Winner of the 2013 Omaha Entertainment and Arts Award for Best Musical!
Winner of the 2013 Omaha Entertainment and Arts Award for Best Actor
- Matthew Uehling
Winner of the 2013 Omaha Entertainment and Arts Award for Best Supporting Actor
- Homero Vela
Conceived by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx
Music and Lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx
Book by Jeff Whitty
August 23 - September 16, 2012
SNAP! Productions, Nebraska’s only tolerance/diversity theatre company, presents the 1st production of its 2012-2013 season, the Omaha Premiere production of AVENUE Q. AVENUE Q is Broadway’s smash-hit, 2004 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book.
A hilarious show full of heart and hummable tunes, AVENUE Q is about trying to make it in NYC with big dreams and a tiny bank account. Called “one of the funniest shows you’re ever likely to see” by Entertainment Weekly, it features a cast of people and puppets who tell the story in a smart, risque and downright entertaining way. The New Yorker calls it “SUBVERSIVE and UPROARIOUS!”
WARNING: Due to adult situations (like full-puppet nudity), AVENUE Q may be inappropriate for children under 13. (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!)
Directed by Daena Schweiger, the musical calls upon seven cast members to sing, act and bring to life the puppets that live on AVENUE Q. SNAP! happily welcomes back to the stage Joe Blackstad, Matthew Uehling, Homero Vela and Rusheaa Smith-Turner, along with Music Director Mitch Fuller, Puppet Master Michal Simpson, Stage Manager Lisa McNeil, Assistant Stage Manager JoAnn Goodhew, Set Designer Shane Staiger, Light Designer Matt DeNoncour, Costume Designer Echelle Childers, and Property Designer Connie Fowler. Debuting on the SNAP! stage will be Samantha Shatley, J.K. Rogers and Kate Simmons. Tom Miller and Martin Magnuson will lend a hand to round out the band.
Buy your tickets now for this quirky musical comedy. AVENUE Q will run from August 23 – September 16, 2012 at 3225 California Street. Curtain times are 8:00 pm, Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 6:00 pm on Sundays. The Sunday, September 16th show will start at 2:00 pm. The theater opens a half hour before curtain time.
Reservations must be made on-line. All tickets are $20.00 for this production.
Published Saturday August 25, 2012
Bawdy ‘Avenue' is highly entertaining
It's the nonverbals that will get you. Faces. Body language. Fluid felt.
In SNAP's production of “Avenue Q,” a best-musical Tony winner that mixes a cast of real people and puppets, it's the little gestures that mean so much in winning over the audience.
At least, that was the case at a packed Thursday preview, which drew gales of laughter at the profane dialogue, sexual antics and adult themes that turn this insightful show about contemporary city life into an R-rated version of Sesame Street.
Both puppet and real-people characters who live on Avenue Q are adjusting to the harsh realities of post-college life: struggling with jobs, sex and dating, and finding out they're not as special as their parents told them. In fact, their limited options are a bit of a bummer.
I had my doubts about whether actors inexperienced at puppetry could pull off such a tall order: acting, singing and moving around the stage while simultaneously making multiple puppets come off as living, breathing characters.
But Matthew Uehling, Homero Vela, Samantha Shatley and Kate Simmons, operating a total of 10 puppets, passed the test easily.
The puppeteers, dressed in black, are fully visual throughout the show. Their facial expressions, which perfectly mirror what the puppet characters are feeling, go a long way toward making up for essentially expressionless puppet faces in such a small, intimate performance space.
Inventive little puppet gestures were equally effective and at times priceless.
Both Vela and Simmons turn the Bad Idea Bears, devilish inner voices that goad the characters into bad behavior, into dependable laugh machines. Voice work from Vela and Uehling is particularly inspired.
Just as good are a nonpuppet trio. Rusheaa Smith-Turner is a scream as sarcastic Gary Coleman, the former sitcom actor who is now the landlord on Avenue Q. Joe Blackstad is jovial slacker Brian, who has trouble finding a job. J.K. Rogers is Christmas Eve, an Asian-American psychologist with a thick accent, stereotypically transposing L's and R's.
Playing with stereotypes is just one way this witty contemporary show (book by Jeff Whitty, music and lyrics by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez) scores, with songs like “If You Were Gay,” “Everyone's a Little Bit Racist” and “The More You Ruv Someone.” Fairly graphic puppet sex is another.
But just when you're laughing hardest, Shatley puts a lump in your throat with an emotional ballad, “A Fine, Fine Line,” that brings insight and poignancy to the table.
A tip of the hat to director Daena Schweiger, puppet teacher Michal Simpson and music director Mitch Fuller for excellent staging, pacing and preparation. Voices blend in some fine harmonies, and recent respiratory illness in the cast was barely apparent (just once, briefly) Thursday.
Schweiger and set designer Shane Staiger also cleverly meet the challenges of the tiny performance space.
They make the impossible not just smooth but highly entertaining. The standing ovation was instant and deserved at final curtain.
Published Thursday August 23, 2012
Ignore the actor behind the puppet
When Daena Schweiger signed on to direct “Avenue Q,” a musical that combines live actors and puppets, she knew she would need extra time.
“The actors on Broadway had four to six months of puppet training,” Schweiger said. “We couldn't cast that early, but I wanted two or three weeks of just getting the music in their heads and the puppets in their hands.”
An added challenge is the tiny SNAP/Shelterbelt Theatre, where the show opens tonight. It's tightly packed with scenery, cast, orchestra and crew. Rehearsals began in June, and production meetings about lighting and scenery started months before that.
Winner of the 2004 best-musical Tony, “Avenue Q” is a sort of R-rated, profane version of Sesame Street. On Avenue Q, recent college grads confront the issues and anxieties of entering adulthood, including racism, finding and keeping a job, sorting out sexuality and love lives — or lack of them.
The show includes 11 puppet characters and three human characters, all played by a cast of seven. Versatility is essential, Schweiger said. Playing multiple characters is one challenge. Singing is another. Operating and interacting with the puppets is a third hurdle.
"An actor's natural instinct is to look at another actor,” she said. “But they have to look at and react off the puppet, not the actor operating the puppet. They interact with felt and fur.”
Although the puppet operators are completely visible in each scene, cast member Homero Vela said the puppet should be the focus. “If you're doing it right, the audience isn't looking at you.”
Cast member Kate Simmons had to learn about two-thirds of the script, since she operates or interacts with every puppet. Sometimes she helps to operate a puppet for which Vela provides the voice.
“She basically has to read my mind onstage,” Vela said. “I try different things every night, and she has to be right there, gesturing with my different interpretations.”
Simmons, who learned puppetry volunteering with children at the Logan, Iowa, Public Library, said translating emotions into something visual for the puppet is the challenge, finding just the right small gesture or body language.
“Operating a puppet is easy to learn, but difficult to master,” she said.