Jeff Whitty, who received a Tony for writing the script, was instrumental to the success of the show. (Interestingly, he has another musical in the works featuring Andre 3000 of the hugely popular musical group Outkast.) Speaking to Wynn Las Vegas ‘ Casino Player, the 32-year-old native of Oregon spoke of the genesis of the celebrated show and its unexpected journey into the heart of the Vegas Strip.
What do you think of the New York-Las Vegas Avenue Q advance?
As we transferred from Off-Broadway to Broadway I was just trying to take the attitude of “this will be interesting.” I am excited about the show coming here[ to Wynn Las Vegas] and we got incredible support from the players of both land-based and online casinos. It’s nerve-wracking though, because as far as I can see there is nothing like it in Vegas.
Where did it originate in “Avenue Q?”
We wanted to tell a story about a condition that is not about many shows: the peculiar feeling that your dreams never come true and where do you go from there. The series does have its ridiculous elements, but my intention was to try and make people really care about these puppets right from the very beginning. For me, that is what is the show’s most subversive aspect. People sort of feel bad towards the end for Rod[ one of the lead puppets]. I think it’s a fun credit to the audience that those things that are made of foam can go that distance.
We started trying to do something really daring and experimental on a structural level. And what we learned during a series of workshops with just music stands and puppets was that, as far as the show’s structure is concerned, the audience loved it when we followed the tried and tested forms of traditional Broadway musical. Even though it feels different[ because the lead characters are puppets], the way the story unfolds is very true to Broadway. The minute we found the whole arch to the series, the character who in life is searching for his reason, then all the rest came together. It was like this sort of Christmas tree on which we could hang the ornaments.
Have you made any changes to the show, to suit the audience in Las Vegas?
Anyone who saw Avenue Q in New York probably won’t notice a huge difference, but I’m really excited to see how it’s going to play for me, even when there’s even a little word shift. We gave a whole new ending to Lucy[ one of the lead female puppets], which happened to me six months after the show opened in New York. I just felt like, “Dammit! Why haven’t I thought about it!”The result was perfect. And we are now getting to bring it in.
Interestingly, on stage with the puppets, the puppets are actually seen. We wanted to make the puppets the main characters from the beginning and have the people the supporting cast. I just love it when people in the audience say they cried during Act II. They just can’t believe this bizarre concept drives them. No one is expected to come there. People come to expect the puppets to have sex, which I like. But nowadays I still think the only way you can really touch people is to make them laugh. We are so attuned to feeling today because the society has such a profound irony.