‘Heartfelt and Raunchy’: ‘Avenue Q’s’ closing performance is this weekend

Published 3:08 pm Thursday, March 23, 2023

The Westside Theatre Foundation will end its run of “Avenue Q” this weekend at the Strand Theatre.

The adult musical comedy, styled in the mold of Sesame Street, features live actors and puppets portraying young adults as they grapple with life’s problems in the big city.

Jack Burns is the head of the foundation and was the director of the performance.

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“I think ‘Avenue Q’ was first produced around 2004, so it’s almost 20 years old,” Burns said. “And all of the themes of the show: inclusivity, compassion, understanding the struggle of the young people to get established in the community and find a job even though they’ve got a liberal arts degree that makes it hard to find a job, all those are still factors that are every bit as relevant today as they were almost 20 years ago.”

“Avenue Q” was last performed in Vicksburg by the foundation about six years ago. All the puppets were made from scratch by Burns and volunteers. Since the show, they have been in storage in the balcony seating of the theater, overlooking all the performances that have taken place during that time.

“They’ve just been kind of languishing, waiting, itching, if you will, to get back on stage,” Burns said.

While the tone of the performance may be that of a children’s show, Burns said he would give the content an “R” rating, and pointed out that it would likely not be appropriate for younger viewers.

“Heartfelt and raunchy” is how actor Nia Hurst described the musical. Her first time performing, Hurst’s character is the child star Gary Coleman, having left showbusiness to become the landlord of the building in which the characters live.

“I think the play itself is so funny and so witty, and I think it touches on subjects that could be sensitive in a really funny way; like talking about racism or talking about going to college, getting a degree that you may not use,” Hurst said. “I think it’s a good commentary of how confusing life can be, but how that confusion is really only for right now.”

Hurst was the only actor that did not have to operate a puppet during the performance, but she said she was impressed at the amount of work the other actors had to do in order to become proficient in puppeteering. The cast even worked with a professional puppet coach who was able to help them improve their puppet’s movements.

She also added that she has been very happy with the experience.

“Honestly, Jack’s thing is, if we’re having fun, then everything’s good,” Hurst said. “That feels like his barometer of success. It’s been a great time.”

The last two performances of “Avenue Q” will be on March 25 at 7:30 p.m. and March 26 at 4 p.m. at the Strand Theatre in downtown Vicksburg. Tickets are $20 at the Highway 61 Coffeehouse and $25 at the door.