Backstage with Avenue Q!
AVENUE Q is Broadway’s smash-hit, 2004 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book. A hilarious show full of heart and humble tunes, AVENUE Q is about to make its debut in Janesville. Called “one of the funniest shows you’re ever likely to see” by Entertainment Weekly, it features a cast of people and puppets who tell the story in a smart, risque and downright entertaining way.
The New Yorker calls it “SUBVERSIVE and UPROARIOUS!” Due to adult situations (like full-puppet nudity), AVENUE Q may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parents should use their discretion based on the maturity level of their children.
Avenue Q is locally produced and directed by Jim Tropp from BowerCity Theatre. Tropp has set the bar sky high since their last successful productions of Jesus Christ Superstar, RENT, The Producers, and White Christmas held at the Janesville Performing Arts Center.
A decidedly adult musical comedy, “Avenue Q” uses puppets to highlight the travails of being 20-something and experiencing the first pitfalls of adulthood. The story unfolds in the style of children’s TV show “Sesame Street,” with catchy jingles and lessons in counting (One nightstand) and vocabulary (“Schadenfreude” means taking pleasure at the misfortune of others.)
The puppeteers are visible alongside their furry counterparts, and it takes a special kind of magic to maintain the whimsical style of the storytelling alongside the grounded-in-reality plot twists.
It’s a timeless story of a recent college grad named PRINCETON who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q. There, he meets KATE (the girl next door), ROD (the Republican), TREKKIE (the internet sexpert), LUCY THE SLUT (need we say more?), and other colorful types who help PRINCETON finally discover his purpose in life!
This production has that magic in spades.
The puppets, designed by Russ Walko, are gosh-darn adorable. The music by Tony winners Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx wears its heart on its sleeve, honing in on the emotional state of young adults: a lack of direction, feeling old at 23. (Sigh.) And because people fundamentally stay the same, the sly humor (that so often hits close to home) remains funny nearly a decade after the show’s debut: “Everybody’s a Little Bit Racist,” “The Internet is for Porn.”
Onstage, actor Tyler Block, with his amazing singing voice and manner make hopeful Princeton a fun and relevant character.
Brad Cartwright plays uptight “Rod” delightfully mimicking his puppets’ expressions, distinct and funny character.
Nicki Doughtry is an overstereotyped stitch as Japan-born Christmas Eve, and unleashes a mighty set of pipes on the very funny “The More You Ruv Someone.”
Tim Rosenthal, crinkling up his face, veers funnily between growly and dopey as Trekkie Monster.
Deshawn Christianson perfectly self-deprecating as a familiar down-on-his- (yes his) luck child actor Gary Coleman, and also whips out a strong singing voice (along with a brilliant smile).
Stacy DeGolier does a superb job and makes a cute-as-a-button Kate Monster, especially when she works up a frowny face.
Candice Griffin plays Mrs. Thistletwat; Kate Monster’s elderly boss at the school at which Kate is a kindergarten teaching asssitant. Dan Houser, makes henpecked Brian less a sad sack, more an everyman Joe.
Rod’s best friend, former college roommate Nicky is played by Caleb Wohlust. He is often referred to as a good-hearted slacker who lives with Rod.
Bad Idea Bears Naomi Houser (girl bear) and Jonathon DeMarko (boy bear) are a duo of adorable but sinister teddy bear-like characters from Avenue Q, who are out to get people to do irresponsible deeds.
Some puppeteers working together as a team to create a single puppet character are Jason Chesnut, (Nicky) and Ruel Mundth (Trekki & Mrs. Thistletwat). In addition to their teamwork they also play the “Newcomer” (Jason) and “Ricky” (Ruel) as they pull the plot of the show together with their characters in the final scenes.
Amber Dalton plays a vixenish but cute night club singer named, Lucy The Slut. Lucy, who – and I’m not really giving anything away here because she’s just what you’d expect – does finally gets her just deserts.”
This show is filled with loving details. The “Sesame Street”-like set, designed by Jim Tropp and painted by Larry Schultz, gets across the idea that this neighborhood is affordable for a fresh-out-of-college kid. It’s a hilarious, feel-good musical performed by a wonderful mix of puppets and humans.
Avenue Q is about real life. It’s about finding a job, losing a job, learning about racism, getting an apartment, getting kicked out of your apartment, being different, falling in love, promiscuity, avoiding commitment, hangovers, Internet porn and discovering the world. A prologue on a television screen introduces us to this little corner of the world (THE AVENUE Q THEME).
Avenue Q Trivia:
Nicky and Rod are a lot like Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie.
Nicky is a parody of the Sesame Street character Ernie. He lives with Rod, just as Bert lives with Ernie. Nicky tells Rod that he should come out of the closet. Angered when Nicky “outs” him at Brian and Christmas Eve’s wedding, Rod kicks Nicky out of their apartment, basically accomplishing Bert’s dream.
Who Created the Musical “Avenue Q”
Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez. Marx and Lopez also did the music and lyrics for “Avenue Q”.
From early readings to the actual show, according to the “Q” book, what character underwent the most dramatic change?
Trekkie Monster. Trekkie was originally a cookie monster-look alike with pointy ears like professor Spock and a Star Trek suit. Then, he changed to a tech freak. Finally, it went to porn.
What is Rod’s only song he sang alone?
My Girlfriend , Who Lives in Canada. Feeling depressed after seeing Brian and Christmas Eve get wed, Nicky talks to Rod while the newly wed couple and Gary Coleman talk. Brian- “Hey, what’s up with Rod?” Gary- “Yeah, he sure is looking down in the dumps lately.” Christmas Eve- “He lonely, he need a girlfriend!” Gary- “A girlfriend? Rod, you gotta be kidding me!” Christmas Eve- “He not so ugly!” Gary- “No, but I always thought Rod was one of those gays!” Christmas Eve- “Rod is gay?” Brian- “I bet Nicky would know! Nicky, get over here!” Nicky- “Sure guys, what’s up?” Christmas Eve- “We wanted to know if Rod is a gay!” Nicky- “It’s funny you should ask because I do think Rod is gay! So yes! I would say that my buddy Rod is a closeted homosexual!” Rod- “Nicky? Well! I am not a closeted, homo-whatever! I have a life that none of you know about, not even you Nicky!” (Then he sings “My Girlfriend, Who Lives in Canada”)
Why is former child actor Gary Coleman featured on Avenue Q?
Coleman is parodied in Avenue Q, as the superintendent of the apartment complex where the musical takes place. In the song, “It Sucks to Be Me”, he laments his fate in real life.
Coleman’s character is a personification of one of Avenue Q’s central themes: that as children we are told we are “special”, but upon entering adulthood we discover that life is not nearly as easy as we have been led to believe. The show’s creators, Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez added that they originally considered asking Coleman himself to play the Gary Coleman role, and he expressed interest in accepting it. However, he never showed up for a meeting scheduled to discuss it.
Where did the idea of “Lucy the Slut” come from?
The character, Lucy, is likely named after Lucy Westenra, a character from the Dracula mythos who is also seductive and vivacious, and is visually based off of Jessica Rabbit, a character from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. She might also be reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe and Anna Nicole Smith.