IT'S SESAME STREET, BUT JUST A LITTLE BIT SEEDIER
When: Monday, July 2, to Saturday, July 7. Monday to Thursday, 7.30pm; Friday, 5.30pm and 8pm; Saturday, 4pm and 7.30pm.
Where: Hull New Theatre, Kingston Square, Hull.
Tickets: £11.50-£29.50. Not suitable for under-14s.
To book: 01428 300300.
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Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
Start of the Q: American composers Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx began writing Avenue Q in 1999, with the idea of creating a TV series. Three years later, it opened on Broadway.
Tony: In 2004, the show won three Tony Awards, the highest accolade in American theatre, and is now in the top 30 longest-running shows on Broadway.
Atlantic-crossing: Avenue Q transferred to London in 2006, running for three years. The current tour opened in 2011.
They're foul-mouthed and boozy but there's something loveable about the characters of Avenue Q, as Sam Lupton tells Will Ramsey
I t's Sesame Street – or it would be if the cuddly children's show was filled with cursing, boozing and bed-hopping puppets.
Avenue Q, the exuberant, adult-themed musical, charmed Broadway with its frank approach to the pleasures and pains of the grown-up world.
And for Sam Lupton, who appears in a new British tour as Princeton – a nerdy graduate – it's best thought of as a guide to life for 20-somethings.
"It's Sesame Street for adults," said Sam, who, like his puppet alter-ego, recently graduated from college.
"In the same way that you watch that show when you are kid to learn your ABCs, Avenue Q is an instructional guide for those who don't know what to do with their lives.
"It's that moment when you think to yourself 'great, I've graduated, the hard work's over' but then you realise you need a job, and that you've got bills to pay. There's nothing to teach you what to do next."
Does he identify with that?
"Completely. Princeton does not know what to do with his life – he is a bit naive about the whole life thing," said Sam, who has worked in the touring show since January.
"I'm still learning about it myself. I don't want to be a grown-up particularly, but you have to get on with it.
"There's that thought 'I wish I could go back to college' back to a more carefree time, but it would never be the same – mainly because you are getting older.
"Essentially, it is honest about real life and what we all get up to behind closed doors."
Set in a grotty area of New York, where Princeton, an English literature graduate, finally finds an affordable flat, some of the show's characters are parodies of Sesame Street favourites.
The Trekkie Monster, a less than wholesome take on the Cookie Monster, is obsessed with internet pornography. Rod and Nicky – a nod to Bert and Ernie – are flatmates with an underlying sexual tension.
"There is a cult around it and there are a lot of people who have followed it for a long time," said Sam.
"But the thing is they are loyal to the show, not to any particular actor, or a celebrity that might have been cast. It is all about the music, story and characters.
"You find that when you go to the stage door they don't want to see you – they want to see the puppet.
"There's something about puppetry that takes everyone back to childhood. They start talking to it and seem to forget that you're standing there."
The cast members were tutored in the art by Nigel Plaskitt, a puppeteer whose CV includes Muppet Treasure Island and Spitting Image.
And for Sam, as with the rest of the cast, a bond has grown between actor and their mini alter-egos.
"For the tour I am playing Princeton and Rod – both acting the roles and portraying the character through the puppet," he said. "Most of us don't want to think about the point when we'll put the puppet down for the last time. It is a weird thing – you find there is a strange emotional connection that develops."
And despite the puppets' foul-mouthed moments it is a production, Sam says, that appeals across generations.
"There have been occasions where we've had 80-year-old couples in the front row," he said. "You think 'they're not going to get this' but they're still there, clapping and laughing at the end of act two."