Before their opening night, we got a chance to talk to the stars of Avenue Q, Ross Hanford as Princeton and Amberly Cull as Kate Monster; full transcript below.
[Can you explain or describe your characters and their roles in the show?]
Princeton: Well my name is Princeton, and I just graduated from college and I have a BA in English and then I go… what do I do now.
Kate Monster: Classic 22-year-old syndrome.
P: It’s a coming of age.
K: Maybe you can learn something from the show, its got lots of lessons. Anyway I’m Kate Monster, I’m a kindergarten-teaching assistant. I’m very smart, I’m looking for love, and well I found it now.
P: It’s an interesting story though, along the way.
K: A long story.
P: I sort of got a bit lost, and made some (K: major mistakes) bad choices. As we all do. That’s what your twenties are for.
K: He’s a little bit younger than me, so he had a bit of growing up to do.
[So, the story is a coming of age for college-aged students]
P: But the themes touch on things that are relevant to all ages, I think.
K: Except for little kids, don’t bring your little kids. It’s an M.
[I read in the pamphlet that some of the ideas came from Sesame Street but for the older generation.]
P: it’s been described as the Muppets meets South Park, or Sesame Streets meets South Park.
K: Like there are so many lessons that you need to learn when you’re an adult. But, no way to learn them, but if you could have some sort of Sesame Street style song to teach you a lesson, well that would be really nice, and that’s what this show does.
[So how have you guys found the puppeteering part of this? Is this your first time as puppeteers?]
Ross Hanford: Well pretty much for me, six weeks before we started rehearsals we had puppet boot camp, with a gentleman who came over from America, Kevin Noonchester. It was good having it six weeks before the actual rehearsals had started because we had six weeks to get all the skills under our belt and get on top of it, because it was really hard. But Amberly has had some puppetry experience.
Amberly Cull: Yes, I wrote a puppet musical, but it was a different style of puppets all together. And it was like a new way of puppeteering. For example with these puppets we look out where the puppet’s looking, but with a lot of other puppetry you look at the puppet and what you’re doing, so all the focus is on the puppet. Well with us, we’re almost a part of the character as well. It’s really interesting.
[Is this your first season of the show?]
R: We did in Melbourne together, at His Majesty’s Theatre earlier this year. It was a bit of a hit; it went well. We were all so excited and relieved. Thus, this season was born out of that.
[That’s great, we’re glad you guys could make it to Perth]
R: Yeah, it’s exciting to be here.
A: I’m from Perth, so very excited.
[Do your characters develop throughout the show; I mean Princeton definitely does, but what about Kate?]
A: Yeah definitely, they all sort of go on a journey, and we don’t even play just these one characters. We have alter ego characters that we also play. So there’s Kate who is this sweet ingénue, but then I also play Lucy the slut who is not the sweet ingénue, and so they kind of at extremes at the start of the show, but they sort of come closer together by the end.
[How did you two get into theatre?]
R: I was lost as a little boy. No, I have three older sisters, and I was doing gymnastics, but I sort of wanted to do everything they wanted to do. So my mum said you can either go to dancing or you can stay doing gymnastics, so I just went ‘well my sisters are there so I’m going to do that’. From that I went on to do musical theatre as a kid and then it was all over. That’s all I ever wanted to do since then.
A: I just loved attention, and just kept that going up until adulthood. I wanted people to clap me.
P: Well you’re very good.
K: Oh stop it! You’re good.
P: Aw shucks.
[What’s the toughest part of your role here?]
R: Doing eight things at once; trying to get your legs to move in the right way, and your head, and your hands, and your voice.
A: There’s even a lot of where you go off one place and you show up in the other with a different puppet like really quick.
R: Or voicing a puppet that you’re not actually handling can be very difficult. That’s probably the hardest bit I reckon.
*Amberly had to leave *
[Do you have a favourite song number in the show?]
P: Well, me Princeton, I like to sing ‘Purpose’. Got to find my purpose, because I think it’s so clear and such a strong message and I think at one point in your life everyone can relate to it.
R: But I also work the puppet of Rod, and he sings a song called ‘My girlfriend who lives in Canada’. And that’s a particular joy for me, just because its so absurd and crazy what he does, and I can’t help but sort of get carried along by him and I just have a great time performing that one.
[What’s the best part about performing?]
R: In general I think it’s really nice to pass on stories to people, and people can walk away from the theatre and think about something in their life a little differently then that’s brilliant to me. But also, you get a bit of a buzz, an adrenaline buzz, when you get out there and that’s always exciting as well. But in terms of this show, it’s the difficulty of it, its really hard. So, when you’re achieving that in some way it’s really exciting and fulfilling, and everybody has a part. It’s a real ensemble show and you feel vital within it, which is rewarding.
[Have you ever had to improvise onstage during a show?]
R: No, nothings gone wrong to the point where we had to sort of make things up to fill. But when doing interviews, with you right now, and also some radio interviews, I’ve had to improvise on the spot, which is tricky but rewarding.
[What’s your schedule like whilst performing?]
P: Its not too bad actually, we’re doing seven shows a week and we’re doing two on Saturdays, but we get days off and I’m really excited to see Perth. Is it Cottesloe beach? Yeah I’ll be down there. Princeton, on the beach, maybe I’ll try and do some surfing.
[Do you have a dream role?]
R: Yes, but its probably forty years away. I’ve always wanted to play Fagan in Oliver, but I think I’m probably too young to play it right now. But one day I’d love to do that.
[Last question. Any advice for young stars wanting to get into theatre?]
R: Sure, work hard, its like anything isn’t it. Any industry that you want to get into, the people who are successful and make it there are the ones who really put in the time and effort that’s required to do it. Probably don’t head into it lightly, make sure it is what you want to do because it is a big commitment. But working hard is probably the main thing. If you want it and you work hard enough, then you’ll get there.
Tickets are still available, but are selling fast get them from Ticketmaster.