|Keshia Daisy Oliver as Gary Coleman|
kicking back with Trekkie Monster (Jim Snideman)
On Avenue Q, fantasy mixes with reality. People and puppets coexist. And even Gary Coleman comes back to life. Yes, that Gary Coleman. In the show’s opening number “It Sucks To Be Me,” Keshia Daisy Oliver declares, "I'm Gary Coleman, from TV's Diff’rent Strokes!" But to Keshia, “It doesn't suck to be Gary! It’s kind of like being the guest star on Sesame Street. Being human, I don't get the added task of learning puppetry, but I do get to ignore other humans to talk to the puppets! As the superintendent of Avenue Q, I feel like Gary just kind of oversees the day-to-day, taking phone calls, officiating weddings, street-sweeping, and giving those signature phrases that never seem to get old!”
Portraying a now-deceased child TV star make offend the sensibilities of some people, but then again, “That is the style of ‘Avenue Q, to slap you in the face, to the point where nothing offends you and everything becomes O.K.,” according to Danielle K. Thomas, who played the Coleman character for nearly three years on Broadway. In fact, the decision to keep “Gary” in Avenue Q after his death in 2010 is consistent with the overall oddity of the show. Jeff Whitty, a writer of Avenue Q, said, “From the very beginning, when we wrote the show, he represented a certain spunkiness and attempting to overcome life’s disappointments. … It’s a show of very heightened circumstances. In that world, I think Gary Coleman can actually live on in some degree of comfort.” (Quotes from New York Times article by Dave Itzkoff, May 29, 2010.)
In this context, Keshia says, “I enjoy playing Gary, purely out of getting to be a fun-loving character role that gets to use questionable words and phrases! … Avenue Q's such a good-hearted, high-energy show! It's so neat to see these small folks have big dreams, and to try to get to their respective goals practically.” Keshia is no stranger to the part, having previously played Gary in Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's production of Avenue Q last September. Despite the repeat role, she says, “It'll never get old. Being a ‘lady of color,’ there aren't a ton of roles quite as fun as this one, and I'd do it again!” Keshia has been in love with theatre all her life, and is thrilled to make her Farmington Players debut. Some of her favorite shows she's been involved in, both on and off stage, include Miss Saigon, Bare: A Pop Opera, Fame, Cinderella, You Can't Take it With You, Baby with the Bath Water, 42nd Street, The Wiz, and West Side Story. As her day job, Keshia works as a massage therapist in Plymouth.
Avenue Q opens Friday August 10 and runs through Saturday August 25. Get your tickets at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the Farmington Players box office at 248-553-2955. Find us on Facebook under “Farmington Players.”