » Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:22 pm

The Lovers, The Dreamers and Bret McKenzie
01 FEBRUARY - SQUARE EYES FILM FOUNDATION
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Join us for the most celebrational Retrospectacle paying tribute to Jim Henson and his creative worlds, in Wellington New Zealand.

The 21-day showcase of events includes a film fortnight series, workshops and master classes, with visiting puppeteers and colleagues of Jim Henson, and a special New Zealand Symphony Orchestra concert featuring Oscar-winning songwriter Bret McKenzie– with special appearances by some of Jim Henson’s much-loved characters from The Muppets, Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock.

At its heart, the Jim Henson Retrospectacle is a loving tribute to the power of creative spirit and collaboration. This is a rare opportunity to marvel at the scope and huge appeal of Jim Henson’s work for its groundbreaking artistry; to see much-loved characters live on stage with Bret McKenzie and the NZSO; to go deep into Jim Henson’s extensive and brilliant early works; to look closely at Jim’s life, partnerships and life-affirming inspirations; and to consider the impact of his unique imagination and outlook within New Zealand’s own creative community.

The concert will take place during the final weekend with live concert performances at the Michael Fowler Centre—on Friday 27 April and Saturday 28 April 2018—will coincide with the school holidays.

Many of Jim Henson’s beloved characters from Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and Fraggle Rock will attend, thanks to a partnership with Square Eyes Film Foundation and the Jim Henson Legacy, and with support from The Jim Henson Company, Sesame Workshop and The Muppets Studio.

The 21-day Wellington-only Jim Henson Retrospectacle events have been made possible with generous support from the Major Events Development Fund, WREDA and Wellington City Council.

WREDA has worked with Square Eyes Film Foundation to help bring the show to Wellington as part of the organisation’s goal to supercharge the region’s already exciting events calendar.

‘This is going to be bags of fun starring one of Wellington’s favourite sons in Bret McKenzie, New Zealand’s own symphony orchestra and of course some of the world’s greatest comical characters of the last 40 years. It’ll attract visitors from all around New Zealand and Australia. We’re also expecting some hardcore Muppet fans to travel from further afield as well....to whom we offer a welcoming ‘Mahna Mahna’,” says WREDA’s Interim CEO Derek Fry.

“We’re delighted to host Jim Henson’s creative family here in New Zealand’s creative capital. I’m sure the artistry and innovation so evident in all Jim Henson’s work will be warmly embraced in Wellington,” says Wellington Mayor Justin Lester.

Rare footage from deep within the Henson archives, experimental short films and commercials, classic feature films, and a New Zealand premiere to be announced next week, will screen over a fortnight at the Embassy Theatre. International guests will introduce a number of the screenings.

"We’re really thrilled to share the power of Jim’s art, his imagination and his positive view of life with a New Zealand audience. We have been working in partnership with Square Eyes Film Foundation for a very long time to bring this all together and are so happy it’s finally happening." says Craig Shemin, president of the Jim Henson Legacy and Muppet Historian.

Te Papa will host Behind the Seams panels, workshops and master classes by Henson alumni including Bonnie Erickson, puppet designer, whose most notable creations include Miss Piggy and Statler and Waldorf; and veteran Muppet Performer Dave Goelz who for four decades has been bringing to life such Muppet characters as the Great Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and the Electric Mayhem’s sax player, Zoot, with participation from Weta Workshop artists.

“Today, as ever, Jim Henson’s creations and filmmaking continue to bring great happiness to adults and children alike. Weta Workshop has a strong association with the work of Jim Henson and I feel a particular affinity with Jim’s artistic outlook and vision, as he has been inspirational in our collective careers here at Weta Workshop. Jim’s visionary fantasy films The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth have earned their place in cinematic history as must-see classics of their genre.” says Sir Richard Taylor.

Square Eyes Film Foundation presents quality and diverse collective viewing alternatives for young and young-at-heart audiences. Square Eyes has been presenting All Ages films in partnership with the New Zealand International Film Festival since 2008.

Tickets for The Jim Henson Retrospectacle events go on sale to the general public from Thursday 8 February 2018, 9am through Ticketmaster. A special presale opportunity for Square Eyes subscribers will run from Wednesday 7 February. Sign up to be among the first to receive ticketing access!

Image credit: Rebecca McMillan
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by Amily » Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:37 pm

Muppets in Wellington: Capital to host world-first Jim Henson tribute concert
with Bret McKenzie

COLLETTE DEVLIN
February 1 2018

It's time to play the music, it's time to light the lights – the Muppets are coming to Wellington.

Wellingtonian Bret​ McKenzie, who won an Oscar for his Man or Muppet song in 2012, looks set to reunite with Kermit the Frog as he takes to the stage in the Michael Fowler Centre in April as part of a tribute to The Muppets creator, Jim Henson.

The two shows, on April 27 and 28, will be the only performances anywhere in the world of the The Jim Henson Retrospectacle concert.

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Oscar-winning songwriter Bret McKenzie will be performing live in concert to celebrate Jim Henson, one of the world’s most
creative and innovative film and puppetry artists. He might even team up with Kermit again.


Wellington's film industry connections helped to attract the event, for which planning and discussions began in 2009.

The two concerts will mark the conclusion of a 21-day showcase of events celebrating the work of Henson, a puppeteer, artist, cartoonist, inventor, screenwriter and filmmaker, who died in 1990.

The events will include a film fortnight series, muppeteering workshops and masterclasses, and events run by movie insiders at the Weta group of companies.

Weta boss Sir Richard Taylor said he was looking forward to the event.

"Today, as ever, Jim Henson's creations and filmmaking continue to bring great happiness to adults and children alike.

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Jim Henson, who died in 1990, with various Muppet characters. The two Wellington concerts will be part of a 21-day showcase
of events to celebrate his work.


"Jim's visionary fantasy films, The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, have earned their place in cinematic history as must-see classics of their genre."

The mini-festival will be supported by the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (Wreda) and has received $350,000 from the Government's Major Events Development Fund.

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Bret McKenzie is busy preparing for the concerts in Wellington on April 27 and 28. In 2012 he said: "Definitely, Jim Henson
influenced me. He's a huge inspiration, and the other thing I love about the guy is he made children's films that I think he found funny."


Wellington ratepayers will also contribute, though Wreda interim chief executive Derek Fry would not disclose the amount, beyond saying it was "relatively modest".

He was confident the city would reap economic returns from the investment. "It'll attract visitors from all around New Zealand and Australia. We're also expecting some hardcore Muppet fans to travel from further afield as well."

The festival was part of Wreda's plans to "supercharge" events in the region after the loss of the Wellington Sevens tournament.

Fry said Wellington's involvement in the film industry was a draw card for the event, and McKenzie 's relationship with Kermit made the city the perfect place for the concert.

McKenzie will perform live with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Henson characters from The Muppets, Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock.

Shortly after winning his Oscar for best original song, McKenzie said: "Definitely, Jim Henson influenced me. He's a huge inspiration, and the other thing I love about the guy is he made children's films that I think he found funny."

He said on Wednesday: "Working with The Muppets over the past years has been an amazing opportunity, and I would love to be able to share some of that experience with an audience here in New Zealand."

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said he was delighted the city would be hosting the event.

During the festival, Te Papa will host behind-the-scenes panels, workshops and masterclasses by Henson alumni, including puppet designer Bonnie Erickson, whose most notable creations include Miss Piggy; and Dave Goelz, who for four decades has been bringing to life such Muppet characters as the Great Gonzo.

Weta Workshop artists will also be taking part. Rare footage from Henson archives, experimental short films, commercials, classic feature films, and a New Zealand premiere will also be screened.

Nic Marshall, director of not-for-profit organisation Square Eyes Film Foundation, is bringing the show to Wellington in partnership with the New York-based Jim Henson Legacy. She said: "This is a rare opportunity to marvel at the scope and huge appeal of Jim Henson's work … to go deep into an extensive and brilliant moving image back catalogue; to look closely at Jim's life, partnerships and life-affirming inspirations; and to consider the impact of his unique imagination and outlook within New Zealand's own creative community."

Craig Shemin​, president of the Jim Henson Legacy and muppet historian, said: "We're really thrilled to share the power of Jim's art, his imagination and his positive view of life with a New Zealand audience … we are so happy it's finally happening."

Tickets for The Jim Henson Retrospectacle events go on sale on Thursday, February 8, 2018, at 9am through Ticketmaster. Prices range from $49 to $109 for the concert.

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by Amily » Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:42 pm

Bret McKenzie on how he got the Muppets to play three concerts in NZ
1 Feb, 2018
By: Karl Puschmann

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Bret McKenzie is bringing The Muppets to New Zealand. Photo / Rebecca McMillan

Bret McKenzie has a problem. He's trying to figure out how to hide two grown men inside a bathtub. Which ordinarily wouldn't be too much of a problem - you'd think, anyway - only this bathtub is going to be in full view of more than 2000 people and if just one of them sees the hiding men it will be a catastrophic failure.

"These are my favourite kind of problems," he laughs.

It's a predicament that begs the question, why is he trying to hide two men inside a bathtub?

"I'm trying to get a bath built so we can get Bert and Ernie to perform Rubber Duckie," he explains. "But trying to figure that out ... you need to build a bath, but the bath needs to be able to hide a couple of dudes inside the bath. It's a pretty good problem for a working day."

Let's hope he works it out because right now McKenzie is working away on what can only be described as one of the coolest projects ever; The Jim Henson Retrospectacle in Concert.

"It's going to be a big concert," he grins. "A big, symphonic Muppet extravaganza."

He's not kidding. Running during the April school holidays, the concert is just one part of the larger Jim Henson Retrospectacle, a festival celebrating the life of Muppets creator and performer Jim Henson. Wellington's Embassy Theatre will be screening classic Muppet movies on the big screen, Te Papa will put on a Muppet-making workshops and there will be Q&A sessions with original Muppet performers.

All pretty cool, yes, but the main attraction, the headline act, the reason to book flights, hotels and get your ass down to Wellington is the live concert that McKenzie is currently working on and will perform in.

"It's the kind of show I would take my family to," he says. "I've got kids and there aren't that many live events that I get excited about taking the kids to. This will be a pretty rad experience."

Along with fan favourites from The Muppet Show, McKenzie is also bringing over characters from Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock to perform live onstage in a concert that he promises will be packed with all of their classic hits.

We're talking Rainbow Connection, People in the Neighbourhood, Being Green, Mah Na Mah Na as well as his own Muppet classics, Life's a Happy Song and his Academy Award-winning Man or Muppet.

And, if he can work out how to hide two men in a bathtub, the aforementioned Rubber Duckie.

He also promises a few surprises, "a couple of rare deep cuts for the hardcore Muppet fans moshing at the front".

Talking with him his passion for the project is palpable. And understandable.

"It's awesome that it's actually happening. It's cool, man. The Muppets have got a great energy about them. They're so fun. I can't wait to have Kermit on stage in the Michael Fowler Centre. It's going to be great."

He explains that it's been a long time, and a lot of work, to get the Retrospectacle happening. He's been working on the project with his good friend Nicola Marshall, the brains behind Wellington's Children's Film Festival, for years.

"She had the idea to do a Jim Henson Children's Film Festival, and then we thought it would be fun to do a concert," he says. "Originally it was just me with the NZSO, we thought I could do some songs. Then we thought about guests and thought wouldn't it be great to bring the Muppets out ... I've always wanted to do something live with the Muppets. And it just got bigger and bigger."

Now that's it's all systems go he's buzzing with ideas of how to make the Retrospectacle gigs the biggest damn spectacles he can.

"I'm trying to convince Gonzo to do some sort of stunt routine," he enthuses. "I'm trying to get Animal to do some timpani work. Statler and Waldorf, the two old guys, they'll be there criticising us. And then, you know, the Count, Grover …"

This happens regularly throughout our chat, while talking about the show the line between what's real and what's not blurs. Even though he's writing the show McKenzie will often say he's "asking", say, Miss Piggy, to do something as opposed to saying she's going to do it. He may be behind the curtain - or under the stage, if you prefer - but they're as real to him as they are to everyone who grew up watching The Muppets on TV.

"There's a weird thing that happens, even when you can see the puppeteer because sometimes they're just standing there, they're not hidden, but weirdly you stop looking at the person doing it and you just get drawn into the character and forget that there's a person standing there operating them," he says. "It's pretty magical."

Having worked on the two recent Muppet movies, the Retrospectacle marks McKenzie's third collaboration with the gang. It feels like he's become the go-to Muppet guy.

"I know," he beams. "I'm weirdly part of the family now. That's what's slightly different about this project, I know them."

And then the line blurs again as he explains, "It's not like I'm excited to work with them. It's more like, 'Cool, I'm gonna get together with Kermit, it's gonna be good. We'll do some work'. I haven't worked with the Sesame Street characters before, so that will be cool."

Then he catches himself and laughs, "Actually it's the same people operating them. So I have worked with them."

Along with choosing all the songs ("that's the power I wield," he jokes) he's also writing what he calls the "bits and pieces" of the show with Muppets writer Craig Sherman. The gig is mostly song-focused but there's a very loose narrative threading through.

"It's a tribute to Jim Henson's work, but the characters are not aware of who Jim Henson is," McKenzie says. "They can't talk about Jim Henson. That's one of the Muppet rules. They can't acknowledge that they're puppets. They're not allowed to."

So, as far as they're concerned they're all down here in New Zealand celebrating ... some guy?

"They won't know what I'm talking about," he laughs. "It feels like it's going to be a bit like a Flight of the Conchords show with Muppets. It reminds me of that. But Kermit will be doing Jemaine's part."

All the Muppet performers are coming over, including Dave Goelz, the last of the original Muppeteers who performs Gonzo among others, and composer and arranger Chris Caswell, who has orchestrated all the Muppet music since the beginning.

"He just knows how to make things sound Muppety," McKenzie explains. "Part of the reason I think we had a lot of success with the films was making the songs sound like they were in the world of the Muppets. Caswell knows how to get that sound because he was one of the original guys that did it. He's going to lead the band and play piano for the concerts which is going to be brilliant."

"He's literally like a character from [The Muppet Show band] The Electric Mayhem," he says cracking up.

Which brings us to the music. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra are onboard and McKenzie is also currently assembling a crack band out of Wellington's finest players, "because a lot of their songs are band-driven," he says.

The show is shaping up to be absolutely amazing. It's also going to necessitate a trip to the Capital.

"Logistically, it's a very complex operation," he says when asked about the possibility of some Auckland shows. "It's not a particularly viable touring entity because there's an orchestra, a choir, a whole lot of Muppets, a whole lot of puppets, there's a lot of things involved. It's more of a rare experience."

"It's been a challenging process to co-ordinate because there's so many different people involved. But it is pretty exciting because the Muppets don't perform live very often. It takes a bit of effort to get that to happen."

His enthusiasm for the show is contagious and he's absolutely fizzing with ideas.

"It's going to be super-fun. I can't wait. Oh! What about the Swedish chef making a pavlova? That would be good," he says out of nowhere at one point. "Anyway …"

He's currently in full production mode, writing and planning and struggling with hiding men in bathtubs. So the final question has to be; right now is he feeling more man or Muppet?

"Definitely more man," he grins, before adding, "but I'll probably veer more Muppet as it develops."

LOWDOWN:
WHO: Bret McKenzie
WHAT: The Jim Henson Retrospectacle in Concert
WHEN: April 27-28 in Wellington. Tickets onsale next Thursday via ticketmaster.
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by Amily » Wed Feb 14, 2018 6:58 pm

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Cover boy! #bret# #blowkiss#
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