Back in 2006, I traveled to New York to see the Tony Award-winning Broadway show Avenue Q. It seemed right up my alley with the combination of puppets and gay themes.
I went backstage and had the experience of interviewing its main star, Howie Michael Smith, who was from Illinois. I was thrilled to hear that, finally ( two years later ) , the show would travel here to Chicago and people would have the opportunity to see it closer to home.
Andrew Graham, the show's musical director, took a moment from his hectic schedule to sit down with Windy City Times and give our readers some knowledge on what a puppeteer has up his sleeve.
Windy City Times: So how exactly did you become involved in this amazing production?
Andrew Graham: Just through knowing people. I have done tours with Seussical, Footloose and Grease.
WCT: In a nutshell, explain the plot of Avenue Q.Read more story below....
AG: It's sort of like 'Sesame Street' for adults. With life lessons through songs such as 'Everyone's a Little Bit Racist' and 'The Internet is for Porn.' People are always surprised when they see it. It is not what they expected.
WCT: I went last night and brought a friend, and it was a completely different experience than what he thought beforehand, also. I grew up with The Muppets so this show really brings me back to childhood in a non-conventional way. Why do you think it resonates so well with audiences?
AG: I think because of the storytelling. People can relate to the issues that come up in the show. The song 'For Now' is an example of that.
WCT: What kind of crowds do you expect?
AG: We do get a different type of crowd. We get a lot of college-aged audiences. It's a good show for people that don't really like musicals. I am always surprised by people's reactions. They do not water down the show for the tour, so I am proud of that.
WCT: Do you have a favorite character?
AG: I love Rod. The Jersey Boys wrote a happy opening note to us and it said, ' See you at Sidetrack, Rod!'
WCT: What has been your biggest challenge, musically or otherwise with the show?
AG: It's a pretty straightforward show, musically. I guess keeping it fresh and making sure the story is told [ is the biggest challenge ] . This is our 11th month on tour, and sometimes it can be difficult to do the same show every night.
WCT: Windy City Media Group has its own podcast and I read that Avenue Q does also. What is that like and how do people sign up for it?
AG: On the Web site www.avenueq.com , people can sign up for it and hear cast members. They can hear the writers talk about their inspiration for writing it. The BMI workshop in New York is where the whole show came out of and where they wrote the songs.
WCT: Besides Chicago, where else can people seek out this musical?
AG: After Chicago, we are going to Seattle, Portland and Denver, among other places. This show actually goes on until May 2009.
WCT: Besides getting to travel, how has the Avenue Q experience changed your life?
AG: You know, this is first show that I have worked with that has been a really big hit. We have literally gotten great reviews in every city. It has been fun to be part of a great show that gets such a huge reaction from the audience.
Avenue Q can be seen at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph, until June 7. For ticket information please contact Broadway in Chicago at 312-902-1400 or online at www.ticketmaster.com .
The past interview, along with this one, can also be found online at www.windycitymediagroup.com .