Posts Tagged ‘Donald O'Connor’

The Muppet Show Season 6 Pt. 6

June 14, 2021

Lily Tomlin

Who knows where Lily Tomlin was headed after attending a technical high school and then getting into Wayne State University in her hometown of Detroit. However, she auditioned for a play and that was it. She had been bitten by the showbiz bug and she changed majors. She graduated from college and started to do stand-up comedy, hanging around in Detroit before she headed to the New York City scene. She decided to continue to study acting at the HB Studio. She got onto the Merv Griffin Show and then the Garry Moore Show which primed her for the biggest upswing in her career. She landed a part in the cast of Martin and Rowan’s Laugh-in where she developed several memorable characters and honed her craft. Her success with Laugh-In also got her a hosting gig on Saturday Night Live. Meanwhile, her movie career also picked up as she was cast in Robert Altman’s Nashville which got her an Academy Award nomination. She was in tons of other hits like 9 to 5 and All of Me. Her career has continued to flourish and she is still a very big star.

One of the reasons that Tomlin would be perfect for The Muppet Show is that she already had experience with Sesame Street at the time. She sang and signed the famous song “Sing” on the show along with other appearances. At the time she was a renowned comedian who also had singing and acting chops which would serve her well on the show. She had worked on one of the most famous television variety shows in history which would be excellent preparation.

Cold Opening: Scooter comes in to give Lily her warning but apologizes when she’s on the phone (a little bit like Ernestine) but when he leaves she reveals the phone isn’t even plugged in.

Guest Arc: Sam the Eagle is on the warpath again, trying to make the show more classy. He has doubts about Tomlin but she promises to be on her best behavior and ends up mocking him.

Guest Acts:
“Dancing Queen” (Abba) with Miss Piggy and full-size Muppets who can dance
Lily has a scene with Sam the Eagle where she pretends to be as dour and serious as he is (a la The Consumer Advocate Lady)
“The Last Duet” (Manilow) Lily does sign language while singing and Animal struggles to keep up so Sweetums steps in.

Donald O’Connor

It is hard to pin down exactly where Donald was born since his parents were a vaudeville team and were always traveling. It is agreed that it was somewhere in Illinois and probably in Chicago. Apparently, his parents started his dancing career at 13 months by holding him by the back of the neck as he wiggled around to the music on stage. Unfortunately, a lot of his family died during his early childhood leaving him with only his mother and an older brother. The three formed a dancing act and Donald got to be really good at dancing without any formal training. In fact, he never did go to school at all. He made the jump from vaudeville to film when he was hired by Paramount mostly to play kid parts and, of course, to dance. He then moved to Universal where he was quickly paired with Peggy Ryan as their version of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. The Andrews Sisters were usually along for the ride as well. Not long after he came back from the War, he had a much-celebrated role in Singin’ In the Rain. He continued on Broadway, film, and television until his death in the late 90s.

Obviously, O’Connor would be great for the Muppet Show because of his experience as a performer and also his many skills. While he was not the dancer in the 1980s that he was in the 50s, he still knew how to dance and sing and he had great comic timing. On a side note, Singin’ In the Rain is one of my favorite musicals. O’Connor was a legendary performer in musicals on stage and screen and was great at adapting to the needs of their show.

Cold Open: Miss Piggy brushes past Scooter as he gives the warning and spills coffee on Donald.

Guest Arc: Miss Piggy is excited to sing with Donald but spills coffee on him and tries to make it up throughout the show but keeps accidentally injuring him. In the end, he promises that there is no problem between them.

Guest Acts:
“Make ‘Em Laugh” with Fozzy and Gonzo
“Merrily Song” with Kermit at Rowlf’s piano
“It’s Delovely” with Ms. Piggy

Jerry Orbach

Orbach’s dad was born in The Bronx and his father was a vaudeville entertainer. He never performed on stage with his father but he did eventually leave college at Northwestern University a year early to pursue acting. He studied at the legendary Actor’s Studio under Lee Strasberg. He made his way onto Off-Broadway and Broadway. He quickly made a name for himself in tons of shows and was in the original casts for The Fantasticks, Chicago, and 42nd Street among many other shows. He started work in television and film working as a regular on Murder She Wrote and Dirty Dancing. He had his last major singing role as Lumiere in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. After that, he was cast in the role he is now more known for as Detective Lennie Briscoe in Law and Order.

Orbach would work for the Muppet Show because he was a Broadway legend who was just starting to work more on film. He has a brilliant singing voice and a charm that served him very well in his career. Although he was starting to take on more serious roles, I think he would relish the chance to have some musical fun with the Muppets.

Cold Open: Jerry goofs around with Pops, putting on that charm

Guest Arc: The Muppets are excited when they hear that a Broadway scout will be at the show so they get Jerry to help them out. It turns out to be band info that Scooter heard.

Guest Acts:
“Lullaby of Broadway” with Rowlf, Kermit, Fozzie, and Piggy
“24 Hours from Tulsa” (Bacharach) with Lubbock Lou and his Jughuggers
“Razzle Dazzle” with the Electric Mayhem


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