She Loves Lucy — and Kate Monster!

Why's a nice Jewish girl "slumming" playing Lucy the Slut?

It's all in a day's — and night's — work, insists Jacqueline Grabois, whose handiwork includes manipulating anything-but-pedestrian puppets in "Avenue Q," the street theater of a different sort that took home the Tony Award as best musical on Broadway in 2004, and continues its raucously funny road tour this weekend as part of the Kimmel Center's "Broadway Series" at the Academy of Music

"Sesame Street" on steroids? Grabois grabs attention for Lucy in the sky with diatribes, a fallen puppet who reels in the virile Princeton, but abandons her slatternly ways by musical's end to become a born-again virgin.

So, how do you say tsk-tsk in puppetese?

"Well, I'm not like her in real life," says Grabois with a laugh. "Only for the stage."

What would Howdy Doody do? Come on to Buffalo Bob?

It's a far ride from the Peanut Gallery, but those landing on "Avenue Q" are milking the new millennium, not facing the fearful '50s.

This isn't "Elmo's World." In fact, if Cookie Monster were to wander onto this street by mistake, he'd best be forewarned to check out what's in those cookies before tasting them.

But what it is is a charmingly adult avenue of expression — a loving send-up of Big Birds and little insults that make the world, and its roads, so pothole-unpredictable.

Delving into mature themes that will never find parking space at "Sesame Street," "Avenue Q" takes its cue from headline issues, and invites kids to stay at home and let their parents parade its serpentine sidewalk where prejudice ("Everyone's a Little Racist") and post-college reality ("What Do You Do With a B.A. in English?") pepper the show.

Monster Mash
As for Grabois … well, she's also found kismet portraying Kate Monster, a kindergarten aide with more-than-elementary aspirations to open up her own school for monsters.

See, says Grabois, "I'm not just a slut!"

Slotted as both — and other characters as well — Grabois need not grump for stage time. "Lucy is so much fun to play, and I like Kate, who is the show's heart," says the actress.

(So does Tevye, apparently: In one of the musical's more mischievous moments during its long Broadway history, "Avenue Q" traveled to Anatevka, where the co-mingled casts of 2004 — kosher, to be sure — staged a World AIDS Day benefit production of "Avenue Jew," featuring her characters, Katie Monsterwitz and a somewhat Yiddish-ized Lucy.)

A walk in the park? "I had to create two different walks" for her two very different main characters, says Grabois, walking the walk at the Academy of Music of "both a slut and a straight girl."

She's traveled far from "Avenue Q" — the Miami-nice native having performed, before taking on the tour, in "Shout! The Mad Musical"; national/international tours of "Hairspray" (as Velma Von Tussle — "the bad girls are the best to play," she laughs); and "Double V," a drama about the Holocaust.

And when her long tour ends on Aug. 15, and they pull up the sidewalks of "Avenue Q," who'd be more fun to hang with at the closing cast party?

"Oh, Lucy would let it all hang out!" she says, taking into consideration, of course, just how much a rodded puppet can actually do just that.

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It's an impressive showy lineup of Jenny Craig endorsers: Kirstie Alley, Valerie Bertinelli, Jason Alexander … Tevye?

Is the dairyman on a diet? Mark Jacoby may be the skinniest Tevye "On Stage" has ever seen.

Well, these are lean times in Anatevka.

Buy what could explain a guy with his ribs showing at the Walnut Street Theatre, where a revival of "Fiddler on the Roof" is shaking the roof with Bruce Lumpkin's yidle-didle-didle-didle di of a daring production?

After watching such historic heavweights as Zero Mostel and Herschel Bernardi shake their abundant booties over the years as the zaftig Tevye, it's somewhat of a revelation when Jacoby marches on stage in the opening number of "Tradition," and proceeds to throw his own weight around as a somewhat untraditional-looking Tevye.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Indeed, "On Stage" knew Zero Mostel, he saw him in "Fiddler" … and Jacoby is no Zero Mostel. No, he's … Mark Jacoby.

But that's a good thing; he actually puts his innovative indelible stamp on a role that seemed immutable.

Indeed, Jacoby's Tevye topples the Fiddler from his roof with a smart, sassy interpretation that tears at the heart. So, he looks a little famished in old Anatevka. Is that really a surprise? Maybe that's how he really should have looked from the beginning.

On the one hand, maybe he should listen to Golde: Eat, Tevye, eat. But on the other hand, maybe it's what a production insider told "On Stage."

Maybe Tevye's less heavy — but no less of a man — for a simple reason.

Could it be the dairyman is … lactose-intolerant? 



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