Bush and Kerry (Puppets) Battle on Broadway at Times Square Avenue Q Debate
By Ernio Hernandez
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
Bush: But Senator Kerry, you voted against gay marriage.
Kerry: Can't a guy change his mind?
Bush: Let's talk about Saddam Hussein.
Kerry: So what should it matter to me
Bush: You mean Dick Cheney?
Kerry: If you want to!!
Bush: I'm not listening!
Kerry: While you sashay...
Kerry:...round the office like Beyonce!
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
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.
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