TV review: The Pee-wee Herman Show on Broadway

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

No matter the legal troubles Paul Reubens has faced over the years, there's still an entire generation that will forever love Pee-wee Herman. In fact, that generation - myself included - sees Reubens and Herman as completely different entities.

Herman is the wacky anti-Mr. Rogers that was the highlight of Saturday mornings. Reubens is the troubled, rather strange actor with a talent for darkly comedic roles.

So with Pee-wee (the character) making a comeback the last few years - there are plans for another feature film - thanks to his hit stage show, it's no surprise HBO would film it for a special.

HBO usually focuses on A-list stand-up comedians for these specials, but "The Pee-wee Herman Show on Broadway" is laugh-out-loud in its own right. Albeit, the stage show is mightily enhanced by nostalgia for the original "Pee-wee's Playhouse."

The Broadway version is basically a greatest-hits compilation of that kids show with some fluorescent accoutrements spicing up the visuals and slightly more adult/sexual material. Herman even breaks the fourth wall by slyly referencing that whole movie-theater fiasco.

All of your favorite puppet characters from back in the day - Chairy, Magic Screen, Conky, Pterri, Clocky, Globey, etc. - are there on stage. Most of the human characters return, too.

The original Miss Yvonne (Lynne Marie Stewart) and Jambi (John Paragon) are back, along with the King of Cartoons, who is played by a new actor.

Cowboy Curtis and his Jheri curl mullet are similar to the original, but sadly Lawrence Fishburne is replaced by Phil LaMarr. (Side note: LaMarr is most famous for being shot in the face as Marvin in "Pulp Fiction.")

At 90 minutes long, the show would get boring with just "Word of the Day" and visitors to the Playhouse, so there's a two-prong plot about Herman getting internet access and the on-again, off-again romance of Curtis and Yvonne.

It drags a little by the conclusion, but the Broadway show is just as imaginative and amusing as "Playhouse." It even made me feel like a kid again.

The Pee-wee Herman Show on Broadway

10 p.m. Saturday, March 19, on HBO

3 stars