The Muppet Theatre is the setting for The Muppet Show, where it was first established over the course of five seasons of television. It is a grand old vaudeville house that has seen better days, but still manages to suit the showbusiness needs of the Muppets.
The building's exterior is first seen in the series' coda, The Muppets Go to the Movies, where the camera pans back from the stage, out the front doors, and provides a full view of The Muppet Theatre name on the building. Kermit the Frog serves as a house manager to the theatre which is owned by Scooter's uncle J.P. Grosse (a fact Scooter is often happy to reiterate with his amphibious boss).
According to a 1991 storybook, the theatre was built by a stage actor named John Stone in 1802. In The Muppet Show episode 106, Kermit identifies the structure as The Benny Vandergast Memorial Theatre, but following the Muppets' residency, The Muppet Theatre name becomes prominently displayed on advertising posters and backstage signs. The British spelling of Theatre can be attributed to its location in London; while locking up the doors at the end of The Muppets Go to the Movies, Miss Piggy asks Kermit to walk her to The Tube, London's subway system ("I love to walk to The Tube!", she exclaims).
After The Muppet Show, the location of The Muppet Theatre becomes more ambiguous; either as a result of renting playhouses in different cities, or through the magic of the Muppets' inconsistent continuity. Most stage areas occupied by the Muppets are either called The Muppet Theatre in name or bear some resemblance to the their original home on The Muppet Show. For example, commercials for Polaroid, The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson, Weezer's "Keep Fishin'" music video, and others, are close facsimiles of the original theatre (sometimes with modifications), and are most likely meant to serve as such.
It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie clearly establishes a theatre located in New York City, as Piggy's apartment (in an alternate universe) has a view of the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center. The plot of the TV movie involves the theatre being in jeopardy of finding itself repurposed as a night club. Its owner's plan is ultimately foiled by Pepe the King Prawn when he registers the theatre as an historical landmark; the document uses the Americanized spelling, The Muppet Theater.
A third definitive location was established in the 2011 film The Muppets, where it's situated within the Muppet Studios lot in Hollywood. The El Capitan Theatre served as The Muppet Theatre exterior during filming, returning the name to its British spelling, The Muppet Theatre. This version of the theater was used in Muppets Most Wanted and a promotional ad for Orange.
- The theatre finds itself in flames throughout much of episode 303; Fozzie keeps the crisis from Kermit for as long as possible.
- In need of fumigation, the Muppets vacate the theatre in episode 308, relocating to the train station for the duration of the show.
- Gonzo attempts to defuse a bomb in episode 407, but he's foiled by M.A.M.M.A. and blows up half the theatre.
- Oil is found under the theatre in episode 410, so J.P. sells the mining rights to the Guest Star's Dressing Room.
- When the roof rots through, contractors relocate it to the shop for maintenance in episode 516.
- The lights are out in the theatre throughout the show when an electrical fuse is blown in episode 522. Additionally, guest star Buddy Rich "plays" the theatre, using the walls and items in several areas as percussive instruments for his drum sticks.
- Rizzo leads the rats on a hunt to find hidden treasure, demolishing the theatre in the process, in The Muppet Show Comic Book: The Treasure of Peg-Leg Wilson.
- The theatre is in danger of being repurposed by its owner, prompting the Muppets to win their stage back from the villainous threat in both It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie and The Muppets (2011).
Defined areas seen in The Muppet Theatre include backstage right, the dressing rooms, the attic, the canteen, the prop room, the storage room, the boiler room, the stage, the house, the stage door lobby, and the back alley.
Behind the scenes
Steve Saklad, production designer on The Muppets, was charged with re-creating the theatre interior for the 2011 film. The set itself was reworked from a 1925 set built for The Phantom of the Opera. Of the task, Saklad said:
“They go into the theater, and really the heart of our movie is the transformation of the theater from the way they first find it, which is completely desolate, condemned by the board of health, pigeons are flying around in the open holes in the ceiling.
Eventually they transform this — this nasty looking place into the sort of glory days of the Muppet Theatre. Now I should explain, the — the theater was very important to us to get right. In the old TV show, there’s a simplified version of a kind of Muppet Theatre. It’s kind of sweet and quaint; not very real looking. Our story is this: Once, there was a real Muppet Theatre; great old, 100-year-old, vaudeville Theatre with ghosts and history, and these great acts that had always played there.
We’ll show you the full front of the audience, all the on-stage workings with the pin rails and the dimmer boards, and all the backstage areas and the dressing rooms all in one great space, so that you can go anywhere within that theater. You can go from the front of the audience up onto the stage, over to Kermit’s table, and then up the stairs and go right into Piggy’s dressing room, and it will all — always all be right there. So this was the sketch I did to transform a standing set that exists at Universal Studios for the Phantom of the Opera. This set was built in 1925. It’s still there. It’s a — it’s a relic that we — that — it’s historical, you know, sort of, it’s a space that no one can touch.
So we went in, transformed it into a classic, Broadway-style theater, front of house. We built a proscenium, we built everything behind the proscenium, which this model shows to encompass our backstage. And here are some of the shots of the very decrepit first look at the theater, and then how it gets transformed into the shiny, sparkly, ready-for-opening-night look.”
Special tribute was paid to Muppets creator Jim Henson, with the theater's curtain rail system donning the installation date of September 24, 1936, the day Henson was born. The date can be spotted briefly in a scene that shows the Muppets sleeping on the rafters and in hammocks on stage.
- Kermit the Frog: Host, performer
- Pops: Doorman, box office
- Scooter: Go-fer
- George the Janitor
- Beauregard: Janitor and stagehand
- Beaker: Stagehand, lab assistant
- Hilda: Wardrobe
- Gladys: Canteen staff
- The Swedish Chef: Canteen staff, performer
- Fozzie Bear: Stand-up comedian
- Gonzo: Stunt Performer
- Miss Piggy: Performer
- Lew Zealand: Performer
- Wayne and Wanda: Singers
- The Electric Mayhem: House band
- Nigel: Conductor
- The Muppet Orchestra
- Security Guard
- Harvey: lighting director
- J. P. Grosse: owner
- Rachel Bitterman: owner
- The Muppet Show, all episodes except episode 308 (1976-1981)
- Because We Care (1980)
- The Muppets Go to the Movies (1981)
- Polaroid commercials (1981)
- Playhouse Video series (1985)
- Hey, You're as Funny as Fozzie Bear (1988)
- The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson (1990)
- Muppet Classic Theater (1994)
- V-Chip commercial, The Toreador Song (1999)
- Jim Henson's Muppets (2002)
- Weezer's "Keep Fishin'" music video (2002)
- It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002)
- CanTeen commercial (2005)
- The Muppets (2011)
- Orange commercials (2011)
- LittleBigPlanet (2012)
- Club Penguin Muppets World Tour (2014)
- The Muppet Show Book (1978)
- Muppet Show Advent calendar (1979)
- The Comic Muppet Book (1979)
- The Muppets comic strip (1981-1986)
- Bo Saves the Show (1982)
- Two for the Show (1982)
- Jim Henson's Bedtime Stories (1989)
- Foo-Foo, Where Are You? (1991)
- The Phantom of the Muppet Theater (1991)
- The Muppet Show Comic Book (2009-2010)
- I Am Kermit the Frog (2011)
- Meet the Muppets (2011)
- The Muppets: Theater Stage Set (2011)