POSTED ON MARCH 30, 2011:
No Strings Attached
Avenue Q is where Muppets meet the mean streets
Two things learned on Avenue Q: The Internet is for porn, and everyone's a little bit racist.
Those are perhaps a little more raw than the lessons taught on a certain other street inhabited mostly by puppets, but kids gotta grow up sometime, right?
So Avenue Q, best explained, is the place kids who grew up on Sesame Street (though there's no actual affiliation between the two programs) go after college to get hit in the face by real life. It's a coming-of-age tale that, with the exception of its use of felt-and-metal creatures as its primary characters, is more real than any feel-good story ever written.
And it's hitting Tulsa this weekend.
Avenue Q, a Broadway musical conceived by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, will be in town Friday, April 1 and Saturday, April 2, at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. Second St., thanks to local Broadway presenter Celebrity Attractions. But unlike most of Celebrity Attractions' family-friendly productions, this raunchy little number is for adult eyes and ears only.
The tale revolves around Princeton, a bright-eyed college grad who moves to New York City with big dreams and a tiny bank account. The only apartment he can afford is on Avenue Q, where everyone's looking for the same things he is: a decent job, a stable relationship, and a "purpose."
Eventually, Princeton learns to embrace the ups and downs of city life and realizes that "the real world" isn't so bad, but the journey to that realization is a difficult, albeit hilarious, one.
The story is told by puppets that are manipulated by human actors onstage. The actors are in plain sight but all but ignored as the audience hones its attention in on the puppets.
One of the puppeteers, who plays Mrs. T, a kindergarten teacher, half of the Bad Idea Bears duo and others, Kerri Brackin, hails from Oklahoma City. The actress, who has such credits as Hairspray (Amber/Penny, The Goodbye Girl (Lucy), Annie, Charlie Brown (Sally) and Gypsy (June) tucked under her belt, said the difference between those performances and this one is the added element of the puppets.
"One of the important things you wouldn't think of is keeping the puppet alive," she said. "When you're not talking, you can't just stand here with a puppet. You have to keep it moving, keep it breathing."
Many puppets are manipulated by just one person, who also manages that puppet's singing and talking. Others, though, are manipulated by two people, and sometimes the person moving the puppet isn't the one voicing it.
The voices -- they're what else sets Avenue Q apart from other Broadway shows, Brackin said. There's significant emphasis placed on the characters' voices.
"There are very, very distinct, characteristic voices that each one of the characters has," Brackin said. "At least for the puppets in the show, we have to really, really make the voices we do very, very clear."
Brackin's favorite character is the female bear, of the Bad Idea Bears.
"It's my highlight every night," she said. "It's fun, because you don't know the bears exist until you see the show. They're not on the album."
Puppet Mastery. Avenue Q is a coming-of-age tale that, with the exception of its use of felt-and-metal creatures as its primary characters, is more real than any feel-good story ever written.
Brackin said, before she even dreamed of being in the cast of Avenue Q, she fell in love with the show as an audience member, watching it on Broadway and "laughing (her) face off."
"It's really unlike anything else out there," she said.
And while the actress, who's been on tour with Avenue Q since August of 2009, is used to uproarious laughter from East and West Coast audiences, she hopes those in her home state will enjoy it just as well.
"I think 99 percent of people who some see it walk away loving it, even the more conservative audiences," she said. "Really, I think there's something in it for everyone. I think most people who see it end up loving it.
Avenue Q opens at 8pm Friday, April 1 and 2pm and 8pm Saturday, April 2. Tickets are $25-$60 and are available, along with other information, at tulsapac.com.
Also on Stage
•Also this weekend, March 31-April 2 at 8pm and Sunday, April 3 at 2pm, Theatre Pops presents Oklahoma native Tracy Letts' Man from Nebraska, directed by Tim Neller, in the Tulsa PAC's Liddy Doenges Theatre.
In the play, Ken Carpenter, middle-aged, devout Christian, wakes up in the middle of the night to discover he no longer believes in God.
The play asks, and attempts to answer, the questions: "What does a man do when the very foundation of what he has lived for is suddenly gone? Who is he if he is not the man he always thought he was?"
Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and
seniors on the PAC's website.
•This Friday and Saturday, Midwestern Theatre Troupe will present Just Some Good Ol' Boys, which, according to the company, is only loosely based on The Dukes of Hazzard.
The play opens at 8pm both nights at Nightingale Theater, 1416 E. Fourth St. Tickets are $10, and the play is for mature audiences. More information is available at www.nightingaletheater.com.
•April 5-6 at 7:30pm in the PAC's John H. Williams Theatre, Choregus Productions presents Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet.
Founded in 2003 by Walmart heiress Nancy Walton Laurie, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet boasts a corps of 16 dancers and emphasizes acquiring and commissioning new works by some of the world's most sought-after, emerging choreographers.
For its Oklahoma premiere, the company will present "Frame of View" by Didy Veldman and other works from its American and international repertory.
Tickets are $40 and available o the PAC's website.
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