'The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway' is targeted at a niche audience. Not many people are insisting that we see Pee-Wee's latest antics on a Broadway stage in high definition. Others can't stand him altogether. Even others who were fans of 'Pee-Wee's Big Adventure' may find themselves not enjoying this iteration. Only fans of the original TV show, which was nothing much like the Pee-Wee movies, will end up liking this and wanting to purchase it.
This is a simple release to explain, but not really a simple one to review. The title says it all. This is a recorded performance of the Pee-Wee Broadway show starring none other than Paul Ruebens as the famous, quirky being with a bow-tie. It essentially boils down to a 89 minute long stage version of 'Pee-Wee's Playhouse.' All the memorable puppets and other characters are there to talk to Pee-Wee as he goes about his day meeting the residents of Puppet Land, where he lives. So, if you liked Pee-Wee's television show, then chances are you'll dig this release. Everyone else need not apply.
As a fan of the earlier show I found this pretty enjoyable, although 89 minutes of solid Pee-Wee is still a little too much for one person to handle (that's what she said). Even though the entire play brings back childhood memories of watching the nonsensical happenings of 'Pee-Wee's Playhouse,' it begins to wear on you after a while. Like the shtick has worn out its welcome. Can you imagine an episode of 'Pee-Wee's Playhouse' being as long as many feature-length comedies? Yeah, it's a little scary.
I was, however, impressed at the growing up the show has gone through. The whole play is definitely geared toward a more adult audience. Like it has matured with the twenty- and thirty-somethings who used to watch the series as children. There's a few sly sexual jokes thrown in there that aren't too dirty unless you think about them too long. The innuendo is very casually delivered, and will cause a pause for a second or two until you realize exactly what they were referring to when they were talking about the "flashlight."
It's the same-old stuff though, for the most part. There's the word of the day, "fun" ("AHHHHHH!"). There's familiar puppets like Chairry. Jambi is there in his box predicting the future, granting wishes, and doing whatever blue floating heads do. And that's about it.
Again, this is for the fans. If you enjoyed 'Pee-Wee's Playhouse' then this is the Blu-ray for you. Although, the whole thing began to wear me out after a while and I watched 'Playhouse' almost religiously as a child. So take that for what it's worth.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This HBO release comes to Blu-ray in a standard Blu-ray keepcase. It's region free according to the packaging. The provided slipcover has the same artwork as the case itself. It's housed on a BD-25 disc.
This release is presented in 1080i. It's easy to see the difference here from a regular 1080p presentation. Although most of that has to do with the way they have to film a stage play. Visuals consist of various qualities. The well-lit stage has the best visuals. So good in fact that most of the show you can see Jambi's black frock that the actor wears in order to hide his body. This takes away from the magic somewhat because you can visibly see the actor's neck and shoulders when you're not supposed to.
The stage is covered in colorful decoration just like Pee-Wee's playhouse was. The colors are bright and vibrant. When Sergio lights up the neon green wiring everything glows. Blacks are actually pretty consistent, except when the camera points out to the crowd. There's a scene where we just see glow-in-the-dark eyes floating around after a power outage. The black here is pretty deep, which helps the scene's effect play out rather nicely. When the camera pans the audience in the dimmer theater there is visible noise around the edges. It's just a byproduct of this type of filming. When you can't do much to control the lighting around you the spot-free visuals tend to get away from you. This also happens routinely during concert Blu-rays.
In the end it looks as good as a filmed stage play can look. I wished that they would've cooled it on the ultra-close-ups and let us watch from distance much like the audience was. Why they feel the need to film a stage play like a sitcom is a mystery to me.
The sound suffers the same kind of limitations as the video. It's simply not going to sound perfect because of the type of filming that's taking place. The uncompressed PCM Stereo sounds as good as it can, but lacks the type of engulfing feel you'd get if you actually went and saw the show.
Voices can be heard distinctly and directionality places voices on one side of the stage or the other depending on the location of the speaker. Voices do echo a bit because the actors are on stage, but that's understandable. Because of the stereo presentation the sounds of the audience laughter comes through the same speakers as the dialogue on the stage which is a little disorienting. Usually the laughter would go in the rears especially when the camera is pointed directly at the stage, which in turn would put the audience behind the viewer.
The mix does about as much as someone could expect from a stereo soundtrack. Its clarity and fidelity is right on, but it just doesn't have that oomph that other surround tracks have.
Even for a fan of the original television show, this stage play was a bit too much for me. I enjoyed it for nostalgia reasons, but Herman's routine grows old pretty fast. There are some funnier bits sprinkled throughout the play. Some updated jokes for the Twitter/Facebook generation. A bit of raunchy humor peppered in to make it more adult-friendly. It's innocuous enough, but some people may find it annoying. The audio and video are just about average. It may be worth a look if you have any curiosity about it, or you were at one time (or still are) a Pee-Wee fan.