Sneak Peek by Laurel Humes of Avenue Q: Incline Theatre
Puppets singing to perky tunes with snappy, life-lesson lyrics, living in harmony on the same street. Might remind you of Sesame Street. Except this street is Avenue Q, and the life lessons are definitely adult.
Cincinnati Landmark Productionsâ€™ Avenue Q, directed by Elizabeth A. Harris, opens Feb. 17 at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater, 801 Matson Place, in the Incline District of East Price Hill.
The musical is so evocative of the PBS childrenâ€™s series Sesame Street that liner notes of the original cast recording (Broadway, 2003) carry the disclaimer that it has not been authorized by the Jim Henson Company or Sesame Workshop. Avenue Q is not a satire or parody of Sesame Street, said director Harris, but uses the much-loved childrenâ€™s program as a â€œconduit for the message.â€
â€œThe characters are young adults coming out of childhood wide-eyed, everyone-is-special, Iâ€™m going to change the worldâ€ and bumping into reality, Harris said. â€œIt is a bit of a satire on adult life.â€
There are plenty of plot lines. Princeton is a recent college graduate trying to find a job. With no money, his search for an affordable apartment starts at Avenue A and ends at Avenue Q. His neighbors there include a kindergarten teaching assistant, two roommates who might be gay, and an aspiring comedian and his Japanese fiancÃ©e. The apartment building superintendent is Gary Coleman (remember him?).
â€œThe feel of the show is upbeat, sweet songs with honest lyrics,â€ Harris said. â€œThe style of music makes the topics easier to swallow.â€
The topics including finding a job (â€œWhat Do You Do with a B.A. in English?â€), not finding a job (â€œIt Sucks to Be Meâ€), racism (â€œEveryoneâ€™s a Little Bit Racistâ€), and coming out-or-not (â€œIf You Were Gayâ€).
And nearly all the show is performed by puppets. Each puppet is worn over an actorâ€™s arm, either manipulated by a rod or as a glove, with the actorâ€™s hand. Incline Theater rented the puppets from another theater that had them built for its production of Avenue Q.
â€œThe puppet is the character,â€ Harris said. â€œThe actor is just bringing to life the puppet, which is why the actors are dressed in shades of gray and black. When you first start watching, you see the actor and the puppet. As the show goes on, you start seeing just the puppet.â€
Auditions for Avenue Q were â€œextensive,â€ Harris said, because the cast needed to sing, dance and coordinate with a puppet. â€œSome of the cast had previous experience with puppetry. The others have picked up on it and are having a blast, bringing puppets to life.â€
Harris, who has acted and directed on many local stages, also has puppetry experience. She teaches acting at Northern Kentucky University and is theatre arts director in the preparatory department at UCâ€™s College Conservatory of Music.
â€œI was thrilled to be asked to direct Avenue Q,â€ Harris said. â€œThe show is right up my alley â€“ comedy, satire, the quirky nature of the piece.â€
And why should theatergoers see Avenue Q?
â€œItâ€™s not a big, flashy classical musical. Itâ€™s a small cast and it feels intimate in its storytelling,â€ Harris said. â€œItâ€™s a lot of fun, and truthful in its fun.â€
Avenue Q runs Wednesdays-Sundays Feb. 17-March 6. For tickets, call 513-241-6550 or go to www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com
But artistic director Tim Perrino,