Shari & Lamb Chop (2023) [Make Believe Film Festival 2024]

The biography of Shari Lewis is long overdue and a story worth telling. It’s a perfect film for people that grew up watching Shari Lewis and Lambchop during various points of her illustrious career. Whether you’re a boomer, Gen X, or Millennial, the odds are you have seen Lambchop at one point in your life. For me, I used to watch her revival show on PBS in the 1990’s and tuned in regularly. I loved Lambchop despite being a tad too old for the intended target audience, but I didn’t care. The story of Shari Lewis is one filled with a lot of happiness, a lot of promise and of course some terrible sadness that befell her later in her life.

Shari Lewis – like Fred Rogers, Jim Henson, and others – was a dancer, singer, and magician, but was best known as the ventriloquist behind sock puppets Charlie Horse, Hush Puppy and, of course, Lamb Chop. Lisa D’Apolito’s doc charts the life, loves, and career hits and misses of the spunky perfectionist who forever changed the face of children’s television.

Mainly Lisa D’Apolito’s portrait is a respectful look at the birth and creation of a trailblazer who’d entertain kids of all kinds for decades. Using archival interviews with Lewis and talking with her daughters and surviving colleagues, we grab a wonderful sneak peek in to a woman who loved to entertain and most of all loved to lose herself in her characters. Shari is depicted as a woman who spent a lot of her life trying to look for a way to permanently get her voice out to audiences of all kinds, and this took a toll on her. As a young girl who grew up with entertainer parents that encouraged her to stand out and make her voice heard.

She inevitably reached such popularity in the early days of television that she hosted hours of programming alongside her puppets. All that’s missing from the documentary is the development of Lambchop and how Shari built the character to be so simple but so complex. That doesn’t hinder the film though as we garner a deep dive in to Shari’s love for entertaining and how her love for making people smile transformed in to other outlets. This included building on her career as an entertainer beyond puppetry, as well as using her platform to promote education and reading for kids. D’Apolito doesn’t shy away from the sadder aspects of Lewis’ life which includes her troubled marriage, her sad battle with cancer, and her inability to jump start her career as a serious actress.

If you’ve at any point met or loved Shari Lewis and Lambchop and have “The Song That Never Ends” memorized to this day, “Shari & Lambchop” is a wonderful glimpse in to a creative genius like Mrs. Lewis as well as her lasting legacy and influence.

The Make Believe Film Festival screens exclusively in person at the Erickson Theatre, Northwest Film Forum, and the Grand Illusion Cinema from March 21st through the 26th.