It may have cute puppets and catchy songs, but adults-only musical Avenue Q is about as far from Sesame Street as you can get.
Phoenix Ensemble is pushing the envelope with its latest show, a laugh-out loud crazy comedy featuring humans and puppets. With racy sexual content (including a puppet sex scene) and bad language, Avenue Q: The Musical is not for everyone.
But for adventurous audiences who can deal with crude characters on a journey of self-discovery, director Tracey Hutley promises a night of laughs from the cheeky Broadway favourite.
‘It is a controversial, politically incorrect piece of theatre which has you both in stitches and in shock from the very first moment right to the very end. Fortunately, the cast are incredibly talented and all take on the personas of their characters, so it will be easy to fall in love with each and every one of them.’
The ‘human’ cast includes Phoenix regular Heather Scot as Christmas Eve. ‘I play a feisty, racist Japanese therapist. My accent is shocking and I sing like a strangled cat.’
One of the biggest challenges for Tracey has been bringing the puppets themselves to the stage, which include Princeton, ‘a fresh-faced kid just out of college’; Trekkie Monster ,‘a reclusive creature obsessed with the internet’; Lucy The Slut, ‘a vixenish vamp’; kindergarten teaching assistant Kate Monster; and The Bad Idea Bears.
Construction on the puppets began back in March, with the production team choosing designs, creating prototypes and fine-tuning the mechanics and structure of the puppets to make them stage-friendly.
Tracey says each puppet took 80 hours to make, with a total of 29 puppets (allowing for repairs, costume changes). ‘That’s 2,500 hours of costume making. The unsung heroes of this production are definitely the puppet team working behind the scenes on this one.
‘It has been such a great opportunity to watch these puppets come to life over the rehearsal period and it’s been fascinating to see characteristics of our actors start to come through them.’
Directing humans and puppets has also challenged Tracey as a director in new and unexpected ways.
‘It challenges your ability to ensure that the stage craft is appropriate not only for human interactions, but also takes into consideration the intricate movements required to bring the puppets to life and make their interactions just as meaningful as human actors.’
And it’s not just all shock value: the musical’s underlying theme is about finding purpose in life.
‘The music is also amazing and something that Chad (Casey Chadwick) and Nick (Ng) have really been able to sink their teeth into.
‘Its just a great fun, show. I don’t think there has been a single rehearsal where the entire cast have not ended up in absolute stitches putting the scenes together.’
Tickets are already selling fast and, with a strictly limited season, audiences are encouraged to get in early.
Venue: Pavilion Theatre, Beenleigh Showgrounds, James Street, Beenleigh
7.30pm: 26, 27 October; 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24 November
Tickets: $26 adult; $24 concession
Princeton - Ben Cooper
Kate Monster - Kelly Smith
Rod - Tyler Stevens
Nicky - Steve Norris
Gary Coleman - Kristy Gee
Brian - Jason Lawson
Christmas Eve - Heather Scott
Trekkie Monster - Doug Rumble
Lucy The Slut - Tia Wilke
Bad Idea Bear (Boy) - Luke Hutley
Bad Idea Bear (Girl) - Mary Littlejohn
Ricky (Puppet Double) - Stephen Dorrington