Bush and Kerry (Puppets) Battle on Broadway at Times Square Avenue Q Debate

By Ernio Hernandez
September 30, 2004

A little fall of rain couldn't stop the presidential candidates John Kerry and George W. Bush (or rather legless, felt-skinned facsimiles of them) from debating the issues at a Times Square debate hosted by Broadway's reigning Tony champion Avenue Q.

A New York crowd gathered at Times Square's Duffy Square (at 46th Street and Broadway) just after noon where a dais with two podiums set the stage for the "Avenue Q and A." Broadway's favorite gay Republican, the puppet Rod (as handled by Tony Award nominee John Tartaglia) kicked off the event, mentioning he was still reeling from the Republican National Convention, then professing his love for Vice President Dick Cheney.

Warning Bush (puppet creator Rick Lyon) and Kerry (Jennifer Barnhart) that when their time was up Christmas Eve (Ann Harada) would crash a cymbal, Rod then introduced the candidates who summed up their platforms before questions were taken from "concerned citizens" of Avenue Q.

Avenue Q resident Mrs. Thistletwat (Aymee Garcia) posed a question about the state of marriage, to which Bush responded, closing with "Heterosexuals have done such a wonderful job with marriage, I don't know why we'd let those homosexuals screw it up." Kerry then rebutted, asking the incumbent "Weren't you a cheerleader at Yale?" The Democrat and Republican then went back and forth in song to the show's familiar melody:

Kerry: If you were gay
that'd be okay.
would like you anyway
cause george, you see
if it were me
I would feel free to say
that I was gay
(But I'm not gay)

Bush: But Senator Kerry, you voted against gay marriage.

Kerry: Can't a guy change his mind?
If you were queer,
I wouldn't smear.
Despite the fact that we're…
…in an election year.
But you'd be glad
and run a negative ad,
if I told you today
"Guess what? I'm gay!"
(But I'm not gay.) I'm happy
just being with you…

Bush: Let's talk about Saddam Hussein.

Kerry: So what should it matter to me
what you like to do with Dick?

Bush: You mean Dick Cheney?

Kerry: If you want to!!
If you were gay,
I'd shout "Hooray!"

Bush: I'm not listening!

Kerry: While you sashay...

Bush: Laura!!!

Kerry:...round the office like Beyonce!
You should feel free
to tell the G.O.P.
That instead of Laura Bush
you want some young guy's tush,
then you could proudly say,
I'm sexier than JFK,
and I'm gay!"

Bush: I'm not gay!!!!

Kerry: If you WERE gay.

Avenue Q's Brian (Jordan Gelber) and Kate Monster (Tony nominee Stephanie D'Abruzzo) also asked the candidates for their takes on unemployment and their military service, leading to Bush's rendition of the cut jury duty song "Tear It Up and Throw It Away" in which the President muses on what happened to his draft card and what the Constitution means.

Rod then closed the debate citing that Bombay Dreams and Red Lobster were shortly hosting a vice-presidential debate next. The puppet then launched back into his confusion about whom to vote for. His fellow cast members including Gary Coleman (Natalie Venetia Belcon) and Princeton (Barrett Foa) — then joined by Bush & Kerry for the last verse — reminded him to "Vote Your Heart," singing a new version of the campaign song that also led the show to its Tony victory:

Vote your heart
get off your ass and get a clue.
Vote your heart
and get your friends in the swing states to do so too.
If you hate lies and hypocrisy,
play your part in our democracy!
Vote your heart
if it's the last thing you ever do!
Vote your heart
the entire world is counting on you. Vote your heart
look inside and see what's there.
Vote your heart
deep down you really care. (You really care)
and even if you don't,
you can bet the candidates do.
And we're all counting on you (on Avenue Q!)
And we're all counting on you (on Avenue Q!)
And we're all counting on you (on Avenue Q!)
And we're all counting on you (on Avenue Q!).

The free political dialogue held Sept. 30 at 1 PM (a precursor to the actual debates later this evening) was open to the public and offered free popcorn, cotton candy. A release noted "Any similarity between puppets and actual Presidential candidates is purely coincidental." (To view more photos, click here.)

Avenue Q plays at the Golden Theatre, 252 West 45 Street. For more information on the show and event, visit www.avenueq.com.