Puppets Take Center Stage in ‘Avenue Q’

Jinheon Kim, Staff Writer

The satirical musical “Avenue Q” examined issues pertaining to racism, sexual and cultural identity, and acceptance and community in its seven performances in Mercer Hall during mid-October. 

In choosing this year’s fall musical, teacher advisor Nancy Fracchiolla was tasked with putting on a show that complied with Pali’s COVID-19 guidelines and allowed actors to effectively convey their emotions to the audience even while their faces were covered by masks. 

Fracchiolla’s solution: “Avenue Q,” a musical with puppets as its main characters. In preparation for opening night, the cast had to participate in 15 hours of puppet camp, where they mastered the art of puppetry. 

Written by Jeff Whitty, “Avenue Q” is a comedic musical first performed on Broadway in 2003. The actors performed the story of a puppet named Princeton (Desi Friedberg) who had just moved to a street named Avenue Q. The musical follows Princeton as he meets new friends: Brian (Jacob Accardo), Rod (Theo King), Nicky (Sam Levitt), Christmas Eve (Nicole Chang) and Kate Monster (Ella Hobert). Through relationships, breakups and finding themselves, the puppets learn the hard lesson that nothing lasts forever and that they shouldn’t be so hard on themselves. 

Despite the work’s untraditional approach, Fracchiolla said she is “constantly amazed by Pali’s talent,” and “very pleased with the outcome.”

Senior Ella Hobert echoed Fracchiolla’s praise. “Unlike the generic, tame school musical, ‘Avenue Q’ discussed sensitive subjects that people shy away from,” Hobert said. “The play allowed the audience to see problems and issues in different, unique lights that they have not seen before.”

With songs like “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” “Purpose,” “If You Were Gay,” and “For Now,” Pali senior Tolulope Adeleye said that the musical successfully touched on uncomfortable subjects in a way that wasn’t “pointlessly offensive.” 

Adeleye said he enjoyed the musical so much, he went back for a second viewing.

“The musical was an entertaining and funny piece of art with a notable message,” he said. “You can feel the energy flowing from the cast.”