Saturday, June 06, 2009

Bob Baker's Marionette Theater now a Landmark

I was delighted to read in the L.A. Times this week that the Bob Baker Marionette Theater has been granted landmark status by the Los Angeles City Council in a 14-0 vote. Although the theater has been continuously performing marionette shows since the Kennedy Administration, Tim and I hadn't discovered this gem for ourselves until a year-and-a-half ago.

The Bob Baker Marionette Theater. (12/06/2008)
The Bob Baker Marionette Theater. (12/06/2008)

Our first taste of the Bob Baker Marionettes was in December 2007 when we saw a mini show as part of the Disneyland Tour of Downtown Los Angeles we went on with Charles Phoenix. During the Fantasyland section of our tour, we went to the theater to watch a scene from the marionette production of The Nutcracker.

We saw the marionette production of The Nutcracker. (12/09/2007)
We saw the marionette production of The Nutcracker. (12/09/2007)

Afterward, we were privileged to see a private performance and audience Q&A by the legend himself, Bob Baker (who, at age 83, looked far younger than he actually is). Baker's marionette work can be seen in the 1960 film G.I. Blues where Baker perfomed alongside Elvis Presley. Baker's work can also be seen in the 1954 Judy Garland film, A Star is Born, as well as a childhood favorite of mine, Escape From Witch Mountain (1975).

Bob Baker (left) discusses the art of marionette puppeteering. (12/09/2007)
Bob Baker (left) discusses the art of marionette puppeteering. (12/09/2007)

In addition to marionette work, Baker was in charge of the special effects in Bedknobs & Broomsticks (1971), one of Tim's all-time favorite movies. Baker's special effects work can also be seen on the original Bewitched and Star Trek television series.

Inside the Bob Baker Marionette Theater. (12/06/2008)
Inside the Bob Baker Marionette Theater. (12/06/2008)

We enjoyed our experience at the marionette theater so much, that we went back a year later to see the full-length version of The Nutcracker. It was really cool, and totally surreal. It's like being in a time capsule from every decade over the last 50 years.


Bob Baker demonstrates Mr. Bojangles. (12/09/2007)


Admittedly, the theater is not much to look at from the outside. Aside from the unassuming marquis sign, the theater's exterior consists of simple white-painted cinder blocks that belie the richly-colored theater you'll find inside. One of my favorite areas is the hallway leading to the bathroom, where you can see many of Baker's original sketches for marionette designs.

Original marionette sketches line the wall. (12/09/2007)
Original marionette sketches line the wall. (12/09/2007)

For nearly 50 years, this theater has been putting on shows six days a week. So if you ever get a chance to check it out, DO! It's a treasure for both kids and adults alike. And best of all, after every show they serve ice cream in the connecting party room. It's not to be missed.

James & Tim at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater. (12/06/2008)
James & Tim at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater. (12/06/2008)

The Bob Baker Marionette theater is located at 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, CA, 90026. (213) 250-9995. Performances are Tuesday - Friday at 10:30 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. General admission for the show is $15 for adults and children. Reservations recommended.

2 comments:

TIM said...

It's a fun event for kids to attend. All the kids in the audience were amazed by the puppets.

beastandbean said...

OMG, I don't know what's more exciting...reading about this cool-sounding theatre or reading a new blog post from James, period! Yay!! Welcome back to the blogosphere, amigo!

Please give us a heads up next time you head to the theatre...DYING to see Bob Baker and those kick ass marionettes in action!!