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Q&A with Bobby Lopez and Jeff Marx

Avenue Q Swings! will be hosted by co-creators and co-writers Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, at the Lucille Lortel Theatre on Monday, June 27th at 7:30pm. We checked in with the Tony-winning pair to get the scoop on that concert, and more...

Why support the Greenwich House?

Bobby: I'll take that one -- I'm the one who went there. I grew up in the Village, and started taking piano lessons at the Greenwich House Music School at age seven. My teacher always encouraged me to write little pieces, and the first thing I turned in was, of course, a song -- lyrics and all – called "Oy Veh, What A Day."

Ironically, much later, after I'd graduated college and was working at the Music School as their Saturday receptionist, I invited my newfound collaborator Jeff Marx to the school one afternoon and, on the stage of the recital hall, we wrote the beginning of "Everyone's A Little Bit Racist."

So, in addition to a lifetime of musical instruction, a whole lot of nurturing support, and a part time job when I needed it most, the Greenwich House gave me something very valuable indeed: a forum in which to make fun of, and musicalize, ethnic stereotypes.

When the director of the music school approached me because those two Steinway pianos on the stage of the recital hall were in disrepair and needed to be replaced, I immediately said yes, and Jeff and I began to organize this benefit concert. And if you want to hear "Oy Veh, What A Day" in its entirety, the only place to hear it is on June 27th at the Lortel!

Is Swing/Jazz music something that's always/ever interested you?

The decision to do a concert of swing/jazz came as a happy accident when the bassist of Avenue Q, Mary Ann McSweeney, brought us an idea for an album she wanted to arrange and produce -- jazz variations on the Avenue Q score. When she and Billy Stritch performed her arrangement of "Purpose" at our Birdland concert, we thought it was brilliant! So Mary Ann has done more arrangements, and we have a killer cast lined up. We're very excited!

We should also point out that the show isn't ALL swing. Toxic Audio will be doing a couple of their own arrangements of Q songs. And members of the music school's faculty will be playing a classical version of "The Internet Is For Porn" for a string trio, arranged by our friend Lisa DeSpain, which she has affectionately titled "Variations On A Pornographic Theme."

Are you enjoying revisiting your tunes from Avenue Q?

It's always a lot of fun to hear something you wrote done in a new way -- and that's the appeal of doing something like this for us, in addition to how flattering it is that such talented arrangers and performers would agree to do it in the first place.

We hope the show's fans enjoy it as much as we will!

Any hints you can give us on some of the concert's content?

I think we've dropped enough hints already! Well, actually, I guess it would be okay to go ahead and confirm the rumor that Marc Shaiman is going to perform his number entirely in the nude...

How are things coming for the Vegas production of Avenue Q?

Great! We're excited -- it's not every day that Steve Wynn builds a brand new $40 million theater specifically for your show! A lot of us have made it out to the hotel, which is gorgeous. The theater isn't quite finished yet, but it will be. We're just about finished casting, and ready to go into rehearsals in a few weeks.

Will there be any minor/notable changes to the show for that production?

We're making a few little changes to the score, the orchestrations, and the animation, too -- stuff we always wanted to fix. But nothing major, of course. With very minor exceptions, it'll be exactly the same as the Broadway show.

Any word on the casting out there, or if there will be multiple casts?

The casting is shaping up great! There's a lot of talented actors out there who never discovered their latent puppeteering talents until now. It will be a lot of fun to get to work with the new folks. And although not all the contracts are quite signed and complete yet, it does look fairly certain that the Vegas cast will also include some familiar faces as well. :)

In Vegas there will be ten shows a week, instead of eight, so there will be two casts.

What else are you guys working on at the moment?

Lots of stuff. Bobby just had a baby daughter; Jeff just had a breakup.

We're just about finished with the screenplay for a movie-musical for Universal Pictures, and soon we'll be able to focus solely on finishing up the rest of the songs.

We're also going to have to do some rewrites for the upcoming London version of Avenue Q, trying to avoid some potentially confusing issues like Brits wondering "who is Gary Coleman?"

Also, as soon as we get a chance to breathe a little, we're looking forward to diving into a new stage musical we've been planning with Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Bobby is also working with his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez on a project for Disney. And we're all looking forward to the "Avenue Q Swings!" CD which Mary Ann is working on, which will hopefully hit the shelves sometime within the next 6 months or so.

Tickets to Avenue Q Swings! range from $150 to $250 (the $75 ones are sold out), with the $250 tickets gaining the buyer access to a special post-show reception with the cast. Tickets are available through Ticket Central--call 212-279-4200. The Lucille Lortel Theatre is located at 121 Christopher Street.

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