Dreams are not only coming true for the colorful denizens of Avenue Q — the hilarious and surprisingly touching musical by Jeff Whitty, Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx — but also for actor (and 2004 Tony nominee) John Tartaglia, who is realizing his Broadway dream each night on the stage of the Golden Theatre.
The 26-year-old Tartaglia, son of pianist Bob Tartaglia and actress Angie Radosh, actually had two aspirations as a New Jersey youngster: to become a successful puppeteer on television — he's since spent eight seasons on "Sesame Street" — and to perform on Broadway. And, now, the gifted performer is combining both his puppeteering skills and his acting talents in the Tony-nominated musical about life on that New York thoroughfare where actors and puppets blend into a comical delight.
It was as an eight-year-old visiting New York's famed Colony Record store — where he happened upon an LP of music from the inspired, puppet-filled eighties TV series "Fraggle Rock" — that began Tartaglia's puppeteering journey. "I remember watching the series, and I think the love of the show encouraged me into puppetry because I was so fascinated by how things work, and I wanted to do that myself. And, I was also fascinated with the fact that someone could take an inanimate object and make it so real, make it come to life."
Tartaglia himself now brings two characters to glorious life in his Broadway debut, the purpose-searching Princeton, whose arrival in the outer borough neighborhood begins the story; and Rod, the closeted gay Republican who insists he has "a girlfriend who lives in Canada." Although the actor admits as a child he was more like the inhibited Rod, Tartaglia says, "I think at this point in my life I'm definitely much more like Princeton. I'm very optimistic, very open. I'm very 'everything's good in life, and things can only get better,' and for most of the show, that's the way Princeton looks at things." In fact, hope is one of the key messages of the hit musical, which also addresses the subjects of racism, sexual identity, internet porn, schadenfreude and finding one's purpose with hysterical insight. "Of course there's the acceptance issue," explains Tartaglia, "but I think that the main message is to laugh at life and to live it every day, realizing that the worst of your problems are really 'only for now.'"
As for his own future, Tartaglia hopes to have the opportunity to perform without his furry friends. "I love puppetry — it's something that's part of me, and I hope it always will be. It's such a passion, but my acting as myself is something that I'm just as passionate about." But, for now, he's thoroughly enjoying his time on Avenue Q and his arrival on Broadway. "People have been so wonderful. I think that the Broadway community is so supportive of each other. As much as there's obviously competition, you see so much support of each other. You see actors from other shows, and they're waiting for you after the show, saying, 'That was great!' There's a mutual connection because we're all in this together."