“Avenue Q” isn’t just Tim Kornblum’s first traveling show; it’s his first professional production ever. The gay-inclusive puppet musical returns to Atlanta next week after a successful run here a few seasons back, with the openly gay Kornblum in the role of Brian.
“Avenue Q” is on stage May 18-23 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. Discount tickets are available to benefit Positive Impact, which provides mental health services to people impacted by HIV.
Producers of the musical wanted this tour to be a non-equity tour, featuring actors with no prior experience with the show. Kornblum had acted a lot in high school, yet while he steered away from the stage somewhat in college, he knew it was still in his system. His try-out was his first professional audition. After “three or four callbacks,” he was finally offered the job as wannabe comedian Brian about a month later.
May 18 – 23
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway
Marietta, GA 30339, 800-982-2787
• Use code ‘Impact’ at purchase to receive $5 discount and $5 will be donated to Positive Impact
Kornblum laughs that in his original audition he was asked to sing songs from the production. He dressed up like Brian but sang songs from other characters “just to cover all the bases.”
Despite the newness of the cast, Kornblum says it’s the exact same show that won a Best Musical Tony Award in 2004 (as well as two other awards) and begat a successful national tour. The actor remembers seeing the original production in 2005 and loving it.
Inspired by “Sesame Street,” “Avenue Q” takes place in an outer borough of New York City, with both human and puppet characters. Princeton is a recent college graduate who moves into the area. His neighbors include teaching assistant Kate Monster, roommates Rod and Nicky, and Brian and his fiancée Christmas Eve, a Japanese-American therapist.
Kornblum relates to his character of Brian, who wants to be a comedian but finds himself unemployed and aimless 10 years after college.
“I really am the character in real life,” he admits. “I’m kind of lazy. Also, Brian needs someone to take care of him and so do I.”
His interpretation of Brian has changed since he first started doing the character.
“At first I played him as kind of a moron, then something of a stoner,” he says. “But lately I’ve been doing it drier.”
In one of the more famous numbers, Brian and his neighbors bemoan their lives in “It Sucks to Be Me,” finally finding a character whose life sucks more than theirs – former child star Gary Coleman, who’s now the supervisor of their apartment complex. The actor says the song is still one of his favorites, along with the opening number and the closing “For Now.”
The performer thinks that gay audiences can particularly relate to the character of Rod, who is a conservative Republican in love with his roommate. Rod thinks that no one knows he is gay. Of course, everyone does, but he still struggles to come out.
“I think audiences, particularly gay and lesbian ones, can relate to that,” he says. “I think they like seeing the transition the character makes.”
Although the show has puppet characters, it’s not for young kids, with some raciness and full puppet nudity. Kornblum admits that as he travels across the country with “Avenue Q,” he finds that some people don’t know what to expect, but they soon find their fit with the show.
“Everyone can relate to someone on stage,” he says. “Although there are only seven actors, there are so many characters.”
He thinks the secret to “Avenue Q’s” success is that it has an honesty about it.
“It’s written so well,” he says. “It teaches a lesson, has a message, without hitting you over the head. If it’s done maliciously or as a complete joke, audiences won’t take it seriously.”
Top photo: In ‘Avenue Q,’ conservative Rod thinks that nobody knows he is gay. (Courtesy AvenueQonTour.com)