Carla Renata as Gary Coleman in the touring production of Avenue Q

*The cast of off-Broadway show Avenue Q, which features an actress playing Gary Coleman as a building superintendent, paid tribute to the late star at the end of Friday night’s performance – just hours after he passed away in Utah.

Producers have stated that his character, currently played by actress Danielle K. Thomas, will continue to be a part of the racy puppet show.  Thomas portrays the former “Diff’rent Strokes” actor in the musical number, “It Sucks to Be Me.”   

“I just want to say that for me, it has never sucked to be Gary Coleman,” she told the audience Friday night. Thomas later admitted she was “terrified” to go out on stage so soon after Coleman’s passing, and she was relieved the crowd cheered her light-hearted tribute.

She tells CBC News, “It was the worst. I had a knot in my throat, I was so nervous.”

In the musical, Coleman’s character sings: “I’m Gary Coleman from TV’s ‘Diff’rent Strokes / I made a lot of money that got stolen by my folks / Now I’m broke and I’m the butt of everyone’s jokes – but I’m here, a superintendent on Avenue Q…”

Another version of the verse, which played in London, has Coleman’s character singing: “I was the cutest little black kid on TV / I made a jillion dollars that my parents stole from me / My life was over when I hit puberty, but I’m here, fixing the toilets on Avenue Q…” [Watch both clips below.]

The show’s co-creator Jeff Whitty reveals some of the script was changed to avoid offending the audience following the actor’s passing, but he’s confirmed they intend to keep Coleman’s character in the show.

“From the very beginning,” Whitty tells The New York Times, “when we wrote the show, he represented a certain spunkiness and attempting to overcome life’s disappointments.”

Coleman died on Friday (May 28) after suffering an intracranial haemorrhage following an accident at his Utah home. He was 42.

Below, Coleman’s character appears at 2:37

Below, Coleman’s character, during 2006 London performance, appears at 3:46