Puppets Take Manhattan as Musical Avenue Q Opens on Broadway, July 31

News   Puppets Take Manhattan as Musical Avenue Q Opens on Broadway, July 31 The first new musical of the season, which began previews July 11, comes straight from Off-Broadway's Vineyard Theatre — where it was lauded by audiences and critics alike, selling out its run and garnering the 2003 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical.

Kate Monster (L) and Stephanie D'Abruzzo in the Broadway production of Avenue Q.
Kate Monster (L) and Stephanie D'Abruzzo in the Broadway production of Avenue Q. (Photo by Carol Rosegg)

Avenue Q — where New York City diversity branches out to include people, computer-savvy monsters, nefarious but cute bears and even harmonious boxes — is set on a fictitious New York City street where puppets and people attempt to find their way in the real world — while singing, dancing and being "a little bit racist."

The comic show, workshopped at the Eugene O'Neill Music Theatre Conference last summer, sends up popular children's television shows such as "Sesame Street" and "The Electric Company," while serving up a bounty of pop culture references and solving the mystery of the whereabouts of former "Diff'rent Strokes" child star Gary Coleman. The production bears the warning: "Full puppet nudity, not suitable for children."

Creators Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, 2000 Ed Kleban Award winners, provide the original concept as well as music and lyrics for the musical, while Jeff Whitty (The Plank Project) handles the book. The Crumple Zone director Jason Moore directs the Broadway run, which features the creations of puppeteer Rick Lyon (whose work has been seen in "Men in Black" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.")

The musical employs three actors who portray human characters and four puppeteers who play more than a dozen puppet characters — in full view of the audience. The Avenue Q cast includes Ann Harada (as Christmas Eve), Jennifer Barnhart (Mrs. Thistletwat, Bad Idea Bear #2 and others), Natalie Venetia Belcon (as Gary Coleman), Jordan Gelber (as Brian), Stephanie D'Abruzzo (Kate Monster, Lucy T. Slut and others), John Tartaglia (Princeton and Rod) and Lyon (Nicky, Trekkie Monster, Bad Idea Bear #1 and others).

Ken Roberson carves out choreography. Stephen Oremus serves as music supervisor. The design team features Anna Louizos (sets), Mirena Rada (costumes), Howell Binkley (lights) and Acme Sound Partners (sound). The bigger Broadway budget has afforded the little show some minor luxuries: two new band members; slightly more sophisticated animations to fill the now widescreen plasma televisions that adorn either side of the Golden's proscenium; scenic detailing; more complex lighting and effects (including fog and a bubble machine); and more puppet costume changes—there are now separate puppets for each outfit, alleviating the complicated backstage puppet traffic.

"Things in the show that already were kind of big theatrical moments have just gotten a little bit bigger," director Moore told Playbill On-Line at a recent technical rehearsal. "But, it was really important to me to keep the charm of what made it work downtown and I think we've been able to do that." (Read more about Avenue Q's Broadway changes in "Uptown Bound: Director Moore Preps Avenue Q for a Broadway Upgrade in Playbill On Line's feature section.)

The production features the songs "Avenue Q Theme," "Opening," "If You Were Gay," "Purpose," "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist," "The Internet Is for Porn," "A Mix Tape," "I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today," "Special," "You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You're Making Love)," "Fantasies Come True," "My Girlfriend, Who Lives in Canada," "There's a Fine, Fine Line," "There Is Life Outside Your Apartment," "The More You Ruv Someone," "Schadenfreude," "I Wish I Could Go Back to College," "The Money Song" And "For Now." A cast album is in the works but no label or release date have been announced.

Broadway performances will play at 8 PM Monday-Saturday and at 2 PM Wednesday and Saturday. For tickets to Avenue Q, call (212) 239-6200 or click here. For more information, visit www.avenueq.com.

(L-R) Princeton, John Tartaglia, Kate Monster, Stephanie D'Abruzzo in the Broadway production of <i>Avenue Q</i>.
(L-R) Princeton, John Tartaglia, Kate Monster, Stephanie D'Abruzzo in the Broadway production of Avenue Q. (Photo by Carol Rosegg)