The Bad Idea Bears, played by Bill Kusler and Erin Carter, give typically poor advice to “Lucy,” played by Codie Wyatt-Clark, in “Avenue Q,” at the Red Curtain Arts Center in Marysville. (Photo by Larry T. Lisk)

The Bad Idea Bears, played by Bill Kusler and Erin Carter, give typically poor advice to “Lucy,” played by Codie Wyatt-Clark, in “Avenue Q,” at the Red Curtain Arts Center in Marysville. (Photo by Larry T. Lisk)

Sesame Street-esque ‘Avenue Q’ is not suitable for children

Red Curtain in Marysville is performing the Tony Award winning musical from Sept. 7-23.

“Avenue Q” is a play with puppets. With its catchy, seemingly cheery songs, it has something of a Sesame Street vibe.

Underscore the word some.

This play, full of comedy and satire, is geared for an adult audience. There is more than a sprinkling of profanity. Its themes include racism, substance abuse and sexuality.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but one of the characters played in this Red Curtain production by Codie Wyatt-Clark is named Lucy the Slut.

Take a deep breath everyone. If you’re ready to learn a little more about what “Avenue Q” is about here it is: A triple Tony Award winner in 2004 winning best musical, best book of a musical and best original score.

It was written by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx when they were both right out of college with no direction and trying to find their way in life, said Scott Randall, directing the Marysville production.

“They were trying to come up with a show that was original, kind of nostalgic and a little autobiographical,” Randall said.

With a wink and nod toward Sesame Street, the actors, who are holding puppets, are trying to teach life lessons to the audience.

“What these cute little puppets are saying to the audience is bad information — a parallel universe Sesame Street kind of thing,” Randall said.

The cast conducts its songs and dances with big smiles. The idea is that the audience is in on the joke. “They think it’s fun,” he said.

This production took more than just the typical cast rehearsals.

First they had to build the puppets, which are roughly waist high on many of the actors. That required a two-day workshop.

“Some of the main characters, we had to build two to three of the same puppet to help with costume changes,” Randall said.

Of the 13-member cast, only three had any experience with puppets.

One is David Naber, who plays the lead character, Princeton, who has acted in other productions of “Avenue Q.”

Another is Bill Kusler, a kindergarten teacher in the Lake Stevens School District who sometimes uses puppets in his classroom.

Gina Wilhelm, a professional puppeteer who first came to the production as a puppet coach, later was selected to play the role of Kate Monster.

The play’s plot, in a sentence, is that Princeton, who just graduated from college is trying to figure out what to do with his life.

“He has a song called “Purpose,” about his drive and his desire to figure out what he’s supposed to do now,” Randall said.

Students going straight from high school to college and then graduating are like, “Now what?” he said.

“There’s nobody telling me what I need to do next. What do I do?”

Randall, 46, is an Everett High School graduate. He has been directing plays for 25 years, many of which have been Snohomish County productions.

He recently earned his bachelor’s degree from Western Washington University in theater education.

He said those coming to “Avenue Q” shouldn’t look for it to deliver a message, despite its mature themes.

“It’s just fun,” he said. “An evening of entertainment.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

If you go

What: “Avenue Q”

When: Sept. 7-23, with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Red Curtain Arts Center, 9315 State Ave., Suite J, Marysville

Tickets: $18 for adults, $15 for students, students and military personnel

More: 360-322-7402 or www.redcurtainfoundation.org

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