What you talkin' 'bout? Show's script may change

By Anna Rushworth

The death of pint-sized actor Gary Coleman could spark changes to the script of a hit show currently playing in Auckland.

Former child star Coleman, who shot to fame as Arnold Jackson in American sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, died from a brain haemorrhage at the age of 42 yesterday.

His most famous line, "what you talkin' 'bout Willis?", became a pop culture catchphrase.

But his struggles to emulate the success of his most famous role saw him parodied in the Broadway musical Avenue Q, now showing at Auckland's Civic Theatre.

In the show, a puppet character called Gary Coleman works as the superintendent of the apartment complex where the action takes place.

He laments his fate in the song It Sucks to be Me.

After the news of Coleman's death, Jeff Marx, who conceived the musical with Robert Lopez, told Entertainment Weekly they might change sections of the show featuring Coleman's character.

Marx said: "It's a very sad day for all of us. We all were inspired by him for many, many years."

Clare Chihambakwe, who plays Coleman in the Auckland production, said the references are a tribute and the song features the whole cast.

"In the show we make light of Gary Coleman's childhood career, we like to think of it as a tribute to the great impact his career made.

"The message in the show is any part of your life is only happening for now and things change."

Chihambakwe, 28, said she was a huge fan of Diff'rent Strokes when it screened in the 1980s.

The show won't change before it ends in Auckland on June 5.

- Herald on Sunday

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