Archive for Sunday, September 4, 2005

Tony-winning ‘Avenue Q’ prepares to debut in Las Vegas

September 4, 2005


— Playwright Jeff Whitty was leery when he learned his Broadway hit, "Avenue Q," would bypass a national tour and head west to the Wynn Las Vegas megaresort.

The boyish-looking Whitty, who wrote the book for the Tony Award-winning musical, thought that he would be asked to slash the approximately two-hour production.

Such a distasteful task would make any writer grimace, including Whitty, who had taken great care to craft his sophisticated albeit naughty story.

But billionaire casino developer Steve Wynn, the man behind bringing the people-and-puppet show to his $2.7 billion hotel-casino, had something else in mind.

Instead of making it conform to the Las Vegas model that calls for bigger, grander and shorter, he built a $50 million, 1,200-seat theater for "Avenue Q" and never suggested the slightest change or alteration.

"The fact that we didn't have to cut it down to 90 minutes was such a blessing," Whitty says. "The fact that he wanted it as is erased all my suspicions that we were going to Vegasize it."

Audiences that relished their "Avenue Q" experience in New York, will find much of the same when the show officially opens Thursday in Las Vegas, Whitty and director Jason Moore say.

People will encounter that familiar, rundown New York City block and those puckish puppets: Trekkie Monster (he enjoys Internet porn), a very gay Rod (who prefers a discreet man) and Lucy The Slut (her name says it all).

At least initially, audiences here will be able to watch the masterful John Tartaglia and Rick Lyon work their puppets. They also can expect some minor tweaking when it comes to the ribald and subversive script.

"If a joke isn't working after two years, you can't blame the actors," Whitty says, adding there is one line referencing a male cabaret revue in Las Vegas.

There will be some new bells and whistles: more colorful puppets and costumes, along with brighter lighting and fog in the dazzling new theater that resembles an opera house with its plush, roomy chairs, towering curtains and vibrant red colors.

Audiences will only be able to size up different casts in Las Vegas and New York. Wynn managed to snag the show and keep it from touring around the country, a move that made major touring producers unhappy.

The "Avenue Q" folks couldn't be happier.

"Touring is hard," Lyon says. "It's really nice to have the audiences coming to you."


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