The Muppets are reaching new heights at Walt Disney World, literally if not figuratively.
The windows looking down on Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square now double as the stage for “The Muppets Present … Great Moments in American History,” which debuted this week. And in one version of the show, Sam Eagle is perched high in the peak of the roof of the neighboring Hall of Presidents attraction.
The idea is to give history lessons in digestible bits with a Muppet twist. Segments presented so far have centered on the Declaration of Independence and on Paul Revere’s ride. The cast, aside from Sam, includes Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and a couple of clucking chickens.
Their personalities are as expected. Sam is fiercely patriotic, Piggy is self-centered and speaks French too much. Kermit is the responsible one, and there are groaners in the script that naturally fall to Fozzie.
An additional “live” character, J.J. the town crier, appears in the Declaration of Independence version. He’s down on the ground level with the crowd, who stand and watch with their backs to Disney’s replica of the Liberty Bell.
Both productions have serious moments — pay attention, you might learn something — but I felt a little uncomfortable chanting against King George as if he were on the opposing soccer team. Kermit, at the end of both shows, apologizes to any Brits on hand, but … still.
And I wish Piggy didn’t have the same shtick in both shows. Yes, the historical role of Colonial womenfolk is underplayed, but must she horn in as female versions of male figures again? (Although her Queen Georgette has the best costume of the bunch.)
Overall, it’s basic Muppet-style madcap, but I appreciated the quieter moments. Of note: After other characters have made their demands (a cellphone, a case of rubber chickens), Kermit, in Thomas Jefferson mode, explains that the Declaration was about more than that.
“It’s about things we all believe in — things worth fighting for, things that inspired the birth of a new nation,” he said. Then reading from the document, the crowd joins Kermit in the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness part.
In an election season peppered with derogatory comments, 3 a.m. tweeting and assorted deplorable acts — not all by the candidates — it’s nice to hear.
Now, cue the clucking chickens.
Magic Kingdom has added some seasoning to two other productions. “Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire” has a fresh ending for fall, and the trolley show that runs up Main Street has new songs and costuming.
I’m all for changing it up, and it’s fun to say “autumnal,” but, wow, it’s a little bit hot in Florida to stand and watch folks dance in multiple layers of costuming and sing about a harvest. Floridians don’t buy this, and tourists aren’t experiencing any autumn like they see back home.
It’s slightly more acceptable in “Friendship Faire,” the castle stage show that debuted in June. The costume and song tweaks are near the end, and, to be faire, it adds to the renaissance flair.
I was happy to see Louis, the dancing/trumpet-playing alligator from “The Princess and the Frog,” wipe his brow at the end. (Next time you complain about the heat, imagine wearing a Louis costume.)