Avenue Q a sassy, adult-oriented take on a beloved children’s show

Front Row Centre Players are mounting a production of Avenue Q, the sometimes (read: often) irreverent, saucy show that is not only hilarious, but also manages to offer some poignant learning moments for adults. Actor Mandee Marcil took time leading up to the show’s opening to answer some questions about Avenue Q, and, like the characters in the play, did not hold back.

Q: From what I understand, Avenue Q is kind of a filthy Sesame Street. Please explain.

A: It’s very much modelled after Sesame Street in that it has a lot of “educational” elements, little video skits similar in nature to the old Electric Company bits, and characters that seem to be slightly different versions of old Sesame Street characters (such as) Cookie Monster/Trekkie Monster, Bert and Ernie/Rod and Nicky, etc. It’s definitely a much more mature version as it openly discusses subjects such as racism, sex, the sometimes harsh realities of adult life, and what in the hell you can actually do with a BA in English.

Q: Your character is Lucy the Slut – do you control the puppet while acting/singing? And is Lucy just misunderstood?

A: I sure do (control the puppet)! All of the puppeteers are acting/singing/dancing/puppeteering, all at the same time. It’s definitely a little more hands on work, especially as there’s folks who operate two-man puppets! It’s a whole new ball game for sure, but watching these puppets literally come to life has been really rewarding! As for how slutty Lucy really is … I should say that you’ll just have to come and see, but let’s be real, I’m gonna tell you that she’s slutty enough to be a re-appearing Girls Gone Wild … performer? … several times over, and her name is literally Lucy T. Slut. So. She’s pretty slutty.

Q: Is this the sort of show that Front Row Centre is known for, or is it a bit of a departure?

A: Yes and no, I think. FRC has a somewhat eclectic taste in shows, and it’s been exciting seeing them choose more and more contemporary shows over the last couple seasons. FRC has done its fair share of classic musical theatre, from Anything Goes to South Pacific, but they also throw in shows like Dogfight, Avenue Q, and The Addams Family to keep us on our toes.

Q: Who is this show for?

A: I mean, me. Obviously. But in all honesty, this is a show for faaaaaairly mature audiences, but also those who have memories of classic Sesame Street and The Electric Company episodes. A lot of folks in my age bracket will remember the pinball animated video counting to 12, stuff like that, but I think this will be a ton of fun for anyone with even a vague knowledge of Sesame Street. But DISCLAIMER BECAUSE MATURE SUBJECT MATTER AND STUFF.

Q: Your favourite moments in the show?

A: Oh, there are so many. But literally any moment with Rod and Nicky. They’re such great characters, and they’re played with so much more heart than one might expect. Fantasies Come True will forever break me and I will fight anyone who challenges me on that.

Legit. I’ll throw punches.  

Q: Who’s your favourite character?

A: That’s a brutally difficult question, actually! I mean, I want to say Lucy because I’m biased and she’s some of the most fun you can have with your fist stuffed up a puppet’s butt, but every character has such great moments, you know? So much of that is due in large part to how incredibly well cast the show is: Gary Coleman is every bit as sassy as you’d imagine; Kate Monster is smart and incredibly lovable; Rod is a perfectly high strung investment banker with a “secret”; Nicky is so high energy and fun-loving, you can’t help but be completely captured; Brian and Christmas Eve are the old married couple that aren’t married yet, or even old, but their banter and relationship are precious; Trekkie Monster is a goddamn delightful pervert with a heart of gold; and the Bad Idea Bears are about 99 per cent sass and one per cent the voices in my own head. It’s disconcerting. 

Q: Why should we see this show?

A: Two words: Puppet. Sex.

But actually, it’s a show that has more heart and soul than you’re prepared for, the music is witty and sharp (and our band plays it superbly), but it’s also supremely relevant. I think that everyone who sees the show or is familiar with it in one way or another will have experienced one or more of the struggles that the characters go through. Finding a way to make ends meet, finding your purpose, relationship trials, or even just trying to figure out what your damn life looks like after college, there’s really something for everyone. Perhaps one of the most important little lessons that Avenue Q will leave you with is that “everything in life is only for now.” Don’t stress, relax, let life roll off your back, and get your butts to Beddington, because like everything in life, this show is ALSO only for now! 

That might be one of the cheesiest things I’ve ever said and I’m gonna go throw up now. 

(Photo of cast of Avenue Q, courtesy Front Row Centre Players.)

Avenue Q runs at the Beddington Theatre Arts Centre until April 13.

Kari Watson is a writer and former Listings Editor of FFWD Weekly, and continues to work within the Calgary arts & culture scene to promote the city’s numerous and varied events. Contact her at