Avenue Q is an R-rated musical comedy that originally opened on Broadway in 2003. With music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, the show was notable for combining puppets and live actors on stage. Avenue Q went on to become a smash hit, running for over 2,500 performances on Broadway before transferring to Off-Broadway in 2009. So is this outrageous and hilarious show still being performed today?
The Original Broadway Run
Avenue Q opened on Broadway in July 2003 at the John Golden Theatre. Using puppets designed by original Sesame Street puppeteer Rick Lyon, Avenue Q brought to life a cast of characters living along a fictional street in an outer borough of New York City. Part flesh and part felt, the puppets dealt with adult issues like sex, relationships, and searching for purpose post-college. With it’s innovative format and twisted sense of humor, Avenue Q earned rave reviews and quickly gained a cult following.
The show went on to win several Tony Awards in 2004 including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score. It also won the “Triple Crown” of the American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards, the Drama Desk Awards, and the Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Musical. Due to it’s popularity with young adults, Avenue Q also earned a special Tony Award for being the “freshest musical on Broadway.”
After over 2,500 performances on Broadway, Avenue Q transferred to New World Stages in an Off-Broadway production in 2009. The slightly smaller theater provided a more intimate experience with the show’s outrageous characters. And this new rendition also allowed for a less expensive ticket price, enabling more young fans to see the show. The Off-Broadway production of Avenue Q ran for over 5 years until 2014, ending it’s successful run after more than 2,500 performances.
Given it’s popularity, Avenue Q launched it’s first national tour in late 2003 while the Broadway production was still running. Additional tours continued until 2010, bringing the show to major cities across the US. Notable tour productions included:
- First National Tour (2003-2010)
- Las Vegas Production (2006)
- West End London Production (2006-2009)
- Second National Tour (2009-2010)
In total, Avenue Q toured both nationally and internationally for over 5 years, enabling the show to reach a wider audience outside of New York City.
Regional and Community Theatre Productions
In addition to Broadway, Off-Broadway, and national tours, Avenue Q has been widely licensed for smaller regional and community theatre productions. Even though the show requires complex puppetry and skilled live musicians, it’s huge popularity has made it a favorite for local theatre troupes to recreate.
Some notable regional productions have included:
- Cincinnati Playhouse (2004)
- Theatre Under the Stars in Houston (2007)
- Austin Playhouse (2011)
- Phoenix Theatre in Arizona (2013)
- Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia (2014)
And Avenue Q continues to be performed frequently by community theatres and college theater departments. According to Music Theatre International, which licenses Avenue Q and other musicals to regional theatres, the show consistently ranks among it’s top 20 most-produced shows.
Recent Professional Productions
While Avenue Q is no longer running on Broadway or touring nationally, there have still been a number of high-profile professional productions in recent years. Some examples include:
- New Line Theatre in St. Louis (2012)
- Dallas Theater Center (2013)
- ACT Theatre in Seattle (2014)
- Mercury Theater Chicago (2015)
- Seacoast Repertory Theatre in New Hampshire (2019)
Many of these productions gained local notoriety by putting a unique spin on the show. For example, the 2015 production in Chicago made headlines for casting actress Felicia P. Fields, an African-American woman, in the role of trekkie monster. So Avenue Q continues to draw the interest of professional theatre companies looking to reinvent the show for a new generation of audiences.
Avenue Q already has numerous productions scheduled in the near future. Some upcoming shows include:
- Argyle Theatre in New York – October 2022
- Post Playhouse in Nebraska – June 2023
- New Repertory Theatre in Massachusetts – September 2023
- Ensemble Theatre in Ohio – November 2023
The rights to perform Avenue Q are also currently available from Music Theatre International for theatres to license through 2025. So it’s very likely that additional productions will continue popping up on stages worldwide in coming years.
The success of Avenue Q has also spawned several other adaptations of the show including:
- Avenue Q the School Edition – A toned-down version approved for performances by high schools.
- Avenue Q Live Cast Recording – A live stage recording released in 2004 featuring the original Broadway cast.
- Avenue Q Original Broadway Cast Album – The original studio cast recording released in 2003.
- The Avenue Q Book – A photo memoir of the show published in 2006.
So even beyond live theatrical productions, Avenue Q continues to live on through soundtrack recordings, books, and more.
While it’s glory days on Broadway have passed, Avenue Q is far from extinct. Thanks to it’s catchy music, lovable characters, and treatment of risque topics rarely seen in theatre, the show maintains a strong cult following. Through Off-Broadway runs, national tours, regional productions, and upcoming shows, Avenue Q continues to draw audiences more than 15 years after opening. While some elements of the show feel dated, at it’s core Avenue Q retains a youthful exuberance unmatched by other musicals. So this innovative mix of music, comedy, and puppetry seems unlikely to fade from stages anytime soon.