AVENUE Q at the Straz Center

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On stage from August 31st to September 25th Avenue Q, an offbeat Broadway musical starring puppets. Now, as you read this, you might think that introducing the kids to live theater is a completely innocent story.

You would be wrong, so very, very wrong.

Avenue Q is in no way The Muppet Show unless Kermit and the gang decided to have lewd talk and Miss Piggie showed off her pig breasts. Think South Park meets Sesame Street, and you get warmer. For now, leave the kids at home and be prepared to laugh out loud with an audience aged 13 and up.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this isn’t for the politically correct group. Written by Robert Lopez, Jeff Marxand Jeff Whitty, the musical is set on a fictional street in New York City, where the characters try to find their way around. New college grad Princeton moves into a shabby apartment on Avenue Q. He soon discovers that this is no ordinary neighborhood. With pop culture references and the use of Gary Coleman von Different strokes Fame as a character, the show targets serious, sensitive adult issues such as unemployment, homelessness and infidelity.

In the musical, for example, accusations of bigotry morph into the catchiest number, Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.

Chelsea hooker stars Gary Coleman, her second time in the role.

She said it’s difficult not to laugh when you look a puppet in the eye when the puppeteer is next to the actor. Since the actors are expected to make direct eye contact with their fellow cast members, intentionally avoiding eye contact with the puppeteer was a challenge.

She said her favorite scene is when she sings with Nicky as “Schadenfreude” – the German word for laughing at the misfortune of others.

“You make fun of yourself and show that it’s okay to be a person that people look down on.”

Chelsea said the show’s overarching theme is not taking life too seriously.

“Take your time, make friends, and everything is temporary, so live your life while you can.”

Fo’i Meleah plays the therapist on Christmas Eve.

“Christmas Eve is very good at ministering to a tough kind of love, which fits very well with the culture it represents and my particular culture. On our show, she’s Filipino,” she said. “She’s a therapist with two master’s degrees, married to Brian, who is an absolute sweetheart, but he’s currently unemployed. This is frustrating for them. She loves her family and friends and can show that in service.”

Fo’i explained that most Asian cultures are not about the words “I love you,” but about acts of service—acts to express love.

Having never worked with puppets before, Fo’i agreed with Chelsea that not making eye contact with the puppeteer was a new experience.

“I always had to remind myself not to look into the actor’s eyes. As an actor you try to connect with the person. I had to remind myself that my interaction is only with the doll.”

Fo’i’s favorite scene is “For Now”.

“It’s such a sweet, complete ending. At this point, Princeton understands that not all of your questions will be answered, and that’s okay. The plenitude of not knowing is more fun than having finite answers. It’s a great message to remind us how young we are adults or adults of whoever is watching the show.”

Chelsea added: “The show in rehearsals was absolutely amazing. We are hilarious. It’s little things that we find in the script and in the show, and we all just feed each other. I think this show is going to be a really good one.”

Find out more and buy tickets from wwww.strazcenter.org/Events/Straz/Shows/2122_Theater/AVENUE-Q

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