Thursday, June 10, 2004
"Avenue Q": Three Tony Winner Stars John Tartaglia & Stephanie D'Abruzzo

"Avenue Q", the Upset Winner at the Tonys, (with three Awards) featuring muppets and X-rated humor stars John Tartaglia & Stephanie D'Abruzzo.

(1) "Avenue Q" Upset Winner at Tony's
(2) How Shrewd, Impish Marketing Suprised Everybody
(3) NY Times Theater Review: A Feeling You're Not On Sesame Street
(4) John Tartaglia Bio
(5) Stephanie D'Abruzzo Info

Cheeky puppet tale wins Three Awards
Best musical, Best book of a musical, Best original score

The Associated Press
June 07, 2004

NEW YORK - “Avenue Q,” a cheeky little musical that uses puppets, four-letter words and catchy, jinglelike tunes, was the upset winner Sunday at the Tonys...

“It certainly doesn’t suck to be us tonight,” said the surprised and overjoyed producers, referring to the musical’s opening number, “It Sucks to Be Me.”....

Shrewd, impish marketing helped
Tuesday, June 8, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) -- Could the unexpected Tony Awards victory of "Avenue Q," which actively and playfully wooed voters, mean more creative politicking for Broadway's highest honors next year?

The youthful little musical featuring puppets and X-rated humor upset "Wicked," a lavish tale of "The Wizard of Oz" witches, at Sunday's ceremony. The show took not only the best musical prize but also won Tonys for best book and score.

That glad-handing has always been there, says Jeffrey Seller, one of the ecstatic producers of "Avenue Q," which throughout the season has skillfully managed to keep its frisky face in front of the public.

"You try to make the public and the Tony voters aware of your show -- that's commonsense,", producer of "Chicago" and "Wonderful Town," said Monday. "You want them to think of you as they are putting their ballots together so you will do certain advertising -- you'll send CDs out, you'll send the show book out. It's not politicking, it's marketing."

It's just never been so overt.

"People have been campaigning to win the Tony for years -- all we did was turn it upside down and make fun of it,". "We took the taboo of 'you can't say that you are campaigning' out of the box and said, 'Oh, let's just do it."'

"Avenue Q," a tuneful tale of youthful New Yorkers, mounted a cheeky, satiric effort for the best-musical prize. It draped its theater in red, white and blue bunting, handed out buttons that proclaimed, "Don't suck. Vote Q" -- a play on one of the show's popular tunes, "It Sucks to Be Me."

And it even sent up its own persistent Tony Award campaign in humorous newspaper ads.

"We did something that was in the spirit of 'Avenue Q' and we did that because, ultimately, our real goal was to raise the visibility of the show -- to sell more tickets regardless of winning or losing Tonys,".

The Tony effort began when 'Avenue Q' producers asked the show's advertising agency, Spotco, to come up with a campaign. This being a political year, politics and a political theme came to mind, said Spotco's creative director.

"We thought there was humor in the fact that we'll just openly campaign and not act like we were too shy to seem like we wanted this award," Hodges said Monday. "'Avenue Q' is contemporary -- very much about life now -- and we wanted the campaign to feel like that. That's where the politics came from."

The goal of the campaign, according to Hodges, was to get people thinking "Avenue Q" was a viable choice for a best-musical Tony, "a true, full-fledged musical with great structure and a great score and great performances. Just because a chandelier doesn't swing down, doesn't make it any less a musical."

And it succeeded.

"The 'Avenue Q' campaign was bright, colorful and humorous," Weissler said. "And it certainly had some effect. Hey, it won."

Find this article at:

THEATER REVIEW; A Feeling You're Not On Sesame Street

New York Times
By Ben Brantley
August 1, 2003

... In ''Avenue Q,'' first staged last spring Off Broadway at the Vineyard Theater, Princeton is embodied by both an oversize hand puppet and John Tartaglia, the always visible actor who manipulates Princeton and provides his voice. And he is very clearly part of a generation whose members find question marks creeping into every sentence they utter.

...The overschooled college graduates (some furry, some fleshy) of ''Avenue Q'' look as if they might deflate as they work their way through bouncy ditties about failure, sex and the general pettiness of life. The role models for Princeton and his sometime girlfriend, Kate Monster (Stephanie D'Abruzzo), and their underemployed chums are not misunderstood rebels, but gentle, instructive and fallible cloth creatures of ''Sesame Street.'' This does not mean that the denizens of Avenue Q, an imaginary outpost of disenfranchised young New Yorkers, don't have the verve to rule a Broadway stage.

Their creators, demonstrate that ambivalence, indecision and low expectations can be the basis for a thoroughly infectious musical. The individual performances and songs are sharply focused and completely committed to the moment. Even more than ''Rent,'' the only other show on Broadway pitched directly to theatergoers over 12 and under 40, ''Avenue Q'' shimmeringly reflects the sensibility of that demographic segment so coveted by television advertisers.

For Broadway producers, who count every head in their audiences that isn't gray as a bonus, ''Avenue Q'' qualifies as a serious blessing. Like the more abrasive and ambitious ''Jerry Springer: The Opera,'' currently onstage in London, ''Avenue Q'' dares to co-opt television, the theater's longtime adversary.

This show, addresses Americans who were weaned on the small screen, and specifically on the educational antics of friendly anthropomorphic teachers like Big Bird and Cookie Monster. The songs you hear as a child are unlikely to leave your head entirely, and that whether you like it or not, such tunes and rhymes are likely to keep popping up as frames of reference for situations that on the surface could hardly seem less appropriate. That's the delicious central conceit that infuses every element of ''Avenue Q,'' from its bright but gritty ''Sesame'' streetscape of a set, to its archly educational animated segments, which parse words and phrases like ''commitment'' and ''one-night stand'' on video screens on either side of the stage.

But it is in its songs and performances that ''Avenue Q'' plays most piquantly on the contrasts between the world according to children's television and the reality of adult life. The nature of the twinkly songs, unfailingly tuneful and disgustingly irresistible, can be deduced from their titles: ''Everyone's a Little Bit Racist,'' ''Schadenfreude,'' ''The Internet Is for Porn'' and ''You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You're Makin' Love).'' To deliver such numbers with any distancing sarcasm would be fatal. And even when their heads are flipping back and forth rhythmically like windshield wipers, the cast members (many of whom have worked in children's television) do not patronize their own perkiness.

Irony is a conditioned reflex for these characters, and it doesn't get in the way of their basic sincerity. Some of the performers have puppets, worn on their arms, for alter egos. Mr. Tartaglia speaks not only for the callow Princeton but also for the buttoned-down broker (and repressed homosexual) Rod, whose more easygoing puppet roommate, Nicky, is portrayed by Mr. Lyon, also the voice for the pornography-loving recluse named Trekkie Monster. Ms. D'Abruzzo's puppetry embraces both the wistful kindergarten teacher Kate and her rival, a bosomy singer named Lucy T. Slut.

Mr. Lyon and Jennifer Barnhart help, er, flesh out the other puppet characters, who include Kate's crotchety employer, who has an unprintable name, and two blissfully obnoxious figures called the Bad Idea Bears, who resemble those hideous Care Bears and are given to tempting the other characters to do things like drink to excess, go home with strangers and consider suicide....


Performing since he was a fetus... where other babies were content with passive kicking, John would Kick, Shuffle, Turnstep followed by four Hop Turns and an A-Step for good measure... John has been blessed to be both a working actor and puppeteer. Coming from a Showbiz family (Mom's an Actress, Dad's a Pianist, Grampa' a Clown, Grandma a Singer, Stepmom a Director) John always had the itch to perform. Whether Reenacting scenes from "The Magical Garden" television show or putting on a solo production of "Fiddler on the Roof" (Prayer Shawls included,) he always knew what he wanted to do.

After performing in several plays, industrials and other performances, at age 8 something happened that would change his fate. His father brought him to NYC to Colony Records where he discovered a "Fraggle Rock" album. This kicked off his love of the Muppets and his desire to become a puppeteer. At age 12 he wrote Jim Henson. Through a series of auditions, video taped performances and workshops and a hell of a lot of luck John saw his first day as a Muppeteer at age 16.

Since then he as puppeteered on such series as "Dog City," "The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss," "Book of Pooh," "Bear in the Big Blue House," Play with me "Sesame Animal Jam" and several pilots, and even a 3D Movie! He has been a puppeteer on Sesame Street for the past 10 seasons and performs "Tingo" an international Muppet on "Sesame English," which airs world wide. On Sesame Street he performs "Phoebe Monster" and is Elmo's standby. John has also performed as Bert and Cookie Monster at Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA.

As an actor Avenue Q marks his Broadway Debut. Besides the magic of high school musicals, John has toured the country as "Fudge in "Superfudge the Musical," appeared in "John R." at the Krawe Theatre, "Swamp Fever" at the Wings Theatre, "Carnival" at City Center Encores with Brian Stokes Mitchell,"A Tribute to Michael Stewart" at Merkin Hall, several readings including "Warsaw," "Celestina" and "All Grown Up."


Broadway debut - whoo-hoo! Stephanie received a 2003 Drama Desk nomination for Avenue Q (Off-Broadway). Other stage: Carnival (Encores!), Encores! 10th Anniversary Bash, Chess (Actors' Fund concert). She has performed nearly 200 characters for TV/film, including "Sesame Street" (11 seasons), "Sheep in the Big City," "Book of Pooh," "Oobi," "Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss," the feature Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, plus videos, commercials, promos and much more.

Playbill Biography: STEPHANIE D'ABRUZZO
Voice work of Stephanie D'Abruzzo