Pee-Wee returning ... to new stage show
By David Ng
Los Angeles Times
HOLLYWOOD — The red bow tie. The form-fitting gray suit. The white loafers. Oh, and that laugh. Pee-wee Herman is back and his creator, Paul Reubens, is overjoyed — and more than a little bit nervous too.
“I’ve put part of him away for a long time, but part of him has always been here with me,” the soft-spoken actor said in an interview from his home in L.A. “I think it will be like riding a bike — which is not a bad analogy for Pee-wee, by the way.”
But he added: “I have some fear that he won’t be funny after all this time. I don’t want to ruin it.”
After a hiatus of close to 20 years, Reubens announced Monday that he would be playing Pee-wee in a new stage show at the Music Box @ Fonda in Hollywood. The production, titled “The Pee-wee Herman Show” and set to run Nov. 19-29, is a re-imagined version of the actor’s original theatrical show of the same name that began at the Groundlings Theatre in 1981. It played at the Roxy in L.A. for five months in the early ’80s and helped bring Pee-wee national recognition, including an HBO special and the 1985 film “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” directed by Tim Burton.
The show will feature the same story line as the original: Pee-wee, a nerdy man-child with a colorful menagerie of anthropomorphic friends, is granted a wish to learn to fly but gives the wish away, much to his eventual regret. Reubens said he has revised parts of the story to include new songs as well as characters from his popular CBS television series, “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.”
In one notable change, a character played on stage by the late comedian Phil Hartman has been replaced with another character. “I didn’t want to be looking at someone else playing Phil’s part,” Reubens said.
Among the characters familiar from the TV series that will appear on stage will be Pee-wee’s talking chair, Chairry, and his friend Pterri, the pterodactyl.
“It has a lot of new material and a lot of old material,” Reubens said. “I felt that doing this show so many years later and having the TV show in between — people are going to ask, `Where’s the talking chair?’ So I’ve added characters from the TV series to the show.”
“Pee-wee’s Playhouse” aired on CBS from 1986-91 and helped broaden Pee-wee’s appeal among children. (The character also appeared in “Big Top Pee-wee,” the poorly received 1988 follow-up to “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.”)
Although it’s ambiguous as to whom the new stage show will be geared, Pee-wee’s enduring cult status is part of the reason that producers Jared Geller and David Foster approached Reubens two years ago about resurrecting the character. “Pee-wee appeals to such a great cross-section of ages,” said Geller. “The character is so honest and surreal. It’s one of those things that speaks to individuals who feel they may be different from everyone else.”
Reubens, who is also one of the show’s producers, said he hoped the show would lead to an even bigger resurgence in all things Pee-wee. “Honestly, I have a movie script that’s based on my CBS TV series and I thought this would be a great way to get that made,” he said.