Entertainment

Hilarious coming-of-age musical, Avenue Q, runs March 7-22 in Lynn

LYNN – The cast and crew of Arts After Hours? production of the Tony-Award winning Avenue Q is logging extra hours this week in the basement of the J.B. Blood Building on Wheeler Street, making up for rehearsal time lost to recent snowstorms.But after watching a portion of Wednesday night?s rehearsal, it?s obvious this cast of young actors and actresses and puppeteers are brimming with talent, and this R-rated, coming-of-age story in which humans and puppets interact, will be a big hit with audiences at the Rantoul Black Box Theater (March 7-22).?It?s about young people, in their 20s, living in Lower Manhattan?s East Side, who are going through the struggles of normal everyday life that we all go through,” said Julia Fiske, a law student at Harvard and director of the show. “Coming out as gay, getting married, breaking up with your boyfriend, losing your apartment, it?s all of that stuff, and this group is going through that together and learning the kinds of lessons that we, as kids, learned on Sesame Street. We present it in the same comforting way (as Sesame Street), but this is for adults.”Indeed, several of the songs in the show are, ?Everyone?s A Little Bit Racist?, ?It Sucks To Be Me? and ?When You?re Making Love.?Fiske said audiences can expect a lot of comedy and singing in the roughly 2?-hour show, “but they will also be surprisingly moved and touched by it. There are some poignant moments.”Working her first time with Arts After Hours, Fiske said this is also a first for most of the cast to be working with puppets. The show features three human characters and four puppeteers who each play multiple puppets.?It?s a new art form for all of us, but we?ve had some great coaches come in,” Fiske said, noting that one of those coaches who spent a week with the cast was Peabody native Joshua Holden, a member of the Broadway National Tour of Avenue Q.Micah Greene, of Lincoln, Mass., earned a degree in theatre from the University of Rhode Island, and gives life and voice to two of the puppets in the show: “Kate Monster,” a kindergarten teacher?s- assistant who is a love-interest in the show, and “Lucy the Slut.”During a break in rehearsal, Greene discussed the challenge of acting with puppets.?You have to make sure the puppet?s lips synch with your lips so it looks like the puppet is talking ? and also, whenever as an actor you make a choice with your own body, it?s simple to just go ahead and do that in the moment, but when you?re working with a puppet, it?s a whole different thing.”Greene said she?s thrilled to be a part of the show.?There?s a song my character Kate sings, ?There?s a Fine, Fine Line,? and it?s just so beautiful,” she said. “I love to sing it.”Andy Porterfield of Salem is another of the puppeteers, whose primary character is Nicky, assisted by actress/puppeteer Melinda Mogel.An IT professional by day, Porterfield, 26, said he?s been doing theatre for many years “because it?s fun.”Describing the Nicky character, Porterfield said, “He?s a loser. He?d be kind of a pot-head if he could be but he?s not in the show ? He has a stuck-up, closeted gay roommate, he doesn?t have a job and eventually ends up homeless.”Asked if the voice he?s assigned to Nicky was inspired by Kemit?s voice on Sesame Street, he laughed and said, “It?s more of an Ernie, but they?re close.”One of the human characters in Avenue Q is played by Maryland native Leeta White, in the role of late child actor Gary Coleman as a building superintendent.?The role is very loosely based on Gary Coleman?s life. He had a lot of comic range,” White said. “It was originally played by an African American actress, but when (Coleman) died, they switched it to a male role because they felt bad, but now it?s switched back to an actress.”?This is just a very fun show,” White said.During each performance of Avenue Q, the actors will take up a collection from the audience for a specific charity. Each charity will have its own designated performance, meaning that all

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