The Residents of Avenue Q Are Moving Onto Barter Stage II
There’s a fine, fine line between the puppets we all grew up watching and the puppets that live on Avenue Q; These puppets are adults.
Avenue Q, the outrageously funny and furry musical that took Broadway by storm, begins at Barter Theatre on June 8. With music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx and Book by Jeff Whitty, Avenue Q took home top honors in 2004 with the Tony Triple Crown: best musical, best score and best book; it was even up against the successful Broadway show Wicked.
How does a show featuring Sesame Street-satire and the familiar felt puppets similar to those of our childhood have such a wide appeal? Director Katy Brown, who recently directed the hit Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps in February of this year, says, “It’s a whole new world—it’s irreverent and it never acts the way we think it’s going to, but somehow, with all its new lessons and twists, it’s familiar, too. Like ‘Sesame Street’ but different…very, very different,” said Brown. "It's laugh out loud funny."
A recent college grad, a fresh-faced puppet named Princeton, sets out to find his purpose in life. There's not much in the way of a career waiting for him after college. After all, as the song says, “What Do You Do With a BA in English?” After looking for a home beginning on Avenue A, Princeton finally finds an affordable abode all the way down on Avenue Q.
He and the other puppets live in a world with humans, too. Everyone interacts like it's just another day on the street. He meets his new landlord, Gary Coleman, yes, that Gary Coleman—not really, but really; played by human Lacretta Nicole—and other "people of fur" including the cute girl-next-door, Kate Monster, the hot night club singer, Lucy, and a whole slew of other characters from Trekkie Monster—no, he and Kate Monster are not related—after all, that would be racist to think all monsters are related—to the happy human couple Christmas Eve (Sean Campos of Cabaret and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast) and Brian (Justin Tyler Lewis, currently playing Warner Huntington, III in Barter’s Legally Blonde: The Musical).
The puppeteers include Jay Reynolds, Jr as Princeton, Hannah Ingram as Kate Monster, Audrey Layne Crocker, Parris Cromer, Abbey C. Elliot, Nick Koesters and Andrew Slane—all of which are also in “Legally Blonde: The Musical” at Barter Main Stage.
"So many of us remember hearing the opening strains of Sesame Street coming from our television sets. It brings to mind feeling very little and very safe," said Brown. "But, like Princeton in this musical, we knew that life after school might not be as easy. I had a similar feeling about life after school. We know we have potential and that we are meant for some great purpose—but what in the world is it going to be? And how do we pay our rent while we figure it out?"
Avenue Q is a funny approach to these questions. “Comedies are not written to say, hey, do things this way,” said Producing Artistic Director Richard Rose. “Any comedy contains massive elements of truth, so they can point out ridiculous behavior. Comedies reinforce the status quo and make fun of the ridiculous things we as humans say and do. That ring of truth is why Barter's audience has already fallen in love with Avenue Q."
Avenue Q, the hilarious Sesame Street for adults plays at Barter Stage II through August 12. Warning: Avenue Q contains puppet nudity and is not for children.
So many of us remember hearing the opening strains of Sesame Street coming from our television sets. It brings to mind a myriad of images- my childhood living room (complete with gold shag carpet), a glass of milk to drink (in a Star Wars cup, obviously), feeling very little and very safe. So many of us grew up with memories in common from television and other pop culture. Just start humming a Schoolhouse Rock tune and see how many people start to join in with you. Start recalling favorite Cosby show episodes and you’ll have adults that barely know each other talking for hours.
In addition to those common memories, so many of us had a similar feeling about life after school. I remember so clearly the first time that I realized that school would end. I was in sixth grade, and the thought had just never occurred to me. It was suddenly visceral to me that the road that I was on would run off the edge of a cliff one day and that I would need to have grown wings by then and know where to fly. The idea frankly scared me to death. What was I going to do with my life? What did people who weren’t in school DO? What in the world was the meaning of my life and what was I going to do with it? So many people I know have had this same thought. As my favorite poet puts it, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Princeton, the puppet hero of Avenue Q, asks this question, too. He’s just graduated from college and feels the way so many of us did then. We know we have potential and that we are meant for some great purpose—but what in the world is it going to be? And how the hell do we pay our rent while we figure out? How is what we learned in school, from television and from our youth going to help us discover our path? It’s a whole new world—it’s irreverent, it’s shocking, and it never acts the way we think it’s going to, but somehow with all its new lessons and twists, it’s familiar, too. Like Sesame Street… but very, very different. Welcome to Avenue Q.
Katy Brown, director