The primary topic of heated conversation is, of course, the Avenue Q producers' choice not to follow the time-tested route of taking the show on the road but, instead, to collect different kinds of Monopoly dollars by going directly to Las Vegas. It was announced last week that the show will play in a brand new theater contained within Stephen Wynn's still-under-construction complex Wynn Las Vegas, and this move took the road voters by surprise.
What seems to have been overlooked thus far in coverage of the ensuing flap is Wynn's agreement that the racy, slacker-generation script and score of Avenue Q will remain intact for the Vegas production. As McCollum reports to TheaterMania.com, he and his colleagues had heard via booking agents that some of the road presenters were raising the specter of textual changes in anticipation of audience resistance to certain elements of the show. (Tony-lauded creators Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx, and Jeff Whitty employ the liberal vocabulary of today's twenty-and thirtysomethings in the tuner, which also features sex between puppets.) With Wynn as uber-producer, McCollum says, script changes may be made but only if the authors themselves introduce them.
Calling the action a "Wynn-win-win situation," McCollum also drives home the point that "a theater is being built specifically for us." The 1,200 seat venue is expected to be ready by May 2005; its size has been slimmed down from the 1,600-seat auditorium that Wynn had initially envisioned. McCollum compares this puppet-friendly environment to road houses that seat as many as 2,800 spectators. He also points out that presenters "were comparing us to Urinetown," a show that's considered to have done only moderately well on the road as compared to something with the revenue potential of, say, last year's Tony-nabbing Hairspray.
McCollum also remarked on an image problem he foresees in regard to a traveling Avenue Q: "Most of America has heard that ours is a little puppet show," he says, and his crowd was concerned that fighting the perception of "the opinion-makers" is a slow process. Most of the musical's road engagements from city to city would have been brief and, according to McCollumn, "We didn't think that served us. We didn't constantly want to be leaving when people were just discovering the show."
By the way, McCollum says that the "vote your heart" line didn't come from Avenue Q's marketing maven, Drew Hodges of Spotco; it was the brainstorm of Marx, Lopez, and Whitty, one of their contributions to the send-up of electioneering that seemed appropriate for this unusual show's Tony campaign. Now, it may be needless to say that the deciding vote has been cast by Steve Wynn, whom McCollum indicates has the right heartstrings and purse strings.