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Jane Henson Nativity Story airs Christmas Eve on CBS featuring Orlando talent

December 23, 2013
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Jane Henson Nativity Story Christmas CBS orlando

Jane Henson nativity story airs Christmas Eve on CBS with Orlando talent.

Jane Henson, wife of Jim Henson and key collaborator in the creation of his Muppets, passed away in April of this year, but her artistic legacy lives on this Christmas Eve in the form of her final project. Jane Henson's Nativity Story will air on CBS television at 11:35 p.m. on 12/24, featuring puppets she personally designed and narration by Regis Philbin.

The show, a faithful retelling of the Biblical text, has deep local roots; it premiered locally in 2010, was presented at the 2011 Orlando Puppet Festival, and I covered a subsequent mounting at St. John's Lutheran in a 2012 edition of Live Active Cultures. The last time I saw Henson's lovingly sculpted figures of the Holy Family, they were on display at her memorial service.

Henson's nativity play is being brought to a nationwide audience by a team that has many Orlando connections, starting with her daughter Heather (founder of IBEX Puppetry) who co-produces with her sister Cheryl. Pinocchio's Marionette Theatre's Sean Keohane, UCF's Vandy Wood, and kite flyer Curtiss Mitchell also contributed.

Here is the complete press release for the broadcast:

NATIONAL CBS TV CHRISTMAS SPECIAL HAS ORLANDO ROOTS

On behalf of the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City, Paulist

Productions in association with ESM Productions has produced a Christmas

Eve Special for the CBS Television Network: “A New York Christmas to

Remember.” The one hour special of Bible lessons and Christmas carols

stars Regis Philbin and will air nationally on December 24th in the Late

Night with David Letterman slot at 11:35 p.m. EST.

A performance of puppetry vignettes from “The Nativity Story,” conceived

and created by the late Jane Henson, co-creator of the Muppets with her

husband Jim, and co-produced by her daughter Heather Henson, will be

featured as the program's centerpiece. The beautiful puppets in Jane's

moving production were built by the famous Jim Henson Creature Shop in New

York, but the entire show was written and directed by Sean Keohane of

Pinocchio's Marionette Theater in Altamonte Springs. The full version of

the show premiered in 2010 with local Central Florida actors and musicians

at St. James Catholic Cathedral in Downtown Orlando before subsequently

touring to Pinocchio's and St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church of Winter

Park. The show has also been seen at other Orlando-area churches and

schools in performances sponsored by Jane Henson as a gift to the

community.

The television special is the brainchild of both Fr. Eric Andrews, the

head of Paulist Productions, and Cheryl Henson, President of The Jim

Henson Foundation, partly as a tribute to Jane, who passed away in April

of this year. The special was pre-recorded on Thursday, December 5, at St.

Paul the Apostle Church, the mother church of the Paulist Fathers, located

at Columbus Avenue and 60th Street.

The selected puppetry vignettes are narrated by longtime TV host Regis

Philbin, reading from the Gospels, and are directed for television by

puppeteer Amanda Maddock. Stage blocking was created by Sean Keohane and

set design is by Vandy Wood, an associate professor in the theater

department of the University of Central Florida. Live music is provided

by St. Paul's Choir as well as the Fordham Choir and orchestral musicians

from the Julliard School at Lincoln Center. Heather Henson and Curtiss

Mitchell of Orlando perform intricate kite-flying maneuvers inside the church.

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  • Charlene

    Absolutely and positively the most fascinating and beautifully done performance! We have a puppet ministry at our church (Holy Spirit Lutheran Church in Charleston, SC) and we work very hard to perform for our congregation and any/all visitors – but worth each minute! This was a performance that I’d never seen before – the entire thing was so beautifully done – but the puppet/operators were amazing – thank you for it – it’s one of those things that you don’t want to blink – afraid to miss anything! Thank you, thank you~!