That Time I Worked With The Muppets ...

Some say that you haven't made it until you've worked with the Muppets. 

Well, I guess I've made it!

This month Muppet performers and fans from across the globe descended on our on capital city for the JIM HENSON RETROSPECTACLE - a three week festival celebrating the life and work of the world-famous Muppet creator. 

It's very rare that Jim's three 'worlds' come together like this, but Sesame Street (Sesame Workshop), the Muppets (Disney), and Fraggle Rock and the Dark Crystal (Jim Henson Legacy) appeared at events together in a rare display of remembrance for Jim.

Thanks to Nic Marshall from the Square Eyes Film Foundation, what began as talks for a Henson-themed film showcase turned into a glorious buffet of celebrity talks, workshops, screenings, and five live shows with the Muppet performers and the NZSO! 

I was fortunate to be the cultural and creative representative for Te Papa Museum who were hosting some of the events. That meant I got to interview and introduce many of Jim's colleagues that I had idolised as a child. It also meant I was able to meet a few of the Muppets themselves!

Definitely a career highlight!

Photo descriptions in order of appearance (L-R)

1. My new muppet suit! Thanks to Rebecca McMillan Photography for snapping this pic.

2. Close up of the my suit fabric. I had this fabric custom printed especially for these events.

3. Meeting Bonnie Erickson, Jim Henson's head puppet designer in the Muppet workshop. (She designed Miss Piggy!)

4. On stage with designers, Bonnie Erickson, Jonny Fraser Allen (Weta Workshop), and Ben Hawker (Weta Workshop). We talked about character design and how Jim's work influenced what they do today.

5. Bonnie was kind enough to sign my LP copy of THE FROG PRINCE. This was the first project she worked on for Jim as his muppet costume designer.

6. Jonny Fraser Allen's incredible LABYRINTH sculptures for the Labyrinth board game. He actually built some of these for fun!

7. Meeting Arthur Novell, Jim Henson's close friend and publicist from New York.

8. Introducing Dave Goelz at the first ticketed event at Te Papa.

9. Meeting Dave Goelz! Performer of The Great Gonzo, Zoot, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Boober Fraggle and more!

10. Meeting Karen Prell! Performer of Red Fraggle! I was fortunate to sit next to Dave and Karen at dinner one night and hear their stories of working with Jim. 

11. Meeting Ernie from Sesame Street!

12. Hanging out with Ernie and Muppet performer, Peter Linz.

13. Meeting Big Bird! Yes, this really happened, and yes he gave me one of his feathers!

14. Meeting Craig Shemin, current President of the Jim Henson Legacy, Muppet writer and historian. 

15. Meeting the Sesame Street crew! They were a bit impressed with the suit! This is also the only photo I had with Matt Vogel, performer of Kermit the Frog, The Count, and Big Bird. He has his back to the camera.

16. Meeting Carmen Osbahr, the last Muppet performer hired by Jim before his passing, and current performer of Rosita on Sesame Street.

17. Karen Prell and Dave Goelz kindly signed my Fraggle Rock LP as Red and Boober. Swoon!

18. That's a wrap! Note the little Java Muppet I wore on my lapel. One of Frank Oz's greatest Muppet sketches in my humble opinion!

Hopping Back In The Saddle

One of the great things about my work is that I often get to work with the same awesome teams of people each year and put on new-and-improved versions of shows I love. This is what I call 'hopping back in the saddle', and for the last few weeks I have done a lot of it!

On August 14th I started three days of filming new content with the wonderfully funny Rad Rhythm team. I had already helped write their percussion courses for 5-6 year olds earlier in the year, so it was great to bring the team back together and bring it all to life for the big screen. This is my third year working with Rad Rhythm and the feedback we get from the 30,000 kids and staff that use it is amazing.

For the next three weeks after that I lead the Goodtime Music Academy Show Team into schools to promote their fantastic "Music Bus" lessons in schools. Two of my three sons learn instruments in Goodtime's mobile Music Bus classrooms and they LOVE it. These shows are super high energy and fun to perform, and it's so good being able to inspire a new generation of kids to think about learning an instrument and making music a part of their day to day lives. This is my fourth happy year working with the Goodtime team.

Me, Jackie Clarke, Brooke Baker, and Nathan King just before walking on stage for our first 2017 Kids For Kids show!

Me, Jackie Clarke, Brooke Baker, and Nathan King just before walking on stage for our first 2017 Kids For Kids show!

After that, the 2017 Kids For Kids season began! This is my EIGTH year working with this team, and I'm now the longest serving member still in the fold. We kicked off tour in Palmerston North, Otaki, then the mammoth show in Christchurch with over 1,300 kids on stage in Horncastle Arena. That was so cool!

I love this show because our main focus is making sure the kids have fun. All the singing and remembering lyrics ... that's completely secondary. If the kids on stage aren't having fun, then we're missing the point of the whole show. And when the kids have fun, the parents and relatives in the audience get such a kick out of that. Our core team is committed to putting smiles on dials both here, and overseas in the World Vision children's projects our audience members may choose to support on the night.

I also completed another tour for Duffy Books in Homes in Christchurch. It was an eye opener to be working in schools that are still reeling from the effects of the big quakes. Many schools I visited had had complete makeovers of their schools as all their buildings were too damaged. This is my second year touring as a Duffy Role Model! I enjoy being able to share with them about how reading will be so important in making their dreams a reality. I take along Inspector Brunswick and show them exactly what a dream come true looks like!


My 59th Night Away



As I sit here in Auckland, I realised that today marks the 59th night I have been away from home travelling and doing events. I am very grateful to my lovely wife who holds the fort down so well while I am doing my share of the breadwinning!

A quick recap for the month of July...

July 10th: I performed Mr Lam Sam's Musical Mayhem Show to over 700 people at Te Papa! This was record for audience attendance at a school holiday event so I am chuffed!

July 15th: I was fortunate to see Anika Moa's live musical show for children "Chop Chop Hiyaaa!" in Wellington. It's always great to see how other family entertainers go about working with young audiences.

July 24th: I celebrated my 500th show with Sailor the Puffer Fish! We have been some places together. Next year we are hoping to perform 80 shows in the south island which will be great as we have never been there with his show yet!

Moe Monster and Me

Moe Monster and Me

July 27th: A fleeting trip to Auckland to measure up for my NEW SUIT, and hang out with Moe from The Moe Show.

Aug 1st: Hamilton - school visits with Angela, introducing Inspector Brunswick to the students of Southwell and Te Totara schools.

Aug 2nd: Hamilton - performed 'The Pied Piper of Pirongia' with the Trust Waikato Symphony Orchestra three times in one day. Lots of happy children coming to see how an orchestra works, and definitely one of those days when you sit down at the end of it and go 'WOW ... I AM LUCKY!' 

Aug 4th: A great meeting with the board of the Goodtime Foundation, of which I am the Chair. We raise money to give fifteen children from low decile schools free music lessons for the year. It is so rewarding being part of a passionate team who believe that music can create amazing opportunities for positive change in young people.

And today? I'm waiting to soundcheck for another great musical improv show with the extremely talented and funny, Greg Ward! Tonight is our 'One Night Only' show - a relatively new offering that corporates are loving. We have a basic outline of the show, but all the songs are customised in the moment, inspired only by what the audience give us. 

And I'm very happy that tonight's piano is RED!


Queenstown Winter Festival 2017

Saturday Night: If the 'suit' fits ...

Saturday Night: If the 'suit' fits ...

Last weekend I had the best time performing at the annual Queenstown Winter Festival!

On Saturday I donned a black tuxedo (which is NOT a colour I commonly wear!) to perform as Master of Ceremonies for Sky City's 'Shanghai Nights' Ball. It was a fabulous evening of high class and entertainment.

The next morning I got up and performed my Mr Lam Sam's Musical Mayhem Show for the families which was a hoot! During my gameshow bit, I was very happy that I was able to give one lucky parent a brand new Breville microwave as the grand prize.

Being able to diversify in two quite different talents allowed me to work with two quite different audiences ... in two quite different suits ... in two quite different venues.

I count myself very lucky as I regularly get to do things just like this!

Sunday Morning: All of the bubbles in Queenstown!

Sunday Morning: All of the bubbles in Queenstown!

May's Music for the Masses

May was an ENORMOUS month!

May 2: Queenstown - performed a brand new musical improvised comedy show with the incredible Greg Ward.

May 8: Hamilton - worked as Event Producer for the first of the National Young Leaders Days.

May 9-12: Tauranga/Hamilton - performing the first of 2017's 80 Sailor Asthma Shows, with Sailor the Puffer Fish!

Tuning my smile with the NZSO.

Tuning my smile with the NZSO.

May 15-19: Hamilton/Tauranga/Tokoroa: More shows with Sailor!

May 23: Kicked off my 2017 season performing with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, performing our new show exciting show for children and families called 'Symphonic Boogie'

May 24: Performed with the NZSO in the Regent Theatre in Palmerston North.

May 28: Performed with the NZSO in the Bruce Mason Centre in Takapuna, Auckland.

May 29: Last show with the NZSO in South Auckland.

May 30-June 2: Twelve more shows with Sailor the Puffer Fish in South Auckland! 

And next week I'm performing another twelve shows with Sailor in more South Auckland schools. 

Have I done enough for a Mallowpuff yet? ๐Ÿ˜‚

"... laugh and giggle and snort." - Positive reactions to our Sailor Asthma Show.

"... laugh and giggle and snort." - Positive reactions to our Sailor Asthma Show.