It may have won the 2004 Tony Award for best musical, but Avenue Q is definitely not your mama’s theatre production.
“This is definitely a different kind of show,” says Chris Gray who directs the show. Gray is dean of the arts and communication department at Illinois Central College and is also directing Avenue Q, an adult-humored, Tony Award-winning musical which opens for six performances over two weekends beginning September 26. “This show is not for the faint of heart. While Avenue Q contains hilarious grown-up situations, we feel it is important to present this because it helps explore the depth of how theatre represents all aspects of society,” Gray says.
“The show won the 2004 Tony Award for best musical, so in that sense it is on the same plane as shows such as My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Cats and Phantom of the Opera, all of which won Tony Awards for best musical. And, as an institution of higher learning, part of our mission includes exposing audiences to new, diverse works of art.”
Avenue Q is a departure from traditional shows in that involves actors controlling and interacting with a range of extreme puppet characters. Princeton, one of the puppet characters in the story, is a 23 year old college graduate who majored in English and opens the show by trying to find a place to live. His search brings him to “Avenue Q,” a section of New York with low rent housing.
Cast members, their hometowns and their roles in the ICC production include: Trisha Bagby (Petersburg) as Kate Monster, Ryan Groves (East Peoria) as Princeton, Matthew Henry (East Peoria) as Gary Coleman, Ramsey Hendricks (East Peoria) as Trekkie Monster, Breeann Dawson (East Peoria) as Lucy the Slut/Mrs. ThistleTwat, Seth Hannan (Tremont) as Rod, Victor Griffith (Washington) as Nicky, Arianna Morgan (Peoria) as Christmas Eve, Nathan Apodaca (Brimfield) as Brian, Emilie Dierks (Morton) as Bad Idea Bear and Christopher McHenry (Washington) as Bad Idea Bear/Newcomer/Ricky.
As the story of Avenue Q unfolds, Princeton meets several interesting characters, including Trekkie Monster, a puppet who watches Internet porn in his dwelling other than when he visits a dance club to see Lucy the Slut); Rod, a gay Republican investment banker puppet struggling to come to grips with his own sexual orientation; and Gary Coleman, a real-person character based on the late former child TV star of the same name and dealing with the hand life has dealt him.
The play is a departure from traditional shows typically offered in central Illinois, but Gray said the themes and story of Avenue Q resonates with audiences.
“Avenue Q has a very relatable story about how members of Generation X who grew up in the era of Reaganomics thought they’d have jobs and financial security handed to them,” Gray said. “But when they got out of college, they found that wasn’t the case. This show illustrates those frustrations and struggles from a different aspect.”
Avenue Q was written by Jeff Whitty with music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx. The ICC production is directed by Chris Gray with music direction by Julie Clemens. Performances take place in the ICC Performing Arts Center on the East Peoria campus. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 7:30 pm and Sunday performances start at 2:30 pm.
The show is presented through special arrangements with Music Theatre International.
Tickets cost $9 for the general public and $5 for students and senior citizens. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit ArtsAtICC.com or call the ICC Performing Arts Center box office at (309) 694-5136.
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