While the puppeteers behind the Tony-winning Avenue Q have won over Broadway, their success comes at a time when many puppeteers — and puppets — find themselves being replaced by pixels.

Avenue Q, a satire of puppet-based children’s programs such as Sesame Street, was the surprise winner of best musical at the Tony awards on Sunday night and also picked up the awards for best book and best original score.

The New York-based production is being heralded as a breakthrough for puppetry as a form of adult entertainment. But can its victory, and the critical success of puppeteers such as Canadian Ronnie Burkett, who brings a dark edge to his one-man puppet shows (Street of Blood, Tinka’s New Dress), revive a vanishing art?

Avenue Q’s popularity, for example, comes at a time when many North American puppeteers are hungry for work. Evidence that their job prospects are evaporating can be seen in Hollywood’s embrace of computer graphics.

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