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VOX Avenue Q

January 14, 2015
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VOX production of Avenue Q promises adult wit, clever cynicism

“I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today!” This would be a startling exclamation to be heard on the WPI campus. A couple of thoughts could come to a passerby’s mind—the first being, “Well, that’s too much information and I didn’t need to know that at all,” or a passerby may even wonder why Brian isn’t wearing underwear today?

The answer to this and other significant life questions can be found at VOX Musical Theatre’s production of Avenue Q by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx. This is a Tony Award–winning musical, a puppetry masterpiece of a coming-of-age story about a college graduate who moves to Avenue Q to discover his life’s purpose. There’s adult wit and clever cynicism, as well as great music, says producer Shannon Healey ’17.

The cast and crew have been on campus since Jan. 4 hanging lights and building the set, practicing their puppeteering and ventriloquist moves. In fact, every movement is being choreographed and comedic timing refined. “It’s been great to be a part of such a challenging production,” says Healey. Tickets for the production are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis at the door. The production is directed by Doug Davis ’15 and Ian Maitland ’15; Morgan Hopeman ’16 is stage manager.

Who: VOX Musical Theater

What: Avenue Q

When: Jan. 15, 16, and 17, at 7 p.m.

Where: Alden Memorial

Cost: Free

Avenue Q is VOX’s C-Term musical; it opens this Thursday in Alden Memorial, and is free and open to all. However, it should be noted that it comes with a kind of parental warning label. The producers put it this way on the Avenue Q website: “Adults love Avenue Q, but they seem a little, er, fuzzy on whether it’s appropriate for kids. We’ll try to clear that up.

The wit is razor-sharp and it’s more than just a little risqué. – producer Shannon Healey

Avenue Q is great for teenagers because it’s about real life. It may not be appropriate for young children because Avenue Q addresses issues like sex, drinking, and surfing the web for porn. It’s hard to say what exact age is right to see Avenue Q—parents should use their discretion based on the maturity level of their children. But we promise you this—if you do bring your teenagers to Avenue Q, they’ll think you’re really cool.”

Healey says that Davis and Maitland proposed Avenue Q. “It’s a show that is laugh-out-loud funny. The wit is razor-sharp and it’s more than just a little risqué,” she says. “The idea to put on Avenue Q evolved at the end of A-Term this past year. C-Term is cold and dark, and seems longer than all the other terms because of Worcester’s bitingly cold winter. So putting on Avenue Q seemed like a good remedy for the winter C-Term blues.”

Avenue Q tells the story of a recent college grad named Princeton, who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q. There, he meets the girl next door. He also encounters Rod, better known as “the Republican,” Trekkie, dubbed “the internet sexpert,” and a girl named “Lucy the slut.” There are other colorful types who help Princeton finally discover his purpose in life.

Learning to operate the puppets, keeping them animated while singing, delivering lines, and moving around the stage has been a challenge for the cast, Healey says. “It’s as if you’re asking them to rub their stomach, pat their head, whistle a tune, and do a backflip at the same time. Sounds like a challenge, right?”

The puppets are rented from Mark Goodney of Auburn, who made the puppets himself when he directed the show a couple years ago for a local theatre.

“I feel it’s a fantastic show with great one-liners and catchy tunes,” says Healey. “Expect the unexpected. It is Avenue Q, after all, so anything can happen!”

“In a show like Avenue Q,” Maitland says, “there are so many facets of the production that having two directors allows us to focus on different areas at the same time. Since Doug and I are so close and have directed together in the past, we have figured out a method of working in tandem that allows us to share our visions for the show while making sure that we put our best work forward simultaneously.”

Maitland, a senior majoring in biotechnical engineering, is from Newfield, Conn. When asked what it’s like to work with big-headed monsters, he says, “Avenue Q provides an interesting set of challenges that is very different from most other productions. Working with puppets requires the actors to learn a whole new method of acting. In addition to the puppets, Avenue Q is challenging because it requires almost unrelenting energy from the actors. Nearly every number is a rip-roaring crowd-pleaser that’s rife with innuendo and absurdity.”

Asked about whether it is appropriate for children, Maitland says, “Avenue Q is also unique in the fact that it manages to deliver adult-themed life lessons in the spirit of the children’s shows. Despite its rather risqué sense of humor and off-color comedic moments, given the material it covers it still manages to be heart-warming and delivers its central message with a finesse that is unmatched.”

– BY DAVID SNEADE