Actor Ben Tebbe says, “It feels fantastic to be doing Avenue Q again.” Reprising the role of Princeton, which he played when the show was first presented last summer at the Phoenix Theatre, Tebbe will join all the original members of that cast when the musical comedy returns. Brought back by popular demand, it opens April 19 and continues through May 13 at the downtown Indianapolis theatre located in the arts district.
“It was a lot of fun the first time around and as we were doing it I was saying to people, ‘I could picture myself doing this show for a year or two-year run and not get bored with it.’” says Tebbe, who adds, “The audience gets a big kick out of it and that is why I think I could do it for a long period of time. I am excited about it.”
Avenue Q, with music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, and original story by Jeff Whitty, opened off-Broadway in 2003 and enjoyed an extended run. The winner of Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book in the 2004 Tony Awards, the show is part human and part puppet. Though warm and endearing, Avenue Q is not for children because it’s often naughty and deals with serious issues like relationships, the economy, sex, race, and coming out.
It tells the story of Tebbe’s character, the idealistic young Princeton, a recent college graduate who moves into a seedy New York apartment on Avenue Q. There he meets a group of eccentric characters who help him find his purpose.
Tebbe says he loves Princeton because “he has this lovable quality but he also has this undercurrent of wanting to rebel but not knowing how. Unknowingly though, he finds a way to rebel a little bit while making some stupid mistakes along the way. I find that very human.”
It’s a role that is consistent with others Tebbe says he has played. “I tend to be cast in ‘innocence’ roles or the non-threatening, ‘everyman’ type of protagonist in both stage work and in camera work.”
Evidence of Tebbe’s assessment can be seen frequently in a series of local Tire Barn TV commercials (which, coincidently and ironically, also star Emily Ristine who plays Kate Monster, Princeton’s love interest, in the show) in which he plays an affable store employee. For his on-camera work, Tebbe is represented by the Helen Wells Agency.
As far as his stage work, Tebbe has managed to maintain a fairly active career — no small accomplishment for an Equity actor working in a market with limited professional opportunities. Last year he was in a critically praised independent production of The Eel Catchers presented at Theatre on the Square’s Stage 2. He also appeared in A Christmas Carol and Julius Caesar at Indiana Repertory Theatre.
A founding company member of the Heartland Actors Repertory Theatre, Tebbe is a Marian University graduate. He is also a recipient of a 2011-2012 Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship from the Arts Council of Indianapolis and Lilly Endowment, as well as an artist in the class room for the Indiana Repertory Theatre.
Soon he will take over as the first director of Marian University Auditorium (formerly the home of the Indianapolis Civic Theatre), which will be utilized for university cultural activities and serve as a presenter for outside arts organizations as well.
From July 6-21,Tebbe will play Cliff Bradshaw in an independent production of Cabaret, produced and directed by Bob Harbin at the Athenaeum Theatre. Tebbe’s Avenue Q castmate Claire Wilcher is playing Sally Bowles.
Regarding Avenue Q, Tebbe says, “Last time we did the show, most people went away having had a really good time and if nothing else, that’s worth a lot these days. I think the message in Avenue Q is an important one — life is fleeting. Have fun along the way and do good things for other people as well.”
Other returning Avenue Q cast members are Diane Tsao Boehm, Da’ Keisha Bryant, Jason Gloye, R. Brian Noffke, Eric J. Olson and Claire Wilcher.
For tickets and information about Phoenix Theatre’s production of Avenue Q, call (317) 635-7529 or visit www.phoenixtheatre.org.