Julie Atherton will return to the cast of Avenue Q on 1 December for the show’s final few months at the Noël Coward theatre. The half puppet, half human cast will pack its bags on 28 March 2009 when the show ends its run after nearly three years in the West End.
Musical comedy Avenue Q, which celebrates its 1000th performance at the Noël Coward on Thursday, was billed as South Park meets Sesame Street when it first opened in London following its Tony-winning Broadway run. The story centres on puppet Princeton, a bright-eyed recent graduate who finds that life out of studentdom isn’t quite what he imagined. Renting a room on insalubrious New York street Avenue Q, he desperately tries to discover his purpose in life, while an assortment of quirky neighbours – including a porn-loving monster, a busty blonde and former child star – do their best to distract him. Avenue Q has a soundtrack that includes the numbers It Sucks To Be Me, The Internet Is For Porn and If You Were Gay and is the only show in the West End to feature puppet sex.
Atherton originated the dual role of Kate Monster and Lucy The Slut when Avenue Q opened in the West End in June 2006, staying with the show for 18 months. Her other London stage credits include Mamma Mia! and Fame, and she is also a founder member of the Notes From New York series, which is currently staging The Last 5 Years at the Haymarket. In returning to Avenue Q, Atherton replaces Rebecca Lock.
Also on 1 December, Joanna Ampil and Rachel Jerram join the cast, replacing Yanle Zhong and Jacqui Sanchez. Ampil, who will play Christmas Eve, made her West End debut in Miss Saigon and went on to appear in Jesus Christ Superstar and Les Misérables. Jerram is already part of the ensemble cast of Avenue Q and now steps up to take over the roles of Mrs T/Bear. Jerram’s previous credits include The Boy Friend at the Open Air theatre.
Candy Ma and Maria Lawson will also join the ensemble of Avenue Q, while Daniel Boys (Princeton), Edward Baruwa (Gary), Mark Goldthorp (Trekkie Monster) and Christopher Fry (Brian) continue in their roles.
Already confirmed to follow Avenue Q into the Noël Coward is Calendar Girls, Tim Firth’s stage adaptation of his 2003 film of the same name. The play, which has its first London performance on 4 April, stars Lynda Bellingham and Patricia Hodge.