A performer who grew up in Kansas City, Kan., is the new voice of Kermit the Frog.
Muppets performer Matt Vogel has been selected to replace Steve Whitmire, who is retiring after 27 years of performing as the beloved green frog, according to Muppets fan site Tough Pigs and the Hollywood Reporter. Whitmire took on the role in 1990 after Muppets creator Jim Henson died.
Vogel’s first official appearance as Kermit will be next week in a video called “Muppets Thought of the Week.”
Vogel could not be reached for comment, but Kansas City puppeteer Paul Mesner said Vogel performed the role of Victor Frankenstein in Paul Mesner Puppets’ “Frankenstein” in 1993.
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“He’s a great guy,” Mesner said of Vogel. “He left Kansas City several months (after ‘Frankenstein’) for New York. I tried to coax him to stay. He was a great performer then and would have been a great asset to our company, but he was determined and focused.”
According to the bio on Vogel’s website, he grew up watching “Sesame Street” and “The Muppet Show.” Henson inspired him to make his own puppets out of T-shirts and tape. In ninth grade, he started acting classes at Kansas City’s Theatre for Young America. He later moved to St. Louis to attend Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts.
After moving to New York, he landed gigs performing as the Coca-Cola polar bear, the Count on “Sesame Street,” and several Muppet characters, including Sgt. Floyd Pepper, Robin the Frog, Lew Zealand, Crazy Harry, Uncle Deadly, Pops, Dr. Julius Strangepork, and Camilla. In 2014, he played Constantine, Number One Criminal and World’s Most Dangerous Frog, in the movie “Muppets Most Wanted.”
Here’s a clip of Vogel as Constantine in an interview with “Muppets Most Wanted” co-star Ricky Gervais:
Vogel’s official Facebook page features photos of the performer with celebrities such as Ricky Gervais, Dave Matthews, Seth Meyers, the Harlem Globetrotters, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson. According to the profile, he lives outside New York City with his wife and five children.
The performer’s new role could be his most high-profile and challenging to date. After all, it’s not easy being green.