The Pee-Wee Herman Show is back. Paul Reubens, who created Pee-Wee and played him on stage, TV and film between 1980 and 1991, is bringing his goofy-geeky man-child to the Los Angeles stage for a limited live-performance run at Club Nokia next month. “It’s going to be really, really good! I swear!” Reubens said, wearing Pee-Wee’s signature gray suit and bow tie, at a press conference today.
The full-scale stage performance, produced by Tony Award-winner Scott Sanders (Elaine Stritch: At Liberty) and directed by Alex Timbers (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) will revive the character Reubens first brought to life on stage in a comedy act and then spun into HBO’s The Pee-wee Herman Show in 1980. That show gave rise to two feature films, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985) and Big Top Pee-Wee (1988), and the CBS children’s program, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (1986-1991).
Pee-Wee’s Playhouse was in reruns in 1991, with no plans to shoot more episodes, when Reubens was arrested for indecent exposure. As the years have gone on, though, Reubens has tried to resurrect the character and the show. In fact, this production is the first step in his dream of a full-scale Pee-Wee comeback. “I want to make a big, giant, epic adventure movie based on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, ” Reubens said. “This [stage] show is what I did originally to have a career, so why not [do it again]?”
So last summer Reubens approached Sanders, his friend and producer, about mounting a Pee-Wee theatrical production. The result: A 4-week engagement that will reunite the Playhouse gang– e.g. Miss Yvonne, Cowboy Curtis, and puppets Chairry the chair, and Pterri the pterodactyl–in a new plot about Pee-Wee’s hope that he can fly. “It’s really going to be a feast for the eyes,” director Timbers said. The show, which will have a limited run in LA from January 12 through February 7, will feature flying puppets, original songs, and “many, many ticks and surprises,” he said. Plus, because it’s been almost 20 years since Pee-Wee went off the air, this show will be “a little less kiddy,” Timbers said. “If this were a movie, it’d be PG.”
Part comedy show, part play, this stage version of The Pee-Wee Herman Show will be very similar to Pee-Wee’s Playhouse in terms of design (the set is elaborate and colorful) and comedic tone, Reubens said. Social commentary is guaranteed. (Pee-Wee, for instance, is wearing an abstinence ring.) “It’s going to be dazzling,” Reubens said. “It’s 80ish minutes of puppets talking and flying, and doing all kinds of technical things. No one’s ever seen this before.” Fans can expect Miss Yvonne’s hair to be extra tall, a new bear character, and sets that look homemade. “I think its gonna blow people away,” Reubens said, and then added, “I hope I’m right. Ha ha!”