Avenue Q Tour Cast Readies for the Road as Musical Goes National

News   Avenue Q Tour Cast Readies for the Road as Musical Goes National
"People still laugh like crazy, and there are a lot of people who haven't seen it," said Avenue Q creator Robert Lopez about the acclaimed musical's upcoming tour.
Kelli Sawyer will star in the national tour of Avenue Q.
Kelli Sawyer will star in the national tour of Avenue Q. Photo by Carol Rosegg

The 2004 Tony Award-winning musical that still plays on Broadway is currently rehearsing a new cast to head out on a tour that launches June 30 from San Diego.

Lopez — who also earned a Tony along with co-creators Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty — added, "I'm really excited that it's getting to tour the country." One of the reasons for the show's continued success is a loyal fan base that he credits to the internet. "There are a lot of these great fan videos to Avenue Q songs" that people — some who may not have traveled to see it yet – have created on their own. "There's over 1,000 of these — sometimes it's just a 15 year-old lip-synching to 'The Internet Is for Porn,' or sometimes it's anime characters like 'Naruto' or 'World or WarCraft.'"

With productions of the show that have already played Off-Broadway, Broadway, Las Vegas and London, Lopez says, "It's time to send it off into the world." He noted there have also been independent stagings done in Sweden, Finland and Manila this summer. "I never thought it would be translated into Finnish — I still have trouble believing that," Lopez quipped.

The tour cast includes a number of Q veterans, including Robert McClure (who takes on Princeton/Rod) and Christian Anderson (as Nicky/Trekkie Monster). McClure explains his and his co-star's juggling of roles: "We both have done Nicky/Trekkie. He did it first, replacing [original star and puppet creator] Rick Lyon. Then [Anderson] went off to do High Fidelity and Rick came back. Then I replaced Rick. Then he replaced me."

McClure, who will now take on the show's other lead male role recalled his first audition for Avenue Q. "I went and had my little pop tune ready to go. There were 500-600 guys, and they all were going in and really outbelting each other, outsinging each other. About five people before I went in, [casting director] Cindy Tolan opened the door and goes, 'I don't know if any of you have seen Avenue Q, but the show is a comedy, so the 'Suddenly Seymour's and the 'Lost in the Wilderness'es need to stop.' So I panicked and went flipping through my book and had the old Cole Porter tune 'De-Lovely' that I do. So I decided to do it as a duet for Nicky and Trekkie Monster. So I did: [Nicky voice] 'The night is young, the skies are clear, and if you'd like to go walking, dear... [Trekkie's guttural belt:] 'IT'S DELIGHTFUL, IT'S DELICIOUS..' And, at first, I couldn't read [Cindy Tolan], but thank God it was the right choice." Anderson — who has previously toured with Rent and The Full Monty — is excited about the chance to get back out onto the road. "I think the most exciting of all is it's a great way to see the country. When I went on tour with Rent, we went to places I never even thought to go. Then on The Full Monty tour, we went to a lot of the same places, but then we went to Japan, so that was really cool."

"It's a new cast of people!" said another Q alum, Angela Ai, about to reprise the role of Christmas Eve. The actress — who understudied on Broadway and appeared in the Las Vegas cast — is most happy to work in a new dynamic. "I worked with Kelli [Sawyer, who plays Kate Monster/Lucy] before and Cole [Porter, who plays Brian] was in the other cast, but it's just fun with a different and new group. I try to play off that energy."

The Columbus native is excited about the stop in her hometown where she has "family, friends, teachers," adding, "and they all better come!" And why did Ai decide to tour? "Aside, from loving this musical," she said, "I wanted to have that experience of touring and exploring the nation in this way. You know... getting paid."

Her fellow puppetless co-star Carla Renata — who takes on the role of Gary Coleman — shares the sentiment. "The fact that you get to travel for free [is great]," said Renata. The newcomer to the Avenue Q family also offered that she has toured before and grew up with a father in the military, so moving around comes easily. "I get to spend six weeks at home with my mom when we're in Baltimore and Washington D.C. and we spend about seven weeks in Los Angeles, where I live, so I get to sleep in my own bed and play with my dog."

The cast also features Cole Porter (Brian), Kelli Sawyer (Kate Monster, Lucy The Slut & others) and Minglie Chen (Mrs. T., Bear & others). Rounding out the ensemble will be Jennie Kwan, Maggie Lakis, Seth Rettberg, Erica Robinson, Danielle Thomas and Cullen R. Titmas.

For a complete line-up of tour stops and more information, visit Avenue Q on the web at www.avenueq.com.

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