By Margie Anne Clark
Reflecting on the early days of ‘Sesame Street’ which starred the likes of Bert and Ernie, Kermit the Frog, Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster, ‘Avenue Q’ cast member Ashley Eileen Bucknam who stars in two roles as “Kate Monster” and “Lucy the Slut,” told City Life that audiences are sure to enjoy the show’s unique and risqué format.
“You have to come into the show with an open mind, and by the end of the show you end up really feeling for these puppets,” said Bucknam who was born and raised in South Jersey where passion for the arts took flight at the age of two while growing up along the beaches of the Jersey Shore.
“There are many similarities to the original characters of Sesame Street but there is a lot more to it than a-b-c and one two three. You get involved in their lives and every character is someone you can relate to and have fun with.”
While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, ‘Avenue Q’ has not been authorized or approved in any manner by The Jim Henson Company or Sesame Workshop, which have no responsibility for its content.
In a departure from Sesame Street, the puppeteers of ‘Avenue Q’ take to the stage more in the tradition of a ventriloquist than a muppeteer.
Bucknam and her fellow cast members are fully seen on stage as they provide the voices for their colorful furry, Styrofoam-eyed characters with their lips moving in full sight.
“All of the actors wear black, but as the show progresses they are watching the puppets – it’s like watching the subtitles in a movie,” explains Bucknam of the challenge audience members may have of suspending belief with the actor’s faces and moving lips in full view. “Eventually you get used to it end up watching the puppets.”
As the play opens, ‘Avenue Q’ introduces audiences to a young man named Princeton, a bright eyed, college grad who moves to NYC with big dreams and a tiny bank account. The only apartment he can afford is way out on Avenue Q, where everyone is looking for the same thing he is: a decent job, a stable relationship, and a “purpose.”
“Every show is different because the characters evolve over the course of the tour,” Bucknam said of the show that has been seen in more than 96 cities in the United States and Canada.
Bucknam stars opposite David Colston Corris Princeton, Rod), Michael Liscio, Jr. (Nicky, Trekkie Monster, Bear & Others), Lisa Helmi Johanson (Christmas Eve), Tim Kornblum (Brian), Anita Welch (Gary Coleman) and Kerri Brackin (Mrs. T, Bear & Others). Rounding out the company are ensemble members Ben Hart, Kate Lippstreu, Katie McCreary, and Zach Trimmer. Avenue Q features music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, a book by Jeff Whitty, based on an original concept by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx; and is directed by Jason Moore. Puppet design is by Rick Lyon, with orchestrations by Stephen Oremus, choreography by Ken Roberson, scenic design by Anna Louizos, costume design by Mirena Rada, lighting design by Howell Binkley, and sound design by Lew Mead. Associate director is Evan Ensign and music supervisor is Andrew Graham.
“We’re thrilled and excited to be performing right in the heart of L.A.,” said Bucknam in between performances during her San Francisco stop prior to making her way down to the streets of Hollywood’s storied Tinseltown.
“Everything in life is for now only,” the classically trained actress added borrowing a line from the last song of the show when the characters come to the realization that growing up isn’t so bad at all.
“I hope that LA will love it as much as we do – and you never know what will happen next!”
Tickets to ‘Avenue Q’ may be purchased by visiting www.broadwayla.org or by call 800-982-ARTS (2787). Parental warning, Due to adult situations (like full-puppet nudity), ‘Avenue Q’ may be inappropriate for kids under 13. (Everyone must have a ticket; children under 5 will not be admitted to the theatre).