The lights dim, the audience hushes in sheer anticipation. A funky paper cutout animation plays on top of the curtains, which draw back and reveal a man clad in a too-small gray suit, a red bow tie and shiny white loafers strutting onto the stage.
“Good morning, boys and girls!”
“Good morning Pee-wee!”
And with that greeting to a crowd of adoring, nostalgic fans, Pee-wee Herman marked his first time on stage since 1991.
Pee-wee does not disappoint with a revitalized version of his “Pee-wee Herman Show.” In a limited four-week engagement at Club Nokia (which ends February 7), Pee-wee allows fans to relive fond memories with updated material as well as featuring old favorites.
Born in the late ‘70s on the Groundlings comedy group stage in Los Angeles, Pee-wee’s distinct brand of humor made its way into pop culture history with the first Pee-wee Herman Show. The act became wildly popular.
In 1985, the world saw Pee-wee’s first full-length feature film “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” about Pee-wee and his search for his beloved stolen bike. Directed by Tim Burton, the zany, kitschy, off-the-wall, just-plain-weird film that took Pee-wee everywhere from the Alamo to Hollywood reached cult status and made Pee-wee a star among adults and children alike.
Pee-wee “Tequila” danced his way to the boob tube with the debut of his Saturday morning television show “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” In his show, Pee-wee flourished. With his puppet pals Pterri, Chairry, Globey, Conky and more, Pee-wee entered the lives of millions of people, young and old.
For five seasons, Pee-wee made the Playhouse the place to be. Pee-wee got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, made another film (which showed an effort to mature the Pee-wee character), and won Daytime Emmys left and right. Everything was right in Puppetland.
All the good came to a screeching halt in 1991 when Paul Reubens was arrested for indecent exposure at an adult movie theater. After the fall-out, Pee-wee quietly packed his gray suit and the Playhouse went dark.
Paul Reubens made turns acting in various movies such as the drug movie “Blow” and the 1999 action-comedy “Mystery Men.” He also eased his way back onto television with small guest turns in shows like the spoof cop show “Reno 911!” and the ABC show “Pushing Daisies” as a man with an extremely good sense of smell. However, the specter of Pee-wee never left the consciousness of people’s minds.
After teasing fans about a possible return for Pee-wee these last few years, nothing was more exciting than the formal announcement that Pee-wee was going to come back to where it all began — the stage.
Reliving the glory days of Pee-wee is not hard to do. Pee-wee laughs, roars and skitters his way back into our hearts as if he had never left at all. Fan favorites such as Miss Yvonne (a still beautiful Lynne Marie Stewart) and Cowboy Curtis (played bombastically by “Mad TV” alum Phil LaMarr in the stead of the original Laurence Fishburne) also make their return.
It is as if Jambi the Genie granted our wish with a little “Mekka Lekka Hi, Mekka Hiney Ho.” “The Pee-wee Herman Show” combines elements of the original stage show, his hit TV show (yes the King of Cartoons comes back to show us an old classic short), as well as new material taken by Pee-wee’s fascination with late-night infomercials and the Internet.
Audiences will bask in the glow of nostalgia when they see right in front of their eyes the things that they had so long only remembered along with enjoying some new Pee-wee material, including Pee-wee’s new abstinence ring and a self-described annoying character named, simply, Bear.
Some might go in to the “Pee-wee Herman Show” expecting a brand new show, but what it offers is an indulgence into the past. The Playhouse looks exactly the same, the characters still fit their old costumes, the secret word is still said (and the audience still screams real loud).
The only thing that occasionally breaks the flow of the show is the new material. Although it retains a lot of the Pee-wee flavor, it’s not seamlessly integrated with the already well-oiled flow of the old stuff.
“The Pee-wee Herman Show” is a fun, interactive and engaging experience. Fans, some of whom brought their old Pee-wee Herman dolls to the show, and those who are unfamiliar with Pee-wee will enjoy the childlike, yet knowing, innocence of the show. The actors on stage, some new like other “Mad TV” alum Josh Meyers, and some old like John Moody as the mischievous Mailman Mike, give the show their all.
With the ultimate goal of another Pee-wee movie (to be about Pee-wee and his Puppet Pals’ search for a missing Playhouse character), there will be no saying good-night to Pee-wee any time soon.