YOUth Works cleans up ‘Avenue Q’ - East Valley Tribune: West Valley

YOUth Works cleans up ‘Avenue Q’

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Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 10:45 am

The hit Broadway musical, “Avenue Q,” is considered an adult version and parody of the popular television series “Sesame Street.”

Many of the characters and puppets are spoofs of the children’s TV show and utilize adult situations, themes and language.

But Theater Works’ YOUth Works will perform the Arizona premiere of “Avenue Q: School Edition,” which opens Friday at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts.

Chris Hamby, director of “Avenue Q,” said this version should be considered rated PG-13 rather than R.

“I think the writers did a good job with the changes, just enough that it can now appeal to a young and old audience,” said Hamby. “And I feel like the message comes across even clearer now that some of the crudeness is out.”

Hamby said two songs have been cut for the school edition, along with some language and lyrics.

Marshall Scott, who plays lead puppet Princeton, said “Avenue Q: School Edition” allows younger teenagers to get exposure to the show.

“People can take their teenagers to the show because it’s really all about learning life lessons,” said Scott, an Ironwood High School student.

“Avenue Q” follows puppet Princeton as he graduates from college and moves to Avenue Q to find a job and purpose in life. He encounters many friends on the street similar to the “Sesame Street” characters. Princeton’s new friends are Kate Monster, Trekkie Monster and Rod, a closeted gay Republican.

The musical ran off-Broadway then transferred to Broadway, where it played for six years and won the Tony Award for Best Musical.

In 2009, the show closed and returned off-Broadway, where it continues to run. The musical has had success on several national tours, a Las Vegas production and most recently regional theater premieres.

“We’re really happy that we could premiere the school edition of this show,” Hamby said.

For Hamby, “Avenue Q” combines two of his great passions — puppetry and theater.

Many of the youth actors in the play took an intensive 12-week puppet class with Hamby before auditioning for the show. In addition, “Sesame Street” puppeteer David Stephens taught a workshop at Theater Works.

“Most of our kids had picked up a puppet before even auditioning,” said Hamby. “So they didn’t come into it blind, so they knew what they’re getting themselves into.”

But that didn’t mean it wasn’t a challenge.

“You really have to be in sync with everything, and you get better as you go, learning how to handle the puppet on stage,” Scott said.

Along with the puppets, there are human characters in “Avenue Q.”

Sydnie Gregor,  a freshman at Sandra Day O’Connor High School, portrays Japanese character Christmas Eve.

Gregor said she’s only watched clips of “Avenue Q” on YouTube but knew she wanted to be a part of the show.

“It’s a great musical about taking life one step at time,” Gregor said.

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