May 31st, 2010
01:12 PM ET

Gary Coleman will live on in 'Avenue Q'

Following Gary Coleman’s death from a brain hemorrhage on May 28, “Avenue Q” writer Jeff Whitty was faced with a dilemma: Should he keep the vital character based on Coleman in that evening’s performance of the off-Broadway musical, or cut him altogether?

His decision? The show must go on! “From the very beginning,” Mr. Whitty told the New York Times, “when we wrote the show, he represented a certain spunkiness and attempting to overcome life’s disappointments.”

The question of bringing on a new character did come up, Whitty told the Times, acknowledging that audiences at the off-color puppet show might now find the “Avenue Q” Gary Coleman - portrayed as a former child star who works as the superintendent of a tenement and sings about how “It Sucks to Be Me” - just a wee bit offensive.

Instead, the creators of the Tony-winning show, which opened on Broadway in 2003 and is now playing off-Broadway at the New World Stages theater, opted to make minor tweaks to the performance. “We probably cut 20 words out of 1 million from the show tonight,” Whitty said.

Danielle K. Thomas, who plays Gary Coleman in “Avenue Q,” admits that she has always worried about what the “Diff’rent Strokes” star’s ongoing health problems meant for her role. But judging by the audience’s thunderous applause, it looks like her job is secure.

During the shows curtain call, a tearful Thomas took center stage and told the enthusiastic crowd, “I just want to say that, for me, it has never sucked to be Gary Coleman.”

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Filed under: Celebrities • theater

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Meg

    I am a friend of Avenue Q creator Jeff Marx, and Gary Coleman has been on board with his role in the production from the beginning. In spite of his troubled life, Gary maintained his sense of humor and saw his character as a hilarious representation – making lemonade out of lemons, as it were. Gary's decline in popularity as an actor did not leave him bitter about the industry and he was pleased and amused at the depiction of him. As an actor and as a man with a buoyant sense of humor, Gary believed that the show must, indeed, go on and he would be proud to remain a part of such a popular production, even after his death.

    June 3, 2010 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mary Moos

    My son passed away in November, 2009. We were seperated since he was 16 and didn't talk to each other since 1992. I was informed of his death, due to an accidental fall in his apartment, causing the aorta to tear and could not be repaired. He was on life support for 4 days bue I didn't rush to his side because he wanted his life to live it his way. Gary Coleman expressed this way of life also, so I feel his parents can question how or why but not what Gary's wife or those around him decided. They had been out of the picture like me and they should stay out of it in regards to who did what. It was handled according to his wishes, just like my son's.

    June 1, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dennis

    Coleman's parents deserve to be executed for what they did to him

    June 1, 2010 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
  4. Ryan

    So if not Avenue Q, what should we remember Coleman for? His one line "Whatchu talkin bout Willis?" Or his brief stint on "The Surreal Life?" The fact is, Avenue Q pays better tribute to the guy than anything he actually did as an actor.

    I saw the show without knowing Gary Coleman was a character. I'm guessing most people see it knowing as little as I did. Coleman's name isn't selling tickets. It's a great story about real life, and you know what? That seems appropriate. Good job by the producers. Keep him in it.

    June 1, 2010 at 5:59 am | Report abuse |
  5. Christopher Powers

    Gary Coleman got exploited as a child actor by his parents and agent who stole from his trust fund and spent away the money earned on Different Strokes. Avenue Q is no different than Gary's parents, exploiting his name for their fortune with nothing going to the benefit of Gary Coleman. I liked Different Strokes and even liked Avenue Q but absolutely feel that they're exploiting his name for profit–regardless of it being a parody or not, in his death it should have stopped.

    June 1, 2010 at 5:50 am | Report abuse |
  6. Matt

    I actually thought the Gary Coleman character was a bit of an homage...if not to Gary Coleman himself, to the idea that finding your purpose doesn't have to be about attaining wealth, or fortune...that here is a guy who had it all, and now is "just" a superintendent....but you know what? He's the happiest of the whole lot...the character is the glue that holds the rest of the street together....I'm not going to argue whether the show itself is stupid – that's subjective, and the debate can't be won or lost – but I will say that if you look under its surface, it is one of the more realistic coming of age stories to hit the stage in years....it pokes fun at Gary Coleman, yes, but it pokes fun at EVERYONE...and in the end acknowledges that regardless of who we are, we're all part of the same struggle – and that this too shall pass

    May 31, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Marty

    Gary Coleman despised that role and resenting the exploitation of his name in that production. If those producers would have had any decency, they would've dropped that character altogether. What an exploitation – and I must add, a very stupid show.

    May 31, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob J

      Problem is, the real (just deceased) Gary Coleman probably never actually saw the show. If he had, he would have realized it was more of a tongue-in-cheek tribute than a bitter insult.

      June 1, 2010 at 2:57 am | Report abuse |
  8. debra

    Gary Coleman was a hard working man and I think the Producers of the show made a wise decision.....

    May 31, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |

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