Cassidy Janson: I did feel a pressure when I started on the show because I was the only new cast member at that time and the only new puppeteer. But the cast were really supportive. It took a while to adjust to, having this puppet on my right hand doing all sorts of weird things. There was a lot of time spent looking in the mirror with the lovely Nigel Plaskitt (puppet master) saying things like “well that was great but the puppet spent the whole time looking left”. But I trained as a dancer, which certainly helped.
While I was doing Wicked, I studied the Meisner acting technique during the daytime. It's the only formal acting training I've done, and after a bit of a rocky start I absolutely loved it. It's all about studying the subscript of a scene – living truthfully under a given set of circumstances. I was first told about it by Neil Patrick Harris, who I worked with on Tick, Tick... Boom!, and I had a great teacher in Scott Williams. It made me realise why I like to act, and also the reasons why I'd performed a good show.
Avenue Q is a very rhythmic show to perform. You have to land the jokes very precisely. The hardest element is actually walking – learning to walk and talk in synch with the puppet was so hard! Even now we get notes from Nigel saying “you did a really good show but the puppet was gliding”.
I love both my characters – I like doing Lucy's deep and husky voice, and I like Kate because she's so sweet and has got a lot of heart. It's a very truthful show – it's not just gratuitous puppet sex. I think we're still running largely thanks to word of mouth. It attracts people who aren't just musical theatre fans; they might not go and see Les Mis but they will come and see a masturbating monster!
We're told it's selling better than it's ever sold, a fact borne out by our move to Wyndham's. Perhaps it's due to the fact that people want a laugh, and not something where everyone ends up dead. It's great when you look out and see rows of people just dying with laughter – it's very healing. Coming to work is like playtime, it's the best job I've ever done.
Avenue Q, which also stars new cast members Paul Spicer as Princeton/Rod, Jacqueline Tate as Christmas Eve and Delroy Atkinson, who returns to the role of Gary, is currently booking at Wyndham's until the end of September.
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