Avenue Q — Off-Broadway

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Avenue Q — Off-Broadway YouTube video show preview.

What: Avenue Q Show
How Long:
2 hrs., 15 mins..
(1 Intermission)
Average Weekly Schedule:

Avenue Q is a musical in two acts, at the New World Stages conceived by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, who wrote the music and lyrics. The book was written by Jeff Whitty and the show was directed by Jason Moore. It is an "autobiographical and biographical" coming-of-age parable, addressing and satirizing the issues and anxieties associated with entering adulthood. Its characters lament that as children, they were assured by their parents, and by children's television programs such as PBS's Sesame Street, that they were "special" and "could do anything"; but as adults, they have discovered to their surprise and dismay that in the real world their options are not unlimited, and they are no more "special" than anyone else.
Originally conceived as a television series, the show was developed as a stage production at the 2002 National Music Theatre Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut. It was co-produced Off Broadway by The New Group and the Vineyard Theatre, where it opened in March 2003. The production transferred to Broadway in July 2003, where it won three Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and spawned Las Vegas and West End productions, two national tours, and a variety of international productions.
With 2,534 performances, Avenue Q ranks 21st on the list of longest running shows in Broadway history. The show ended its Broadway run on September 13, 2009, and 6 weeks later, reopened in the New World Stages complex on West 50th Street, where it continues to play as an Off Broadway production.

Avenue Q's unique presentation requires substantially more suspension of disbelief by audience members than normal: The 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 actor/puppeteers who are present, unconcealed, onstage, but remain "invisible" relative to the storyline. That is, the puppets and human characters completely ignore the puppeteers, and the audience is expected to do so as well. This can be a challenge, as puppeteering mechanics are at times complex: 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. One puppeteer sometimes voices two or more puppets simultaneously. Conversely, the so-called "live-hands" puppets (see Puppets, below) require two puppeteers – again, in full view of the audience.
The show draws considerable inspiration from Sesame Street, and substantially imitates its format. Marx interned at the program early in his career, and four of the original cast members - John Tartaglia, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Jennifer Barnhart and Rick Lyon - were Sesame Street performers. (D'Abruzzo returned to Sesame Street after leaving Avenue Q.) Three of the puppet characters are direct, recognizable parodies of classic Sesame Street puppets: the 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.)
All of the characters, puppet and human, represent "amalgamations of things and feelings [Marx and Lopez had been) going through personally." The characters are young adults, searching for their "purpose" in life, and facing real-world adult problems with uncertain outcomes, 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 arises from its contrasts with Sesame Street, a metaphor of the contrasts between childhood and adulthood, and between the children's TV world and the real world. The story line 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 characters face real-world problems; they use abundant profanity in dialogue and musical lyrics; there are episodes of "full puppet nudity" (and puppet sex); and many songs and sub-plots address decidedly adult themes, such as racism, pornography, homosexuality, and schadenfreude.
The show also employs a highly unusual plot device: a real-life, present-day celebrity inserted as a character in a fictional situation within the story. Gary Coleman, the juvenile actor who played Arnold Jackson in the 1980s American sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, and later famously sued his parents and business advisers over misappropriation of his assets, is portrayed (by a woman) as an adult, forced to accept a job as a building superintendent in the run-down Avenue Q neighborhood due to his dire financial situation. The show's creators have explained this trope as an illustration of "one of the most important themes in Avenue Q...that life isn't as easy as we've been led to believe...and who better to symbolize the oh-so-special-as-a-kid/but-not-so-special-as-an-adult thing we all faced than Gary Coleman? He's practically the poster child."
Marx and Lopez have also said they originally intended to offer the Gary Coleman role to Coleman himself, and he expressed interest in accepting it. However, he never showed up for a meeting scheduled to discuss it. Coleman later threatened repeatedly to sue Avenue Q producers for their depiction of him, but ultimately did not.
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. Subsequently, producers announced that the Coleman character would not be written out of the show, although some modifications would be made to the character's dialogue.


Act I
"The Avenue Q Theme" – Company
"What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?" – Princeton
"It Sucks to Be Me" – Brian, Kate Monster, Rod, Nicky, Christmas Eve, Gary Coleman, and Princeton
"If You Were Gay" – Nicky and Rod
"Purpose" – Princeton and Company
"Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" – Princeton, Kate, Gary, Brian, and Christmas Eve
"The Internet Is for Porn" – Kate, Trekkie Monster, Brian, Gary Coleman, Rod, and Princeton
"Mix Tape" – Kate and Princeton
"I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today" – Brian
"Special" – Lucy the Slut
"You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You're Makin' Love)" – Gary, The Bad Idea Bears, Princeton, Kate, and Company
"Fantasies Come True" – Rod, Kate, Nicky and Princeton
"My Girlfriend, Who Lives in Canada" – Rod
"There's a Fine, Fine Line" – Kate
Act II
"It Sucks to Be Me (Reprise)"‡ – Princeton (This reprise was added to the Las Vegas version of the show, and subsequently also became part of the Broadway show.)
"There is Life Outside Your Apartment" – Brian, Princeton, Christmas Eve, Gary, Nicky, Trekkie Monster, Lucy, and Company
"The More You Ruv Someone" – Christmas Eve and Kate
"Schadenfreude" – Gary and Nicky
"I Wish I Could Go Back to College" – Kate, Nicky and Princeton
"The Money Song" – Nicky, Princeton, Gary, Brian and Christmas Eve
"School for Monsters" – Trekkie Monster and Company
"The Money Song (Reprise)" – Nicky, Princeton, Gary, Brian and Christmas Eve
"There's a Fine, Fine Line (Reprise)" – Princeton and Kate
"What Do You Do With a B.A. in English? (Reprise)" – Newcomer
"For Now" – Kate, Brian, Gary, Nicky, Rod, Christmas Eve, Trekkie Monster, Lucy, The Bad Idea Bears, Princeton and Company
‡ = Not on original cast recording.

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