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Sam Lupton On ... Avenue Q

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Sam Lupton was performing at the Capitol Theatre in Manchester last year in Great Expectations. Fast forward one year and now he is singing, dancing and a performing puppetry in the hit musical Avenue Q on tour. The show arrives at the Liverpool Empire next week and we chat to Sam about the unstoppable musical, his leap from acting at University to performing in packed theatres and multi-tasking on Avenue Q.

How did you feel when you got news that you had a part in the Avenue Q tour?
I first heard about the show in 2006 just before it came to London and I became an instant fan. I loved everything about it, the book, the lyrics and the beautiful and hilarious song writing. I thought it was a really exciting new concept in terms of musical theatre (there aren’t many adult puppet musicals knocking about). I was excited as soon as my agent told me I even had an audition, and when I was  told I had got the part I didn’t quite know what to say. I don’t think I've ever been more excited about anything before. There were lots of excited phone calls that night, I don’t think I got much sleep.

You were appearing in productions at the Capitol Theatre in Manchester not that long ago, now you are touring in a hit musical. What advice would you give to someone who was waiting for a big break?
Just keep working hard at what you love to do, keep learning and keep developing as a performer. If you work hard, are dedicated and love the work then the big break will arrive, at least I hope so. Just take every day as it comes and enjoy doing what you do.

What attracted you to the role and the show itself?
Initially it was the humour and puppetry combination that I just found very very funny;  but then I remember getting the soundtrack a few years ago and discovering how beautiful and touching some of the music is. I was also a fan of The Muppets from the age of about 6, so to get the chance to work with the Avenue Q puppets for a living is fulfilling a childhood dream. The characters are also fully formed individuals. They are complex characters with personalities, opinions and problems. They just happen to be puppets. Its a joy to play both Princeton and Rod every night and tell their story.

The show is edgy yet has a heart. Where does the balance come from do you think as the piece is neither sickly sweet or offensive?
I think the balance comes from how honest the show is. It is a reflection of some very real world issues. The audience will recognise each dilemma the characters face because they are so truthful. To be “offensive” or “sickly sweet” the show would have to be a grotesque impression of life, perhaps showing extremes, but because the characters and script remain truthful it is very easy to recognise and relate to.

What's your favourite song in the show?
I love a lot of the songs but I think one of my favourites to both perform and listen to is “Fantasies Come True”. It is essentially a love duet. Without giving too much away, I think most people at some point in their lives will experience unrequited love, and “Fantasies” captures that feeling beautifully. In the song, my character “Rod” discovers more about himself, which is exciting and heart breaking all at the same time. It`s a very real and beautiful song.

Avenue Q was almost the show that would not die in the West End – it simply transferred venues. Why do you think its so popular in the UK?
Simply because nearly everyone who has ever seen it can relate to it. The audience can look at the character and say “Thats Me” or “I used to be her” or perhaps “Thats me right now”. The show has a good message for everyone and you will leave feeling refreshed and feeling good about life. And of course everyone loves a good laugh, and it`s very hard not to laugh at profane puppets having sex whilst singing!

If someone is bored with traditional musicals, what can Avenue Q offer them?
Well Avenue Q is unlike any other show. There really is nothing else quite like it, so seeing the show definitely offers you something completely different. We often have people see the show who have never been to the theatre before, and when you hear them say that they “Can`t wait to return” that’s very satisfying. It is the musical for people who don`t like musicals, and for those who do for that matter.

What are the pluses and minuses of touring?
I'm really enjoying the traveling. Seeing lots of different cities and essentially seeing the UK for 8 months. I'm looking forward to Ireland as I've never been before. You also get very close to your company on tour and I'm making some great friends. I sometimes miss the home comforts and my friends from home but the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

How have you found the puppetry aspect of the show? Theres a lot of multi-tasking – how easy was it all to pick up?
It certainly wasn`t easy. The first step is the basic technique such as lip-syncing, making the puppets walk, making sure the eyes are looking where you want them to. Once that is done then you have to actually make the puppets come alive, which means all the technique has to become almost subconscious and you have to make the puppet react just like you would as an actor. We have puppet school as part of the audition process. We also have our puppet coach Nigel Plaskitt on hand (no pun intended) during rehearsals to train us up ready for the show. It`s also quite painful at first, it takes a while to build up the strength in the arm.

Why should audiences see Avenue Q?
Because it really is a roller coaster of emotion. You will go from shock, to hilarity to heartbreak in the space of 5 minutes. The songs are great and I challenge anyone to leave without humming on their way home. You will laugh a lot, and remember the show for a very long time.

What are your plans following the tour?
It`s a bit of a way off yet, but there are some new writing projects that I'm hoping to be involved with. Hopefully I'll be able to continue doing the jobs I love. I'd really like to do some more plays in some of the regional theatres and in London, but I'm loving being involved in musicals at the moment so we'll see what happens. If I'm performing I'm happy – fingers crossed.

Avenue Q is at the Liverpool Empire from 11 - 16 June.


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