From the Melbourne Fringe Festival website:
“Jim, with a T” is a tribute show to the life and work of Jim Henson. Written and performed by Tim Green, the show explores the worlds of Henson through the songs his characters have made famous. As Tim seeks the secret to Jim’s genius, and shows just how said genius has affected his life, the audience goes on a journey to recreate some of Jim’s most iconic moments and get in touch with their own inner happiness and creative imagination. Funny, touching, and somewhat crazy, the show blends the innocent wisdom of Jim Henson with the difficult cynicism and anxiety ever-present in Tim’s life. Come along, sing a song, and see how a life can be changed with a little bit of felt and a lot of imagination, both Jim’s and Tim’s.
This show was exactly what I had been needing these past few months!
I can’t review the show from the perspective of a critic, but I certainly can as a fellow devotee to Jim Henson’s legacy. I was going to leave it to the morning to write this, however, there are somethings you just can’t set aside until later.
Down in the basement of the Metropolitan Hotel in North Melbourne, I and one of my best friends (who I may or may not have dragged along with me) gathered with several other Henson fans to be regaled with the story of Jim’s life; from birth until his final days.
And it was wonderful.
When the stage area was blacked-out and the lights popped back on to reveal Tim in a Kermit outfit with a ukulele, ready to sing ‘Rainbow Connection’, I knew we were in for something special.
Equipped with only a microphone, a few props and an accompanying pianist, Tim recreated the scenes of several key Muppet songs that outlined or related to Jim’s life. He opened with ‘Rainbow Connection’, sang ‘Time in a Bottle’ when touching upon how Paul Henson Jr’s death affected Jim and connected Sesame Street with ‘Rubber Ducky’. Also included was ‘I Hope That Something Better Comes Along’, ‘I’m Going to Go Back There Someday’, ‘Just One Person’ and finally, ‘Being Green’.
It was an absolute delight watching Tim enthusiastically make his way through Jim’s story, using a child’s easel and drawings on a giant flip-book as a visual timeline. As Tim reminded us, Jim once said that, “Simple is good” and Tim definitely used the minimalist approach to his advantage. No prop went to waste and their use, along with Tim’s banter, had us all in stitches.
Since I already knew Jim’s story, what truly resonated with me was Tim’s personal connection to Jim as a follower of his philosophy. The clear reverence that showed in Tim’s expressions as he talked helped to establish my own connection to him as the performer. Tim mentioned the years he had felt as if he was displaced, a bit of a disappointment and his fear of not amounting to much. Learning about Jim and the Muppets helped him overcome these anxieties.
I couldn’t possibly relate to this sentiment more; I discovered Jim in the prime of my adolescence: when I truly needed him the most. I certainly wouldn’t have had the guts to pursue a career in film if I hadn’t been introduced to Jim’s ridiculous optimism! I also nodded in understanding when Tim admitted that trying to explain why he loves the Muppets can be embarrassing. I agreed with his observation that the Muppets have a sense of warm familiarity to them that leaves you feeling as if, in the end, no matter how bad things get, it will get better, perhaps even amazing!
After a teary recount of Jim’s death and following memorial and beautiful renditions of ‘Just One Person’ and ‘Being Green’, I walked back up the stairs and bought a drink, ready to reflect on what I had just witnessed. Throughout the whole show, I had laughed, teared up, mouthed along to the songs and gasped when I realised what Tim was going to do next. In those moments, everything had felt just about right.
As an added bonus, my friend who I had dragged along had enjoyed the show just as much as I had. To my surprise, mostly thanks to the songs, which she had never realised the beauty of before, she ended up finding her own Rainbow Connection. She couldn’t believe that a genius the likes of Jim Henson could be there one minute, then gone the next. She was pretty emotional about it afterwards.
I wound up explaining that, yes, Jim’s sudden death was a tragedy and that it’s okay to be initially sad about it. However, after a while, the sadness goes away and you’re able to think about Jim and smile because he had existed. We get the privilege of living in a world touched by Jim’s influence and that is certainly better than nothing.
Ladies and gentleman, we have a brand new addition to the Muppet Fandom! May her time in our ranks be weird and pleasantly unstable!
All in all, it was the best 50 minutes I could have spent in the basement of a pub. Tim is truly passing on the legacy of Jim Henson in his own special way. If you happen to be in Melbourne and haven’t seen the show yet, you can buy tickets here. The show is running until Saturday 23rd.
Best $15 you’ll spend this year!