NEW YORK — Whatever happened to the “Sesame Street” generation?
They’re in their 30s now, and three of them have written a musical inspired by the famed TV show they watched as toddlers.
Called “Avenue Q,” the new tuner workshops this August at the O’Neill Music Theater Conference in Waterford, Conn., then comes to Gotham in February for its world premiere at the Vineyard Theater in a co-production with the New Group.
“The world of ‘Sesame Street’ tells you that you’re special,” says Robert Lopez, composer-lyricist. “And the real world tells you that you’re not special,” says Jeff Marx, composer-lyricist.
Just as “Sesame Street” coddled them when they were kids, Lopez and Marx hope “Avenue Q” will coddle young people in that difficult transition from college to adulthood.
“What do you do with a B.A. in English? You answer phones, you temp,” Lopez recalls.
“No one is doing what they want to do, but just trying to make a living,” adds Marx.
The mythical Avenue Q is their imaginary projection of Gotham’s Alphabet City out across the East River and into Queens, hence, Avenue Q. Or as Lopez puts it, “the last stop on the train.”
Jeffrey Seller (“Rent”) and Robyn Goodman (“Metamorphoses”) have been nurturing the project ever since they attended an early reading. The two Broadway producers clearly have their collective eye on a commercial transfer from the Vineyard. In fact, it was Goodman who suggested they bring on a book writer, Jeff Whitty, whose plays she had admired in her former gig as director of artistic development at the Manhattan Theater Club.
The “Sesame Street” connection isn’t just theoretical, either: Four puppeteers who work on “Sesame Street” will bring a menagerie of creatures to life on “Avenue Q” as well.
Corporate sponsorship of theater tours, venues and festivals has been commonplace for years. Individual Broadway shows, however, have been more resistant to the lures of these partnerships, although they do pop up occasionally: TWA and “Sunset Boulevard,” Target and “Seussical,” among the few.
This coming season, Broadway looks to host two such marriages: Visa with “Movin’ Out” and Mercedes-Benz with “Dance of the Vampires.”
Although the company’s logo is not part of the Minskoff moniker, Mercedes-Benz is already a sponsor of the theater, and now looks to link itself with the venue’s next tenant as well.
“The goal would be to integrate Mercedes-Benz’s (marketing) with specific aspects of the show in all media,” says Jim Russek of Rave! Advertising. “The average age of the Mercedes-Benz owners is 55 years old. That’s right up the alley of the theater demo.” (Toyota, with its much younger demographics, goes in for comedy fests.)
The specifics of the Mercedes-Benz/”Vampires” deal have yet to be hammered out.
Visa, on the other hand, has very much taken the plunge in its first full sponsorship of a Broadway show, “Movin’ Out” by Twyla Tharp and Billy Joel.
“We’re anxious to see how it does,” says Jennifer Hemmer, Visa’s director of events and sponsorship marketing. “With Broadway, it is always a guessing game.”
Hemmer finds the Tharp/Joel combo especially attractive. “They will appeal to a wider range of theatergoer,” she says. Helping to facilitate the deal is the show’s lead producer, James L. Nederlander, who also happens to own the show’s Broadway venue, the Richard Rodgers Theater.
In addition to an exclusive six-week advance ticket access, Visa has on-site presence as well, which it shares with Playbill thanks to the purchase of ads in the legit periodical. Normally the Playbill logo retains exclusivity inside any theater in which the program is distributed.
The Serino Coyne ad agency brokered the Visa/”Movin’ Out” deal with the Erlick Group, which has put together several corporate sponsorships of national legit tours, such as “Mamma Mia!” and Olive Garden.