Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Fucking muppets

Avenue Q returns

Avenue Q opens Jan 18 at the Lower Ossington Theatre.
I experienced one of my first sexual awakenings while watching Sesame Street. It was Bob, that sizzling hotpot of erotic number-counting and suggestive alphabet singing. 
 
Sadly, Bob never flashed more skin than the occasional elbow, leaving my Sesame Street fantasies largely unrealized. 
 
Then I saw the naughty Muppet-esque Avenue Q as an adult, and a whole new fetish was born.
 
I suppose I never imagined the puppets actually fucking when I was eight years old, but the furry little muppets of Avenue Q spend plenty of time bumping uglies. Once you get past the initial shock, this grown-up version of Sesame Street proves every bit as entertaining as its predecessor, complete with sing-along songs about racism, porn and masturbation. 
 
It was, of course, a huge hit. The touring production blew through Toronto with sell-out shows, nabbing glowing reviews as it swept across the continent. Anyone who missed this phenomenon the first time (or didn’t want to shell out a C-note to watch muppets fuck) now has the chance to relive the magic with a home-grown – and reasonably priced – production courtesy of the Lower Ossington Theatre.
 
This little independent theatre company has been making quite a name for itself over the last few years, with popular shows like Spring Awakening and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat pulling in audiences from within and outside the GTA. 
 
“Our theory is to keep in mind what I call the FQ, or familiarity quotient,” says artistic director Moe Galpern. “The idea is that people may not be familiar with our theatre, so they have to be able to recognize the shows.”
 
Galpern acted quickly to secure production rights for Avenue Q when they first became available – a hasty move he admits resulted in some unforeseen challenges.
 
“I grabbed them within five minutes,” he says. “Then it dawned on me that we had to get puppets.”
 
Fortunately, Galpern was able to broker a deal to lease the Broadway show’s original puppets, thereby ensuring the same level of production quality for his audiences. “We stay really close to what the audiences expect to see in these shows.”
 
The theatre prides itself on drawing from a younger pool of talent in producing its shows; many of the crew, both in front and behind the curtain, are recent graduates of theatre programs, still waiting for their first big break. Show director Seanna Kennedy is one of those fortunate recipients of Galpern’s mentoring. 
 
“It’s amazing to be given such an opportunity,” Kennedy says. “This is my first time directing outside of university.  Nobody’s ever handed me a budget this size and a cast of this calibre and just said, ‘Hey, run with it.’”
 
Without the super-sized funding of a Mirvish or Dancap production, it would be understandable if this new production were a little scaled-back from the original, but Galpern has taken great pains to ensure audiences are treated to professional-grade props and sets – even if it means financial sacrifice.
 
“The fact that we even exist in this city, running a theatre off of ticket sales is a miracle in itself,” he says. “But you know the old joke: ‘How do you make a small fortune in theatre?’”
 
“Start with a large one.”

The Deets:

Avenue Q
Wed, Jan 18 – Sat, Feb 4 at 8pm
Lower Ossington Theatre
100A Ossington Ave
lowerossingtontheatre.com