Avenue Q stretches even Mixed Blood Theater’s long history of stimulating and boundary-pushing works, irreverence and raw language. This is the first time however that the theatre has used puppets for its R-rated musical-comedy.
Based on the book by Jeff Whitty, Avenue Q brings disparate people and puppets together to transcend race, culture, gender, sexual orientation and species. With music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, productions have enjoyed a six-year Broadway run and worldwide tours – and now takes on a new vantage in a run from March 25 through May 1 at Mixed Blood’s historic firehouse theatre, 1501 S. Fourth St., Minneapolis.
Directed by Jack Reuler, assisted by Michael Sommers and Lauren Chapman. Avenue Q is the coming-of-age story of Princeton (Tom Reed), an earnest, optimistic liberal arts college graduate. He ventures to the Big Apple with only his hopes and dreams and gets an apartment on Avenue Q, which is about all he can afford.
And just like in the real world, Princeton and his neighbors struggle to find jobs, dates and their ever-elusive purpose in life.
An ensemble of familiar characters, therapist Christmas Eve (Rose Le Tran), comedian / musician / caterer Brian (Shawn Hamilton), roommates Nicky and Rod (Brian Skellenger and Seth Tucker), Kate Monster and Lucy T. Slut (Bonni Allen) – who deliver the Avenue Q classics, “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist,” “If You Were Gay,” and, of course, “The Internet Is For Porn.”
Building supervisor Gary Coleman, yes, that Gary Coleman (Brittany Bradford) anchors the cast along with Trekkie Monster (Eric Mayson). In this rendition, the multi-talented cast members act, sing, manipulate puppets and play a wide range of instruments.
“An irreverent comedy that brings disparate people and puppets together and catalyzes them to overcome their preconceived notions of one another is a definitive Mixed Blood offering,” said Reuler. “That Avenue Q has had a decade-long commercial track record of success may seem surprising, but has simply cemented my 2002 decision to produce this mildly indecent, wildly hilarious tale of New York’s Alphabet City. Integrating puppetry, music, personal politics, life philosophies, comedy, dance, dramaturgy and acting technique is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s been worth the wait!”
Thanks to producer Kevin McCollum and Broadway director Jason Moore, Mixed Blood is the one of the first theaters to be granted permission to stage its own version of the show, with new puppets, musical arrangements and set. Reuler commissioned original puppets – some naughty, some nice – who capture the audaciousness of the Avenue Q neighbors.
Open Eye Figure Theatre Artistic Director Michael Sommers serves as puppet master. Twin Cities puppet artists Wayne Krefting (creator of Woodland Productions) and Maria McNamara (who worked for the Jim Henson Company for eight years) created the new breed of interspecies puppets, still retaining that special nod (and wink) to the original Sesame Street inspiration.
Avenue Q’s creative team includes scenic designer Tom Barrett, costume designer Renata Shaffer-Gottschalk, lighting designer Karin Olson, props designer Genoveva Castaneda, sound designer Montana Johnson and video/projections designer Hector Roberts. Choreography is by Lauren Chapman and musical direction is by Jason Hansen.
A preview of Avenue Q will be held Thursday, March 24 at 7:30 p.m.; the show opens Friday, March 25 at 7:30 p.m. and continues through Sunday, May 1. Performances are Wednesdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. with 3:00 p.m. matinees on Sundays through April 10, then Tuesdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (no shows on Easter Sunday, April 24) through May 1.
Tickets are $10-$28 (opening night at $15). Groups, senior, student and access prices are offered. Weekday matinees for student and other groups are also available. Tickets are available at 612-338-6131 or online at www.mixedblood.com. Mixed Blood’s production of Avenue Q is sponsored by Magenic.