Avenue Q's (gay) Republican puppet speaks his mind

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Fresh off his hit show's Tony Award for best musical, and its booking for an open-ended Las Vegas run, Rod -- the Republican investment-banker puppet of "Avenue Q" -- is perplexed.

In the show, he's pretty much always that way because he's gay -- but still very much in the closet. Now there's something else: The official roster of recommended entertainment for delegates to the national convention of Rod's very own political party omitted "Avenue Q," the irreverent story of a mixed -- very mixed -- neighborhood in some out-outer borough of Manhattan.

"Well, yes, as the only gay Republican puppet on Broadway, I am upset," he said in a distinctive, nasal, whiney voice that comes from actor-puppeteer John Tartaglia. Rod could say he had worried until he was blue in the face, except he's already blue in the face (and arms).

"I hope the members of my party have open enough minds to check out all the great things to enjoy on Broadway, not let someone decide for them," he said. He'd be delighted if any Republicans show up in the audience for "Avenue Q," although he can't promise an autograph: "I only have four fingers so that makes it difficult to hold a pen. But pictures, yes."

He's got a few other recommendations that also missed the list: for starters, "The Boy From Oz" and "Naked Boys Singing" (if it's possible for a puppet to smirk, it's happening). Then, the self-proclaimed "lover of fantasy" offered a few suggestions from the approved list: "Beauty and the Beast" ("dancing tea kettles!") "The Lion King" and "anything with Deborah Cox" -- which happens to be "Aida."

His only recommendation for food is Applebee's on 50th Street -- "dynamite buffalo wings" -- and truth be known, that is actually Tartaglia's choice. The place where Rod hangs out between performances is "on the rack, backstage. The social life of a puppet is zilch." But not without its own rewards, he added: "I like being handled by the burly stagehands."

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