When I was young, I was an avid watcher of The Muppet Show. I loved the Muppets in general, but this variety show was my favorite of them all and I enjoyed watching reruns . I was even ad avid watcher of the 1996 reboot Muppets Tonight! which failed to recreate the success of the original. Sure, I’ve seen the films and TV specials and other series and I’ve liked them, but this one was always my personal favorite. The Emmy Award winning show’s foundations were in vaudeville and music hall, with very special guest stars each week (this show made Rita Moreno an EGOT). The backstage shenanigans were complemented by the show-within-the show, which featured regular sketches and songs.
As I got older I started to realize that a lot of these guest stars, as well as the material which they performed, came from the world of musical theatre. I didn’t realize it when I was younger, but the show was highly influential in my early growth as a theatre person. I also still remember that it was the first time I ever saw Bernadette Peters in my life. Here are just a handful of those performances.
Julie Andrews and the gang sing The Sound of Music’s “The Lonely Goatherd”
Ethel Merman sings a rather tender version of “There’s No Business Like Show Business” to Fozzie after his comedy act has bombed. The number transitions onstage for the Merm’s trademark finish.
Last but least is “Just One Person” from the musical Snoopy, which played off-Broadway and London in the early 80s. It was sung on this show by Bernadette Peters, but became closely identified with Muppet creator Jim Henson. When he died suddenly in 1990, the song was performed on a Muppet special that dealt with his death and also by his colleagues at his London memorial service.