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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Avenue Q
Image-AvenueQlogo.png
Avenue Q logo
MusicRobert Lopez
Jeff Marx
LyricsRobert Lopez
Jeff Marx
BookJeff Whitty
Productions2003 Off-Broadway
2003 Broadway
2005 Las Vegas
2006 West End
2007 US / Canada Tour
2009 Australasian Tour
2009 US Tour
2009 Off-Broadway
2011 UK Tour
2012 Paris
2014 UK Tour
2014 Hong Kong
2015 Melbourne
2015 Australian Tour
2017 Lisbon
2018 Johannesburg
2019 UK Tour
AwardsTony Award for Best Musical

Tony Award for Best Book
Tony Award for Best Original Score

Theatre World Awards

Avenue Q is a musical comedy featuring puppets and human actors with music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx and book by Jeff Whitty. The show won Best Musical, Book, and Score at the 2004 Tony Awards. The show was directed by Jason Moore with puppets designed and built by original cast member Rick Lyon[1]. Avenue Q has received many favorable reviews for its approach on topics like racism.

The show first opened in 2003 at the Vineyard Theatre co-produced by the Vineyard Theatre and The New Group. In July of that same year the show moved to the John Golden Theatre on Broadway. Avenue Q would go on to play over 2,500 performances, ranking 24th on the list of longest running shows in Broadway history[2], before moving to New World Stages where it will play its final performance on April 28, 2019[3]. Because of the show’s success on Broadway many international tours have spawned in places like Germany, England, and Hong Kong[4]. While these tours went on, a school friendly script was produced[5]. The rights to the musical were also released.

The principal cast includes 4 puppeteers and 3 human actors. The puppets, Princeton, Kate, Nicky, and others, are played by unconcealed puppeteers alongside costumed human actors. The show’s format is a parody of PBS's Sesame Street.

Background

Avenue Q's cast consists of three human characters and eleven puppet characters who interact as if human, Sesame Street-style. The puppets are animated and voiced by puppeteers who are present, unconcealed, onstage. Puppets and human characters completely ignore the puppeteers. The same puppet may be operated by different puppeteers in different scenes, and the actor voicing the puppet may not be the one animating it. To minimise distraction, the puppeteers wear plain gray clothing in contrast to the human characters' colorful costumes. One puppeteer sometimes voices two or more puppets simultaneously. Conversely, the so-called "live-hands" puppets (see Puppets) require two puppeteers—again, in full view of the audience.

The show draws inspiration from and imitates the format of children's educational television shows Sesame Street and The Muppets. Marx interned at the program early in his career, and all four of the original cast's principal puppeteers—John Tartaglia, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Jennifer Barnhart and Rick Lyon—were Sesame Street performers (D'Abruzzo returned to Sesame Street after leaving Avenue Q[6]). Three of the puppet characters are direct recognizable parodies of Sesame Street puppets: Roommates Rod and Nicky are a riff on Bert and Ernie, while Trekkie Monster bears the distinctive voice and disposition of Cookie Monster, though not his obsession with baked goods. (The production officially disclaims any connection with either Sesame Workshop or The Jim Henson Company.)[7]

All of the characters (puppet and human) are young adults who face real-world adult problems with uncertainty of how they will solve these dilemmas, as opposed to the simplistic problems and invariably happy resolutions faced by characters on children's television programming. Much of the show's ironic humor emerge from its contrasts with Sesame Street, such as illustrating the differences between innocent childhood and the difficult adulthood. The storyline presupposes the existence of "monsters" and talking animals, and human actors sing, dance and interact with puppets, both human and non-human, as if they were sentient beings, in a light-hearted, quasi-fantasy environment. (No attempt is made to explain why seven of the human characters are played by puppets while the other three are played by actual humans.) However, the show includes a considerable amount of profanity in the dialogue as well as including intercourse with puppets. In addition, the show addresses adult themes that are inappropriate for younger children, such as racism, pornography, and schadenfreude.

The show also employs a real-life celebrity as a fictional character within the story. Gary Coleman, the juvenile actor who played Arnold Jackson in the 1980s American sitcom Diff'rent Strokes and later sued his parents and business advisers for stealing his earnings during that time period,[8] is portrayed (by a woman in most productions) as an adult, who happens to be the building superintendent in the run-down Avenue Q neighborhood to earn as much money as possible to keep on living.

Marx and Lopez said that they originally intended to offer the Gary Coleman role to Coleman himself, and he expressed interest in accepting it, but did not show up for a meeting scheduled to discuss it.[9] Coleman later threatened repeatedly to sue Avenue Q producers for their depiction of him, but ultimately did not.[10]

When Coleman died on May 28, 2010, casts of both the Off-Broadway production in New York City and the second national tour in Dallas dedicated that evening's performances to his memory.[11][12] The Coleman character remains in the show with modified dialogue.[13]

Synopsis

The show is set on a fictional street in an "outer-outer borough" of New York City.

Act I

Princeton, a recent college graduate, is anxious to discover his purpose in life; but first, he must find an apartment and a job, with no work experience and an English degree ("What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?"). Beginning his search on Avenue A, he finally finds an affordable apartment on Avenue Q. His new neighbors are Kate Monster, a kindergarten assistant teacher; Rod, an anal-retentive Republican banker; Nicky, Rod's slacker roommate; Brian, an aspiring comedian recently laid off from his day job; Christmas Eve, Brian's Japanese fiancée and a therapist with no clients; Trekkie Monster, a surly recluse who surfs the Internet all day in search of porn; and Gary Coleman, the building superintendent. Debates ensue over whose life sucks the most ("It Sucks to Be Me"), though they do conclude that Coleman's life sucks the most.

Nicky, who is straight, suspects that Rod is gay, and assures Rod it is okay with him if he is; but Rod insists he is not ("If You Were Gay"). Princeton finds a lucky penny and longs to discover his purpose in life ("Purpose"). Kate dreams of starting a "Monstersori" school for young "people of fur". Princeton innocently asks Kate if she and Trekkie are related, since they are both monsters, but Kate angrily pronounces his assumption racist. Princeton, taken aback, counters that Kate's Monstersori School would discriminate against non-monsters. They and the neighbors agree that racism is an adult reality ("Everyone's a Little Bit Racist").

Princeton receives money from his parents and the Bad Idea Bears, two charming troublemakers, convince him to spend it on beer. Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Thistletwat assigns Kate to teach the next morning's kindergarten class, her first solo teaching opportunity. She decides that her lesson will be about the Internet and all its educational attributes, but Trekkie Monster and the neighbors explain another reality of adulthood: Lots of adults—even "normal people"—use it to find pornography ("The Internet is for Porn").

Princeton gives Kate a mixtape. His song selections are puzzling, making her wonder what message he is trying to send, but eventually, she decides that he must like her ("Mixtape"). Sure enough, he invites her on a date to the Around the Clock Café. Brian, the café's MC, does his raunchy stand-up act ("I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today"). He then introduces Lucy the Slut, a skanky chanteuse who wows the guys, especially Princeton, with a seductive cabaret number ("Special"). The Bad Idea Bears suggest that Kate and Princeton order some "harmless" Long Island Iced Teas, and once Kate is totally inebriated, Princeton takes her home to bed.

Kate and Princeton have enthusiastic, high-decibel sex. Gary fields angry calls from other tenants but refuses to intercede ("You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want When You're Makin' Love"). Meanwhile, Rod hears Nicky say, "I love you, Rod," in his sleep, and is jubilant—but eventually realises it was he who was dreaming. Kate and Princeton profess their mutual love, and Princeton gives Kate his lucky penny ("Fantasies Come True").

The next morning, a hung-over Kate oversleeps and misses her teaching assignment. Mrs. Thistletwat berates her, and Kate angrily quits her job before she can be fired. Christmas Eve decides unilaterally that it is time she and Brian were married. At the wedding, Nicky blurts out his suspicion that Rod is gay. Rod, furious, insists he has a girlfriend named Alberta in Vancouver ("My Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada") and tells Nicky he is no longer welcome in their apartment.

When Kate catches Christmas Eve's wedding bouquet, Princeton panics, confesses a fear of commitment, and asks Kate if they can just be friends. Kate retorts that she already has plenty of friends, and breaks off their relationship ("There's a Fine, Fine Line").

Act II

A despondent Princeton has been holed up in his apartment after breaking up with Kate but is coaxed out by the neighbors ("There is Life Outside Your Apartment"). Lucy is looking for a place to crash and seduces the rebounding Princeton. Kate is angry, but Christmas Eve explains that she would not be angry if she were not in love with him ("The More You Ruv Someone"). Kate writes a note to Princeton suggesting that they rendezvous at the Empire State Building and leaves it with Lucy who promptly destroys it. A homeless Nicky laments his fate to Gary who confesses that he is deriving pleasure from Nicky's misfortune ("Schadenfreude").

On the Empire State Building's viewing platform, Kate, thinking that Princeton has stood her up, throws his lucky penny away. A hundred stories below, Lucy, walking by on Fifth Avenue, is knocked unconscious by the penny. Kate and Princeton unsuccessfully try to work out their problems over Lucy's comatose body. Rod is too proud to accept Nicky's repeated apologies, despite clearly missing him, and tearfully consults Christmas Eve. Princeton, Kate, and Nicky dream of returning to happier times ("I Wish I Could Go Back to College").

Princeton gives a still-homeless panhandling Nicky a quarter, and marvels at how fantastic he feels. Since thinking only about himself has gotten him nowhere, he decides to raise money to build Kate's Monstersori School. He solicits everyone, even breaking the fourth wall to shake down the audience, but results are disappointing ("The Money Song"). Then Trekkie Monster, recalling his own traumatic school experiences, donates ten million dollars—and explains to the astonished cast, "In volatile market, only stable investment is porn!" ("School for Monsters/The Money Song (Reprise)").

Kate joyfully opens her new school. Brian lands a consulting job, and Christmas Eve finally has a paying client (Rod), so the newlyweds move to a better neighborhood. Rod finally comes out, to no one's particular surprise, and takes Nicky back in. Nicky finds Rod a boyfriend—Ricky, a muscle-bound hunk who otherwise looks and sounds exactly like Nicky. The Bad Idea Bears discover Scientology. Lucy, recovered from her head injury, becomes a born-again Christian and takes a vow of chastity. Kate and Princeton agree to give their relationship another go ("There's a Fine, Fine Line (Reprise)").

A new college graduate inquires about the vacancy in the building, ("What Do You Do with a B.A. in English (Reprise)") and Princeton has an epiphany: maybe his purpose is to put everything he learned into a Broadway musical. Everybody, especially the new guy, immediately ridicules him. The cast reminds Princeton that, in the real world, many people never find their purpose, but life goes on, and everything—both good and bad—is "only for now." ("For Now").

Characters

Avenue Q castmembers perform a duet with Nicky (left) and Rod for "Broadway on Broadway" in September 2006
Avenue Q castmembers perform a duet with Nicky (left) and Rod for "Broadway on Broadway" in September 2006

Note: These descriptions come from the Characters section in the script.

Puppet characters

  • Princeton: "A fresh-faced kid just out of college."
  • Kate Monster: "A kindergarten teaching assistant, a bit older than Princeton."
  • Nicky: "A bit of a slacker, who lives with Rod."
  • Rod: "A Republican investment banker with a secret."
  • Trekkie Monster: "A reclusive creature obsessed with the Internet."
  • Lucy: "A vixen-ish vamp with a dangerous edge."
  • The Bad Idea Bears: "two snuggly, cute teddy-bear types."
  • Mrs. Thistletwat: "Ancient, Kate's boss."

Humans

  • Brian: "A laid-back guy engaged to Christmas Eve."
  • Christmas Eve: "A therapist who moved here from Japan."
  • Gary Coleman: "Yes, that Gary Coleman. He lives on the Avenue, too. He's the superintendent."[14]

Details

Rod and Nicky are parodies of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street.[15]

Rod

Rod is a blue puppet character in Avenue Q. He was originally played on Broadway by John Tartaglia and then Barrett Foa,[16] and on the West End of London by Jon Robyns.[17] On Broadway, Foa was replaced in 2006 by Howie Michael Smith.[18] Jonathan Root alternated with Tartaglia in the Las Vegas production of the show, and was the understudy for Smith on Broadway until June 18, 2009, when Seth Rettberg (from the first national U.S. tour) took over. Daniel Boys replaced Robyns on the West End in 2007.[19] On tour in the UK the role has been played Adam Pettigrew (2011) and Sam Lupton (2012). On the first national U.S. tour, he was played by Robert McClure,[20] who was later replaced by Seth Rettberg (McClure's understudy during the tour).

Rod is an extremely well-groomed, obsessively clean, and slightly hysterical closeted homosexual. He is secretly in love with his former college roommate and best friend, Nicky, and is an investment banker[21] (in the show, he reveals that he works on Wall Street[22]). He is also a conservative Republican.[21] He is very uptight (Nicky complains about him "ironing his underwear" in "It Sucks to Be Me"). In one of the musical's most popular songs, "If You Were Gay", Nicky, who is straight, encourages him to come out of the closet.

The musical indicates many times that Rod is gay before he comes out, including one of the numbers, "Fantasies Come True," in which we find out he is in love with Nicky, and the scene at Brian and Christmas Eve's wedding, in which Nicky admits he thinks Rod is a closeted homosexual. This causes one of Rod's denial streaks, trying to prove he isn't a "closeted homo-whatever" by talking about his imaginary girlfriend, Alberta, who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada ("My Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada"). After this, he evicts Nicky from the apartment they share. However, at the end of the show, he comes out of the closet and wants Nicky to move back in with him. Nicky had found him a hunky, muscle-bound boyfriend named Ricky, who looks exactly like Nicky.

In 2004, Rod and puppeteer John Tartaglia appeared on the syndicated game show Hollywood Squares.[23] On the afternoon before one of the 2004 U.S. presidential debates, Rod (played by Tartaglia) moderated a mock debate in Times Square between puppet versions of George W. Bush and John Kerry (played by fellow Avenue Q puppeteers Rick Lyon and Jennifer Barnhart).[24]

Whitney Matheson of USA Today described Rod as "New York's most famous (and perhaps only) gay Republican puppet."[25]

Casts

Principal original casts of major productions of Avenue Q:

Character Original Broadway Cast Original London Cast Original Las Vegas Cast First National Tour
Princeton/Rod John Tartaglia Jon Robyns John Tartaglia / Jonathan Root (Alternating) Rob McClure
Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut Stephanie D'Abruzzo Julie Atherton Brynn O'Malley / Kelli Sawyer (Alternating) Kelli Sawyer
Nicky/Trekkie/Bad Idea Bear Rick Lyon Simon Lipkin Rick Lyon / David Benoit (Alternating) Christian Anderson
Gary Coleman Natalie Venetia Belcon Giles Terera Tonya Dixon / Haneefah Wood (Alternating) Carla Renata
Christmas Eve Ann Harada Angela Ai / Natalie Gray (Alternating) Angela Ai
Brian Jordan Gelber Sion Lloyd Nicholas Kohn / Cole Porter (Alternating) Cole Porter
Mrs. T/Bad Idea Bear Jennifer Barnhart Clare Foster Sharon Wheatley / Rita Dolphin (Alternating) Minglie Chen

Musical numbers

Instrumentation

The musical is scored for bass (acoustic and electric), drums/percussion (drum kit, bell tree, bongos, china cymbal, cowbell, egg shaker, finger cymbals, ice bell, mark tree, ratchet, siren whistle, slide whistle, tambourine, temple blocks, triangle, vibraslap, and wood block), guitars (acoustic, electric, and banjo), reeds (Bb clarinet, alto sax, flute), and two electronic keyboards.[26]

Other Avenue Q songs

Nine additional songs were written for Avenue Q or associated promotions, but are not part of the original Broadway production itself.

  • "Tear It Up and Throw It Away": Originally performed early in the first act, between "What Do You Do with a BA in English?" and "If You Were Gay"; Kate is called for jury duty, and Nicky advises her to ignore the summons, pretending it was lost in the mail. ("Your civic duty? Who gives a doody?") Kate tears up the summons and is ticketed for littering. The number was cut during Off-Broadway rehearsals because it had no relevance to the plot, and because, according to Stephanie D'Abruzzo, there was no judicious way to dispose of the paper scraps, which remained onstage throughout Act One.[27] The cut came so late that early promotional materials included references to the song, and its main melody can be heard underscoring dialog in "The Money Song" on the original cast recording. It was included on a CD that accompanied the original souvenir program but not on the cast recording. An original audio clip is available on YouTube.[28]
  • "Time": Originally performed in a sequence where Nicky enjoys his time in the bathroom as Rod begs him to finish up so he can use the bathroom, and becomes increasingly distressed as the song continues. Eventually Rod decides to go use the Starbucks restroom, only for Nicky to hear him and ask to come with him.[29] The song was cut during the development process but was resurrected for a video created for the London production. This video was originally shown on the on-stage video screens during intermission, just prior to the second act curtain; Nicky (Simon Lipkin) sits on the toilet in the theatre's men's room at intermission, singing about all the "chores" he is getting done between acts. Several audience members waiting to use the stall become increasingly annoyed. British comedian Matt Lucas has a cameo role. The song was cut during early previews for unspecified reasons, but remained on the CD that accompanied the souvenir brochure, and was shown at the final West End performance on 30 October 2010. A video can be viewed on YouTube.[30]
  • "Rod's Dilemma": Written for Tony Award voters, this song spoofs Avenue Q's competition for the 2004 Tony for Best Musical, and the entire Tony voting process. In the Rotary Club presidential election, Rod cannot decide whether to vote for the guy he has a crush on (symbolizing The Boy from Oz), a wealthy man (Wicked), or an old friend (Caroline, or Change). The neighbors advise him against voting "for your friends, 'cause they say you should vote for the candidate you think is good." The song was a part of the production's successful Tony Award campaign, called "Q '04 Now! Vote Your Heart!".[31][32] An audio cut is available on YouTube.[33]
  • "It Sucks To Be Me" (Reprise): This song is sung by Princeton immediately after Act Two begins. It was not part of the original show or original cast recording. The song was first added to the Las Vegas production, and subsequently became part of the current off-Broadway show and other unofficial productions.
  • "Only in Vegas": This parody of Las Vegas-style show tunes was written to promote the Las Vegas production. It featured Rick Lyon operating a Steve Wynn puppet, who tells the cast of Avenue Q how happy they will be in Las Vegas. The song was performed on the Regis and Kelly syndicated television show and in some press and media events.
  • "Rod's Christmas": Found on the CD Broadway's Greatest Gifts: Carols for a Cure, Vol. 5: Rod headlines at the "Don't Tell Daddy's Cabaret and Night Club" (a parody of the New York piano bar Don't Tell Mama, which is named for a song from the musical Cabaret). Rod sings that Christmas is the time of year where he can combine his two great loves, "Christmas carols and show tunes."
  • "The Holi-daze": Found on the CD Broadway's Greatest Gifts: Carols for a Cure, Vol. 8. Written by Michael Patrick Walker and Phoebe Kreutz (who both worked on the Broadway and Off-Broadway productions of Avenue Q), the members of the company sing about how they cope with the stresses and problems of the holiday season. The song does not feature any characters from the show but was recorded by several of the original Avenue Q cast and band members, and was sub-titled "Drinkin' Our Way Through The Holidays."
  • "Christmas": "Purpose" with new, festive lyrics. Written by the company of Avenue Q/London for Theatrecares' "West End Christmas" charity event. It is on a special CD, but can also be heard at Jon Robyns's Web site.[34]
  • "How Much Do the People in Your Neighborhood Make?": A parody on the classic Sesame Street song, "Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood", the song was written very early in the show's history, and dropped when the original television show format was abandoned in favor of a stage production.[35]

Puppet development

The Avenue Q puppets, which cost up to $10,000 each, and require up to 120 hours of hand fabrication per character,[1] were designed and built by original cast member Rick Lyon.[36] Lyon's company, Lyon Puppets, continues to build and maintain the puppets used in all North American productions, and several of the international productions, including those from the UK, Australia, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, while supervising the construction of those from the Finnish and Swedish productions. Their unusually sturdy construction, with double-stitching, reinforced seams, steel boning, and custom fake fur and feathers, is necessitated by the rigors of an eight-shows-per-week performance schedule.

Three distinct types of puppets are used in the show:

Rod puppets

Single Rod: Princeton, Kate Monster
Double Rod: Rod, Lucy, The Bad Idea Bears, Newcomer
Rod puppets consist of a head and a torso with two arms, at least one of which is movable for gestures. "Single rod" puppets have one movable arm controlled by one rod, with the other arm "posed" in a permanent gesture or attached to the puppet's torso; both arms are movable on "double rod" puppets, each controlled by a separate rod. The puppeteer controls the puppet's head and mouth with his or her dominant hand, and holds one or both rods in the other hand.[37]

Live-hands puppets

Nicky, Trekkie Monster, Mrs. Thistletwat, Ricky
Live-hands puppets require two puppeteers, each of whom contributes one hand and arm dressed with a long sleeve and glove matching the puppet's costume, which become the arms and hands of the puppet. The speaking puppeteer controls the puppet's left hand, head, and mouth, while the second, silent operator controls the right hand. (Sides are sometimes reversed if the speaking puppeteer is left-handed.) During the show, one puppeteer will sometimes leave to take over another puppet, leaving the live-hands puppet with a single operator and only one functioning hand. In a variation, one or both of the puppet's hands can be attached to its torso to permit operation by a single puppeteer.

Special puppets

Mechanism: The Boxes

Free Hand: Ricky

Unlike other forms of puppetry, mechanized puppets are not directly controlled by the puppeteer's hand. Instead, they are controlled by a concealed trigger that when pulled causes the mouth to open. The motion is similar to a toy grabber. Princeton's cardboard boxes, also used in "Purpose", are examples of such puppets. Free hand puppets do not have rods, mechanisms, or live-hands for their arms. While their head controls are the same as a rod puppet, the hands are moved by physically picking them up and moving them. In the show Ricky is the only one like this because it is intended for use by a left handed puppeteer.

History

Jeff Marx met Robert Lopez at a songwriting class at the BMI Workshop.[38] They became fascinated by puppets after they saw a puppeteer perform one in their class. For a part of the workshop the two decided to make a Muppet movie based on "Hamlet" called Kermit Prince of Denmark. After spending the good part of a year on it, their show won a few awards, but was ultimately turned down by the Henson family. The duo then met Rick Lyon after he performed Kermit in their class and decided to make a new show about puppets making fun of Sesame Street. Rick Lyon created puppets based on the Sesame street muppets such as Princeton the Temp, Trekkie Monster (who at the time had a Star Trek obsession later changed to porn), and Nicky and Paul (Paul was later renamed to Rod and Princeton the Temp was shortened to Princeton).[39] The show was at first made for a variety show format for television. When they presented the show It later was changed to a 3 episode faux variety show gaining most of its original cast before switching to the theatrical production which it is today.[35]

Productions

2003 Off-Broadway

Avenue Q ran Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre for 72 performances from March 19 through May 4, 2003. The musical won the 2003 Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical and Outstanding Sound Design (Brett Jarvis). It was nominated for the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Director (Jason Moore), Outstanding Choreographer (Ken Roberson) and Outstanding Scenic Design (Anna Louizos).[40] It won the 2003–2004 Outer Critics Circle Award, Outstanding Ensemble Performance and Puppet Artistry and the 2004 GLAAD Media Award, Outstanding New York Theater: Broadway and Off-Broadway[41]

2003 Broadway

Avenue Q at the John Golden Theatre on Broadway
Avenue Q at the John Golden Theatre on Broadway

Avenue Q opened on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre on July 31, 2003, following previews from July 10. The production was directed by Jason Moore and choreographed by Ken Roberson, with set design by Anna Louizos, costume design by Mirena Rada, lighting design by Howell Binkley, musical supervision by Stephen Oremus, musical direction by Gary Adler, and puppet design by Rick Lyon. It was produced by Kevin McCollum, Robyn Goodman, and Jeffrey Seller. The show was nominated for six Tony Awards and won three, in the categories of Best Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Original Book.

After 22 previews and 2,534 regular performances, it closed on September 13, 2009.[42] As of June 21, 2009, the production had grossed over $117 million and had returned profits of $23.5 million to its investors.[42] (All of the money collected from the audience during "The Money Song" is donated to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.)

2005 Las Vegas

In September 2005, Avenue Q opened at the Wynn Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas under a production contract that precluded Avenue Q tours in North America during the Las Vegas run. A new 1,200 seat theater was built especially for the show. Variations from the Broadway production included a new reprise of "It Sucks to Be Me" for Princeton at the top of Act Two, some new orchestrations, a trimmed "The Money Song," and a new rock arrangement of "There Is Life Outside Your Apartment," as well as a few jokes written specifically for Las Vegas audiences.

Attendance was well below anticipated levels, due at least in part to the constant turnover of tourists in Las Vegas, which rendered the cultivation of word-of-mouth publicity virtually impossible. In mid-January 2006 the show was cut to 90 minutes and the intermission was removed. Hotel owner Steve Wynn promoted the show heavily, at one point decorating 20 city cabs in orange fuzz and large white "Q" letters. All such efforts were unsuccessful, and the show closed on May 28, 2006 after a nine-month run,[43] terminating the exclusivity agreement and opening the way for national tours.

2006 West End

A Cameron Mackintosh-produced version of Avenue Q premiered in 2006 in the West End at the Noël Coward Theatre (formerly the Albery Theatre). Several adaptive changes were made for British audiences, including portrayal of the Gary Coleman character by a male actor. The production ran 1,179 performances through March 2009, then reopened in June 2009 at the Gielgud Theatre. After a further 327 performances, the show moved in March 2010 to the Wyndham's Theatre,[44][45] where it closed on October 30, 2010 after a five-year run.[46]

2007 US and Canada tour

The first national tour began at the Spreckels Theatre in San Diego, California on June 30, 2007. Broadway director and choreographer Jason Moore and Ken Roberson returned in those roles, as did most other Broadway creative team members. The tour played a total of 721 performances in 22 cities, and closed at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton, Wisconsin on May 10, 2009.[47]

2009 Off-Broadway

After the show closed on Broadway, it reopened in New York at the New World Stages complex on October 9, 2009, where it is still running today.[48] The show is scheduled to play its final performance on May 26, 2019.[3]

2009 US tour

A second national tour opened in Clemson, South Carolina in September 2009 under direction of the same creative team, and closed in Huntsville, Alabama on April 23, 2011.

2009 Australian and New Zealand tours

An Australian production opened in June 2009 at the Comedy Theatre, Melbourne, Victoria, directed by Jonathan Biggins and featuring a local cast, including Michala Banas as Kate/Lucy. The production visited Sydney in August, before touring Canberra (Australian Capital Territory), Perth (Western Australia), Adelaide (South Australia), Brisbane (Queensland), and Auckland in New Zealand, and closed in June 2010. The show won a number of Helpmann Awards, including Best Direction, Best Actress and Best Actor.[49]

2011 and 2012 UK and Ireland tours

The first UK national tour began at the Theatre Royal Bath in February, 2011 and closed at Northampton's Derngate in July.[50]

A second UK tour began in January, 2012 at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, with additional performances in Edinburgh, Cheltenham, Bath, Wolverhampton, Rhyl, Stoke, Swindon, Dublin, Cambridge, Canterbury, Cambridge, Oxford, Leicester, Salford, Glasgow, Coventry, Brighton, Liverpool, Southend, Nottingham, Hull, Southampton, Leeds, Newcastle and Dunstable.[51]

In Ireland, Avenue Q ran from 3–7 April 2012 at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre (formerly known as the Grand Canal Theatre)[52]

2012 Paris

In France, a French-language production of Avenue Q opened on February 7, 2012 at the Bobino theatre in Paris, directed by Dominique Guillo and adapted by Bruno Gaccio, know for his work on the satirical latex puppet show Les Guignols.

For this production, Gary Coleman's character was scrapped following the actor's death and was replaced by Todd Bridges's Willis. It was nominated for "best play" at Globe de Cristal Awards and received critical acclaim. The show closed on May 26, 2012.[53]

2014–2016 UK and Hong Kong tour

Sell A Door Theatre Company launched a British revival of the show in April 2014, which ran for 3 weeks at Greenwich Theatre, followed by a 12-week UK tour.[54] The tour differed from the West End production in that Gary Coleman, as in the Broadway production, was portrayed by a female actress.

In November 2014 the tour transferred to Hong Kong.[4]

Sell A Door presented a UK tour in 2015–2016, starting in April 2015 at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester.[55] and running for 16 months.

The production is returning in January 2019, previewing at the King's Theatre Portsmouth before touring the UK until October.

2015 Melbourne Australia

In 2015, a revival of the musical was staged in Melbourne, Australia, as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. The show ran from March 27 to April 11 at Chapel Off Chapel.[56]

2015 Sydney Australia

Avenue Q ran for 15 shows at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney, Australia beginning in July 2015.[57]

2016 Australian tour

Avenue Q had a limited season at Her Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne in August 2016 produced by Prince Moo Productions and directed by Peter J Snee.[58]

In November 2016, the same production also toured to Perth.

2017 Portugal

The Portuguese production, under the title Avenida Q, opened on February 8, 2017.[59]

2017 Germany

In early 2017, it was announced that Avenue Q would get a German version. It premiered on September 10, 2017 under its original title "Avenue Q", with localized songs.[60]

2018 South Africa

The South African production presented by VR Theatrical and Kosie Smit by arrangement with DALRO, opened in May 2018, at Pieter Toerien's Montecasino Theatre in Johannesburg. The South African production was directed and choreographed by Timothy le Roux, with musical direction by Dawid Boverhoff, and set and puppet designs by Kosie Smit. [61]

Avenue Q: School Edition

Avenue Q: School Edition, a collaboration of the creators of Avenue Q and Music Theatre International, was created to facilitate production of the musical by high school drama departments. Most of the profanity and sexual themes are removed from the script and score, and two songs ("My Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada" and "You Can Be As Loud as the Hell You Want") are removed. "The Internet is For Porn" is replaced with "My Social Life is Online," and Trekkie's obsession with pornography is replaced by an obsession with social networking sites. The characters Mrs. Thistletwat and Lucy the Slut are renamed Mrs. Butz and Lucy, respectively. The scenes involving the Bad Idea Bears are altered to put less emphasis on alcohol. MTI states that these alterations make the musical easier for high schools to perform, while at the same time, maintaining the original intent and integrity of the piece.[5][62]

Avenue Q promotional events

Avenue Q cast performing at Broadway on Broadway with the puppets.
Avenue Q cast performing at Broadway on Broadway with the puppets.

On September 30, 2004, the day of the first Bush–Kerry presidential debate, on a stage set up in Times Square, the cast of Avenue Q presented their version of the debate, called Avenue Q&A, with portrait puppets of Bush and Kerry created by Rick Lyon. Eighteen television networks covered the event. Lyon operated the Bush puppet, while Jennifer Barnhart operated the Kerry puppet. Each puppet sang responses to questions from Avenue Q's concerned residents, and the whole cast sang "Vote Your Heart" (see Other Songs above) to the rain-drenched crowd.[63]

Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa puppets created by Lyon hosted the first few minutes of an episode of Live with Regis and Kelly.[64] In addition, Rod and John Tartaglia did "man on the street"-style interviews on the 2005 NBC broadcast of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.[65] Rod and John also appeared alongside other Broadway stars in a World AIDS Day benefit concert of Pippin held at the Manhattan Center on November 29, 2004; Rod played "The Head."[citation needed]

In another World AIDS Day benefit in 2005, the original cast of Avenue Q and the cast of the Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof presented a 10-minute spoof of both musicals called "Avenue Jew."[66] As a brief prologue, Trekkie Monster poorly plays the Fiddler theme, pauses a moment, shrugs, and then eats the fiddle before running away. Tevye, his wife Golde, his two remaining daughters and the Fiddler, having immigrated to the US, arrive on Avenue Jew, an area inhabited by Jewish versions of the Avenue Q characters. Kate Monster welcomes them and the family expresses disbelief that a puppet is talking to them. Tevye introduces himself and his family and finally realizes that the Fiddler is with them, so he chases him away. Later in the song "The Puppets/The Humans," the humans are fed-up with the puppets upstaging them; Tevye and his family meet Brian and his wife "Hannukah Eve" when Jewish-American Princeton arrives, asking "What do you do with a B.A. in Yiddish?" One of Tevye's daughter's, Shprintze, falls in love with Princeton, but Tevye forbids their union even though he likes Princeton. Princeton only says "I know, I know. If I were a human...". Rod begs the Matchmaker to find him a mate, and the Matchmaker, played by Mrs. Thistletwat, sets Rod up with Lazar Wolf ("I'm a lonely man, Tevye"). Shprintze tells her father that she and Princeton want to be married, and after a very brief interior monologue ("I'll be brief. On the other hand; on the other hand; tradition; ...sure, go ahead!"), Tevye finally consents to Princeton and Shprintze's marriage; they leave the stage to prepare for their wedding, much to Kate's horror - who insults Shprintze as she leaves. Rod and Lazar Wolf also wish to be wed, and ask permission from the Tsar puppet, who forbids a gay marriage. Ben Brantley interrupts, asking who the real Jewish people in the cast are, and the company concludes that "everyone's a little bit Jewish"(highlighting Tricia Paoluccio and Laura Michelle Kelly who aren't Jewish, along with Molly Ephraim who is.) and "in theatre you can be whatever you wish to be" as they celebrate Princeton and Shprintze's wedding.

In November 2005, the Avenue Q website held a "One Night Stand" contest for amateur puppeteers and their puppets. Andrew MacDonald Smith and his puppet Maurice Tipo won, and on March 10, 2006, appeared in the evening performance in the opening song, the café scene, and the curtain call.

In July 2006, several members of Avenue Q performed for the opening ceremonies of the Gay Games in Chicago.

In October 2006, Jonathan Root and Princeton presented the award for Best Young Adult Novel at the Quill Awards.

In November 2006, the London cast appeared on the BBC program Children in Need and performed "It Sucks To Be Me."[67]

In December 2006, the London cast performed on the Royal Variety Performance and performed "It Sucks To Be Me," "For Now," and "Special," in which Lucy The Slut suggested through lyrics and dialogue she was making a pass at Charles, Prince of Wales.

The cast and puppets appeared briefly in the 2007 "This Is New York" tourist ad campaign.

The cast and puppets took to the stage at Trafalgar Square on 4 July 2009 as part of the "London Pride 2009" celebration, performing "If You Were Gay", "Special" and "For Now" with 'Lucy The Slut' assuring all the ladies in the audience that she is bisexual.

Cast members appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on August 13, 2009 to promote the last month of shows, performing "The Internet is for Porn" for the first time on national television.

As a response to the Muppets' Bohemian Rhapsody video, Avenue Q created a video called We Will Rock Q. Released on YouTube on May 4, 2010, it features the Off-Broadway cast performing covers of the Queen songs "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions".[68]

The cast appeared on the Today Show in 2018 to promote the show's 15th year.

Original Broadway cast recording

The original cast recording was made on August 10, 2003, at Right Track Studio A in New York City, produced by Grammy Award winner Jay David Saks for RCA Victor. The album contains almost all of the music from the show, with the original Broadway cast and orchestra. Released on October 6, 2003, it has been in the top ten of the Billboard Top Cast Album Chart since the chart's launch on January 12, 2006.[69] It was nominated for the Musical Show Album category in the 2004 Grammy Awards.[70] According to Playbill, it was likely the first cast recording to use a Parental Advisory label.[71]

An Original Madrid Cast Album was recorded live at Teatro Nuevo Apolo on October 9, 2010 and released on November, 2010.

A German cast album was released on April 21, 2013.

Critical reception

Avenue Q received near unanimous favorable reviews, both nationally and internationally.

New York Times theatre critic Ben Brantley called it a "...savvy, sassy and eminently likable...breakthrough musical", and compared its potential long-term influence to West Side Story and The King and I.[72] The New Yorker described it as "...an ingenious combination of 'The Real World' and Sesame Street".[73] The Times described it as "...how Friends might be if it had Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy arguing about their one-night stand, but with more angst, expletives and full-on puppet sex."[74]

Avenue Q made Entertainment Weekly's 2010 end-of-the-decade "best-of" list: "This 2003 smash musical is Sesame Street for grown-ups, with filthy-minded puppets who teach useful lessons like 'The Internet Is for Porn.' Somewhere, Big Bird is molting."[75]

Awards and nominations

Original Broadway production
Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2003 Drama Desk Award[76] Outstanding Musical Nominated
Outstanding Book of a Musical Jeff Whitty Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Stephanie D'Abruzzo Nominated
Outstanding Lyrics Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx Nominated
Outstanding Music Nominated
2004 Tony Award[77] Best Musical Won
Best Book of a Musical Jeff Whitty Won
Best Original Score Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx Won
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical John Tartaglia Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Stephanie D'Abruzzo Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Jason Moore Nominated
Theatre World Award Stephanie D'Abruzzo Won
John Tartaglia Won
2005 Grammy Award[78] Best Musical Show Album Nominated
Original London production
Year Award Ceremony Category Result
2007 Laurence Olivier Award[79] Best New Musical Nominated
2007 Whatsonstage.com Awards[80] Best New Musical Nominated
Best Ensemble Performance Won

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External links

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