Avenue Q is a Broadway musical. It opened off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre in March 2003 (where it won that season's Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical), and it has been on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre since July 31, 2003. It has risqué songs about racism, Internet porn, and the difficulties of life, and all but three characters are portrayed by puppets. It surprisingly won the 2004 Tony Award for Best Musical as well as Tony Awards for Best Score and Best Book of a Musical, defeating the much bigger-scale, front-runner musical of the season, Wicked.
The music and lyrics are by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx. The book is by Jeff Whitty. The original production was directed by Jason Moore and choreographed by Ken Roberson. The puppets were designed and constructed by original cast member Rick Lyon.
The show is largely inspired by (and in the style of) PBS's Sesame Street, with several characters that are recognizably parodies of classic Muppet characters. For example, the roommates Rod and Nicky are clearly adult versions of Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie, and Trekkie Monster seems to be based on Cookie Monster. Likewise, many of Avenue Q's musical numbers are in a style associated with classic Sesame Street songs.
Because of its adult content and "full puppet nudity" (including graphic simulated sex between puppets), Avenue Q may be inappropriate for children 12 years of age and under. Additionally, for this reason, the show specifically disclaims any connection to Sesame Workshop or The Jim Henson Company. However, both Marx and Lyon previously worked for Sesame Street, as have the other puppeteers in the original cast. In an interview with The Times, addressing the question of potential conflicts with Henson, Marx claimed, “during early previews in the States we invited Jim Henson's widow and children and they could see that what we were doing was a homage and love letter to Sesame Street.” 
A second production of Avenue Q opened on September 8, 2005 in the Broadway Theatre, a $40 million, 1,200 seat venue built to house the production at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel/casino. Instead of touring, Avenue Q signed an exclusive deal with Wynn, but due to poor ticket sales and building conflicts, the production closed on May 28, 2006, to be replaced by Spamalot.
A novelty book featuring the book and lyrics is set to come out on November 1, 2006.
The London Production opened on June 28, 2006.
The main character is Princeton (currently puppeteered on Broadway by Howie Michael Smith), who has just graduated from college with a B.A. in English. He moves into an apartment in the only neighborhood he can afford, on Avenue Q, where his superintendent is actor Gary Coleman (Haneefah Wood, one of the three non-puppets). There, he and his neighbors cope with the struggles of real life, learning that you cannot necessarily count on things turning out as you would like.
Full show synopsis
The lights dim and the two television screens flanking the stage illuminate with an animated cartoon of Mr. Sun heading home to Avenue Q, parodying the introduction to Sesame Street as the cast sings the opening theme ("The Avenue Q Theme").
We first meet Princeton, a recent college graduate with the "useless" B.A. degree in English, who still remains optimistic that he will eventually "make a difference to the human race." ("What Do You Do with a BA in English?") Brian (one of the three live characters) comes out of his apartment to talk to Kate Monster as they bemoan their respective situations in life, ten or so years out of college themselves: Brian is jobless with his dreams never realized, and Kate is just the perfect girl for any available guy but is still, for some reason, single. Rod and Nicky, the arguing roommates and best friends, declare that their lives are much worse than Kate's or Brian's because they spend almost every minute together in their very small apartment where everything they do irritates the other. Christmas Eve, Brian's Japanese fiancée (and the second live character), comes outside and explains that she once tried working in a Korean deli and then earned two master's degrees in social work as a therapist but has no clients. According to her, "it sucka-sucka-sucka-suck!" Princeton arrives, looking for a place to live and speaks with Avenue Q's superintendent, none other than Gary Coleman (the third live character), who finally answers the question of whose life sucks more. ("It Sucks to be Me")
Rod is excited to have an afternoon alone to read up on some old Broadway shows without his meddlesome and talkative roommate Nicky there to bother him. His plan is thwarted when Nicky arrives home and recounts an experience on the subway to Rod about a guy that was definitely hitting on him. Rod gets very offended that he would bring this up, but Nicky thinks as roommates it should be an entirely open subject. Rod objects to this heatedly, and Nicky lets him know that if Rod were gay, he'd still like him ("If You Were Gay").
Princeton is struggling to find what to do with his life. The TV monitors explain to him that he needs to find a purpose because that's what everyone has. He finds a lucky penny and decides things are looking up in his search ("Purpose"). Kate comes out of her apartment, and Princeton decides to ask her a burning question, "Are you and Trekkie Monster related?" Kate takes great offense to this, believing Princeton was a little racist in assuming two monsters are automatically related. Princeton calls attention to the fact that Kate is also racist in wanting to build an exclusive school for monsters only. As they discover the fact that everyone tends to be a little racist, Gary Coleman learns that Polack jokes are just as racist as black jokes, Brian learns the correct term for Orientals is Asian-Americans, Christmas Eve declares the ways of the world ("The Jews have all the money and the whites have all the power!"), but it's still hard for everyone to believe Jesus was actually Jewish. ("Everyone's a Little Bit Racist")
Kate gets called up by Mrs. Thistletwat, the kindergarten teacher, who says that she will not be around in the morning due to her having heart replacement surgery and that Kate (her assistant) may teach whatever subject she likes. Kate wants to teach something "relevant" and "modern": the internet! But Trekkie Monster, the porn-loving monster, soon destroys any sort of positive credibility for "this new technology." ("The Internet is for Porn")
Christmas Eve springs the idea that Brian and she are going to marry soon. "Think of it as a surprise," she tells him. Rod has come to Christmas Eve for advice on a "friend." What should he do if he thinks he's gay? Christmas Eve says there's nothing wrong with being gay; he should come out of the closet and embrace it. Rod complicates the matter though when he adds that his "friend" is a Republican. And an investment banker. "Oh. Then he should stay the hell the closet. He good for nothing!" reasons Christmas Eve.
Kate has a feeling Princeton has a crush on her, and when he comes over to deliver a mix tape, she's sure of it. But then she starts reading the songs. What could this mean? Princeton, who was using her bathroom ("You may not wanna go in there for a while...") returns to read the second side of the tape which gives a much clearer signal. Princeton then asks Kate to go out with him to the Around the Clock Café that night. "He does like me!" Kate decides. ("Mix Tape")
Everyone is ready for the show to begin at the Around the Clock. Brian gives the opening act. It may be deemed a little too much information. ("I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today") With a lackluster response, Brian decides to go ahead and introduce the star of "Girls Gone Wild, parts 2, 5, and 7..." Lucy the Slut. Lucy makes everyone feel a little better about themselves. (And she makes Trekkie feel quite a bit of himself.) ("Special") After the set, Kate and Princeton are ready to go home after an enjoyable evening, but the Bad Idea Bears arrive to suggest that they should have some harmless Long Island Iced Tea and play some drinking games. After the first round, Kate says it's her treat for the next round. While Kate is away retrieving the next set of drinks, Lucy, tired from her set, comes and speaks to Princeton, telling him when he's ready for a real woman, she'll be around.
In their drunken state, Kate and Princeton are convinced by the Bad Idea Bears to go home and have sex. Gary Coleman (backed up by the Bad Idea Bears) is called by other tenants to tell Princeton and Kate to stop making love so loudly. Gary refuses. Brian and Christmas Eve are also getting some action on the side. And Trekkie Monster seems to be enjoying himself just fine. ("You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You're Making Love)")
An animated TV short illustrates the differing perspectives of a man and woman through an The Electric Company parody: a silhouetted male head on the left states very clearly, "come" while the silhouetted female head on the right stubbornly insists, "mitment." They repeat this several times until the female takes over and says, "commitment."
Rod cannot sleep, and Nicky snores loudly in the bed next to him. Before Rod can shake him to wake him up, Nicky begins to talk in his sleep... about Rod! Nicky is fantasizing about Rod, and Rod is jubilant because his dreams are finally coming true. Meanwhile, Kate and Princeton lie in bed and explain how happy they are with each other. Princeton gives Kate his lucky penny as a gift to let her know how much she means to him. Kate begins singing the same jubilant chorus as Rod but sadly for Rod, his is only a dream. "Rod, buddy?" Nicky shakes him, "You were talkin' in your sleep." "What? Oh...I thought you were talking in your sleep!" "No, I just came to bed! You were dreamin' is all." "Oh. Right..." "Must've been a nice dream, though." "Yes. Yes it was a nice dream." "Good night Rod!" Disappointment mounting in his voice he wishes Nicky good night. ("Fantasies Come True")
The next morning, Kate wakes to Mrs. Thistletwat's voice on the phone, yelling at her that she missed the morning classes she was supposed to teach. Kate, angered by all this, quits her job. Princeton calls her very brave and asks her to be his girlfriend and to accompany him to Brian and Christmas Eve's wedding.
Everyone is present for Brian and Christmas Eve (who is apparently dressing for Christmas and Independence Day in addition to the wedding), including the rabbi Gary Coleman (he apparently does everything in Avenue Q). Everyone calls over Nicky, wondering if there's any truth to the rumor that Rod is gay. Nicky confirms that without a doubt, Rod is a closeted homosexual; Rod overhears him and is dumbstruck. "I am not...a closeted homo-whatever!" He in fact has a girlfriend no one has ever heard of or seen; he quickly creates a girlfriend named Alberta who lives in Vancouver. ("My Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada") The wedding ends with some awkwardness, especially when Rod throws Nicky out of their apartment.
Princeton gets scared by the two TVs that animatedly transform the word "purpose" into "propose", and it doesn't help when Kate snatches the bride's bouquet from a girl. Scared of commitment, Princeton breaks up with Kate. A disappointed Kate ends the first act with a note of defiance. ("There's a Fine, Fine Line")
At the top of act two, Princeton sits alone in his apartment. After two weeks, he is broke, in debt, unemployed, single, and purposeless. Brian arrives to cheer him up. When that doesn't work, an intervention is set in motion. Christmas Eve, Trekkie Monster, Nicky, and Gary Coleman arrive to take Princeton back outside to enjoy himself. On the way, they meet Lucy the Slut, and Princeton decides to take her home with him ("There is Life Outside Your Apartment"). Kate sees Princeton and Lucy on the way into his apartment: "Is her name purpose?". Angry at Princeton, Kate talks to Christmas Eve, wondering why she can be so angry with Princeton but does not hate him. Christmas Eve explains, in the musical's showstopping ballad, that the reason Kate is angry at Princeton is because she loves him so much ("The More You Ruv Someone"). Kate comes to Princeton's apartment to give him a letter, inviting him to meet her at the top of the Empire State Building. He is in the shower when Kate arrives, so she gives the letter to Lucy, who promptly destroys it.
Nicky has been staying with Brian since he was kicked out, but Christmas Eve can't take having a puppet in the apartment anymore. They throw him out on the street, and Nicky has to beg for money. Gary Coleman sees Nicky's downtrodden state and laughs that he can't help feeling a weird sort of satisfaction from the sight. "Sorry Nicky, human nature!" ("Schadenfreude")
Lucy has abandoned Princeton, who goes out looking for her. Kate, angry that Princeton seems to have stood her up, throws the penny he gave her off the Empire State Building. Yards below, an unsuspecting Lucy being pursued by Princeton gets hit in the head by the falling penny. At the hospital, Kate visits Princeton and they attempt to work out their problems, but Princeton just has not matured; he is not ready for commitment. Nicky and Rod encounter each other, and Nicky tries to apologize, but Rod won't hear of it. He consults with Christmas Eve. "Why don't I have someone who loves me the way I love them?" Christmas Eve tells him everything is going to be okay. Nicky is out on the street, Kate is alone on the balcony, and Princeton sits at Lucy's bedside. All of them ponder what it would be like to go back to happier, easier times. ("I Wish I Could Go Back to College")
Passing Nicky in the street, Princeton has a big revelation: he should be worrying about other people. He's going to raise the money to build Kate's monster school. Nicky realizes too he shouldn't just be begging on the street; he needs to find a way to get back to his apartment. "I know! I'll find Rod a boyfriend!" Together with Gary Coleman, Brian, and Christmas Eve, they raise some money, even going out into the audience for it. ("The Money Song (You Can't Help Helping Yourself)") It's not enough, but there's one more person to hit up: Trekkie. He refuses to help, of course, until he finds out the cause is a monster school. He was not accepted at the simple public school he attended, where normal children pulled his fur and made fun of him. ("School for Monsters") He gives them US$10 million for the project. "Trekkie! Where did you get this kind of money!?" Trekkie answers, "In volatile market, only stable investment...is PORN!" ("The Money Song (Reprise)")
The school is complete, and everyone reveals it for Kate. Christmas Eve and Brian then announce that they are leaving Avenue Q (for a "nicer neighborhood:" Lower East Side)! Brian is becoming a consultant, and Christmas Eve has a single paying client, a high-paying client with a lot of problems. Everyone believes it's Rod, who arrives on the scene with champagne. He finally reveals that he is gay. No surprise. But he's definitely going to lighten up and invite Nicky back in. And that's great, because Nicky has a surprise for him, a boyfriend: Ricky. "Oh, I think I know your type," Nicky states. Meanwhile, the Bad Idea Bears have started scientology. Lucy was saved and only the mean parts of her brain were removed. She's teaching yoga now. Kate cannot believe the monster school is finally a reality and definitely cannot believe it when they tell her Princeton devised the whole project. Princeton asks her for a second chance, and Kate says they'll take it a day at a time. ("There's a Fine, Fine Line (Reprise)")
A fresh face arrives on Avenue Q and asks about the vacant apartment. Princeton realizes his purpose: take everything he's learned, teach naïve, fresh faces like this kid about the ways of the real world, and put everything into a show. "I'm not some fresh-faced kid who doesn't know anything! F*** you!" is the response the fresh faced new arrival gives as he storms off ("What Do You Do With a B.A. in English? (Reprise)").
Princeton moans that he may never find his purpose and the others sober him, saying that it may take a while or he may never find his purpose at all. But they remind him that everything in life is only temporary. ("For Now")
Tony Awards and Nominations
Avenue Q was nominated for 6 Tony Awards for the 2003 Broadway season. Avenue Q took home 3 awards.
List of main characters
List of songs
Other Avenue Q Songs
So far, there are three Avenue Q songs that are not in the actual show itself and one made and cut for the London production.
Las Vegas Production
On September 8th, 2005, a second production of "Avenue Q" opened up at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel and casino in Las Vegas. Steve Wynn saw the show three times on Broadway and immediately bought the exclusive rights to the show when it just won the Tony award for "Best Musical". This made Avenue Q unable to tour, and only available to be produced in Vegas, New York and outside North America (e.g. London, where it opened in June 2006).
From September 2005 to the end of the year, the show stayed in its original Broadway form, with two acts and an intermission, as on Broadway with two different casts classified as the Blue Bear and Yellow Bear Casts.
In Vegas, in a brand new 1,200 seat theater built specially for the show, there were some differences from the Broadway production, including new digital projection screens, a new reprise of "It Sucks To Be Me" for Princeton at the top of Act Two and a newly orchestrated entr'acte, new orchestrations for "Purpose", a trimmed "The Money Song" and a whole new rock arrangement of "There Is Life Outside Your Apartment", as well as a few new jokes more suited to Vegas audiences.
In mid-January 2006, the show was cut to 90 minutes, removing the intermission and trimming 10-15 minutes of material:
The setting of the Vegas version of the show remained, of course, still New York.
Another difference between the Broadway and Vegas productions was that the merchandising in Vegas was far more extensive, including many souvenirs which were not available at all in New York.
Steve Wynn went so far as in dressing twenty cabs in orange fuzz to promote the show. They had "Q" in white letters etched in front.
Though the show was reported to have sold consistently at roughly 65% (of 1,200 seats, 10 performances a week) and to have been profitable, it was announced the Vegas production would close on May 28th, 2006, after only a 9 month run. The actual reason for closing was given as Spamalot, for which Wynn also bought exclusive rights, was originally going to be in a whole new theatre that would intrude on the golf course. The golf course proved to be insanely popular, and so it was decided that the Monty Python musical will move into the Broadway theater, removing Avenue Q.
This releases the Avenue Q producers from their exclusivity agreement, and since Avenue Q is now allowed to tour again, it is presumed that plans for a tour, and/or sit-down productions will be announced shortly.
ORIGINAL LAS VEGAS CASTS:
Yellow Bear Cast:
Jonathan Root: Princeton/Rod
Blue Bear Cast:
John Tartaglia: Princeton/Rod
A third production began performances in June 2006 in London's West End at the Noël Coward Theatre (recently renamed from the Albery Theatre - Avenue Q is its first production) with Cameron Mackintosh at the helm. The show previewed on June 1, 2006 and received its European premiere on 28 June 2006. Avenue Q is currently booking in London until January 27th 2007 It is only the third production of the musical in the world, and the first outside the United States. The production also unveiled a brand new logo for the show (visible on the production's UK website), presumably since the original logo, styled after the New York City Subway system graphics, would have little resonance with a London audience.
The most noticeable change is that Gary Coleman is now played by a male instead of a female.
The next change is during "It Sucks To Be Me", when Christmas Eve sings 'Tried to work in Chinese Restaurant' instead of 'Korean Deli'. There were slight alterations all the way through, for example 'Those stupid Polacks' in 'Everyone's A Little Bit Racist' to 'Those French people are such assholes', which made it more appropriate for an English audience.
Gary's section in 'It Sucks To Be Me' was originally changed in the first few previews. He was referred to as 'that kid who used to be famous who I thought was dead' as it was assumed that a British audience would not be very familiar with Gary Coleman. In subsequent performances, the character's name was changed back to Gary Coleman, the original dialogue of his catchphrase: "Whatchoo talkin' about Willis?" has been reinstated after a trial of "Try havin' people stopping you and saying "I thought you was dead!".
In 'The Internet Is for Porn', instead of being embarrassed about what he did after sending Kate the e-card, Princeton nods his head vigorously with his mouth open. In 'Special', Lucy headlined in The Vatican City instead of Celebration, Florida and London instead of Bangkok.
A few bits of music were cut for example the middle of 'Schadenfreude' (Straight A students getting B's, cutting off Oscar speech etc) and 'Watching A Frat Boy Realize...' was changed to 'Seeing a Drunk Guy realise...' Also the pacing of 'Purpose' is longer slow in the beginning than in the original version. Everyone applauds when Rod comes out of the closet instead of staying silent. The changes mostly come from the full Vegas version of the show.
Avenue Q is a fictional street in a New York City location known only to be "somewhere out in Queens or Brooklyn."
Manhattan has well-known Avenues A, B, C, and D, making up the Alphabet City neighborhood (where Rent takes place; now considered part of the East Village). Some say Avenue Q is the hypothetical extension of that sequence: far from Manhattan, where the rents are actually affordable for recent college graduates.
Alternately, Avenue Q could be in the Midwood and Gravesend area of Brooklyn, where there are also Avenues A, B, C, etc. all the way up to Avenue Z, with a few exceptions. One of the exceptions is Avenue Q; the street between Avenue P and Avenue R is known as Quentin Road, named for the youngest son of President Theodore Roosevelt. The Q subway train, whose symbol used to be a Q in an orange circle resembling the Avenue Q logo, travels through this neighborhood, and the Kings Highway station is almost on Quentin Road.
The authors have stated that Avenue Q, the show's namesake, is fictional and is not related to this or any other particular street.
Events and appearances of Q
On September 30, 2004, the day of the first Bush-Kerry presidential debate, the cast of Avenue Q presented their version, called Avenue Q&A, on a special stage set up in the middle of Times Square. Eighteen television networks covered the event. Rick Lyon puppeteered George W. Bush while Jennifer Barnhart puppeteered John Kerry. Each puppet sang to the other in response to questions from Avenue Q's concerned "residents", and then the whole cast sang to the rain-drenched crowds to "Vote your heart!".
Regis and Kelly puppets hosted the first few minutes of an episode of Live! with Regis and Kelly. Rod and John Tartagalia were "man-on-the-street"-style interviewers on the 2005 CBS broadcast of the Macy's Day Parade.
Rod and John Tartagalia also appeared alongside Michael Arden, Laura Benanti, Rosie O’Donnell, Ben Vereen and other Broadway superstars in a World AIDS Day benefit concert of Pippin held at the Manhattan Theatre on November 29th, 2004. Rod played "The Head".
In November 2005, Avenue Q's website held a "One Night Stand" contest, calling for people to register their puppets and see whose was most worthy to be put next to Rick Lyon's. Eventually, the contest narrowed to ten entrants, and later to three, at which point the worthiest puppet and puppeteer were voted on. Andrew MacDonald Smith and his puppet Maurice Tipo won, and thus, on March 10, 2006, Andrew MacDonald Smith and his puppet Maurice Tipo appeared onstage during a show performance, appearing in a café scene, singing the opening song and curtain call.
The Internet Is for Porn
The Internet is for Porn, a song where Trekkie Monster frustrates Kate's attempt to design a kindergarten lesson plan about the internet by pointing out his favorite use, has established a new life outside the show. Several videos and animations on the internet use characters from other sources to sing on top of the audio track, with one of the most popular being a fan-made flash featuring Hilary Duff and Howard Stern on Albino Blacksheep. Other videos cropped up frequently in early 2006 including one using World of Warcraft characters and another one using various video game characters. There have also been many parodies of The Internet is for Porn by anime/manga characters, including Naruto Uzumaki (Trekkie) and Sakura Haruno (Kate Monster) from the anime Naruto. InuYasha and others have been used as well. Much like that, many fan movies use the song "If You Were Gay" with clips of Gravitation . The song, accompanied by a tiled Cookie Monster image is also in the YTMND Hall of Fame with almost one million views.