Puppets and perverts on ‘Avenue Q’
The “Avenue Q” cast includes (top row) Steven Lugovsky, Trekkie Monster; Kaela West, Nicky; Don J. Orlando, Rod; Deric Gochenauer, (middle row) Christine Pfenninger, Kate Monster; Bad Idea Girl Bear, Teresa J. Arnold; Matt Scharlau, Bad Idea Boy Bear; (b
Cutting Hall, 150 E. Wood St., Palatine
8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, through June 17
(847) 202-5222, www.cuttinghall.org
Updated: June 5, 2012 6:37PM
Although the puppets look like they could live on Sesame Street, they probably wouldn’t be allowed.
The puppets taking the stage with the help of local company Music On Stage weekends through June 17 at Cutting Hall theater in Palatine already know how to count and they know their ABCs.
But, one of them also turns tricks while another surfs the Internet for porn. Another struggles with his sexuality and two more break each other’s hearts. And the cutest pair in the lot likes to stir up trouble.
These puppets are
adults living on “Avenue
Q,” a musical comedy about a college graduate named Princeton, who gets indoctrinated into life as a grown-up when he moves into an apartment where the neighbors include Kate Monster, the girl next door, Rod, the Republican banker, Trekkie Monster, an Internet porn enthusiast, Lucy the Slut, a master at seducing men, the trouble-making Bad Idea Bears, Gary Coleman, the building superintendent, and others.
The story moves along with adult-themed songs, such as “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” and “I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today.”
In case it’s not clear yet, this puppet show is not for children.
Music On Stage, based in the northwest suburbs, is the perfect group to stage “Avenue Q,” which won three Tony Awards during its six-year Broadway run. Last fall, they put on a more modern and risque version of “Dracula, the Musical.”
But, producer Becky Lugovsky, of Barrington, says it was just good timing.
“Music On Stage was looking for a show to round out its current season just when the rights for ‘Q’ were released,” she said. “We wanted to bring something fresh and new to Cutting Hall. So, we’re thrilled that we get to produce this Chicagoland premiere. Granted, it’s something of a departure from our usual fare, but this bawdy, edgy show has a whole lot of heart and is a great deal of fun.”
It’s not all puppets, though.
The people working the puppets are actors and they are visible on stage with the fuzzy characters on their hands.
Steve Lugovsky, Becky’s husband, manipulates Trekkie Monster. This is the first time he’s worked with a puppet in this way, but he still has his actor’s instincts. He’s making Trekkie Monster the Steve Lugovsky version of the character.
In the Broadway version, he said, the creators made Trekkie out to be a scary pervert, partly to avoid any accusations that Trekkie was just like Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster, only dirty.
“I have tried to make him more childlike than he normally comes across,” Steve said “And, he is a pervert. They really pushed that in the original Broadway show. But, I like him more innocent and cute. .. surfing porn.”
Playing a puppet part requires more than just
figuring out who the monster is and learning your lines. And, it requires more effort than just opening its mouth and moving its arms.
Steve said both actor and puppet have to be perfectly synchronized, otherwise the performance becomes disconcerting to the audience. For example, audience members will be distracted if the actor is looking right while the puppet is looking left.
“It was difficult in the beginning,” he said, “because I wasn’t used to having to duplicate every single action I make with the puppet at the same time.”
Kinks and quirks
Kaela West, who plays Gary Coleman, the late real-life child actor who experienced a few rough patches, such as going broke, is challenged by there being a person and a puppet to speak to.
Gary Coleman, by the way, is not a puppet. But, he’s an important link between characters.
“It’s definitely very strange,” West, of Northbrook, said. “It’s really hard to not look at the person. You’re supposed to look at the puppet.”
But, this is a musical that turns the puppet show on its head, so it’s meant to be full of quirks. Take Gary Coleman being played by a woman, for example.
“I think with a female as the character,” West said, “there’s more humor to it when the character is singing some songs that are meant more for a guy to be singing.”
She added, “I think the show would not be the same without puppets. It’s actually a brilliant idea.”