Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Avenue Q

‘AVENUE Q’ delights at the Palace

According to one of the songs in ‘AVENUE Q,’ which is now being staged as part of the Broadway series at the Palace Theatre, “life sucks on Avenue Q.” Don’t tell that to the near capacity audience who attended the opening night performance of the touring show. They loved life on ‘AVENUE Q’!!!

Known as the “porn puppet musical,” ‘AVENUE Q’ won the 2004 Tony Award for Best Musical.

The show, which was conceived by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, opened off –Broadway in 2002, was transferred on-Broadway in 2003 and went to Las Vegas in 2005 instead of doing the usual touring production routine of major musicals. The Vegas run is why it has taken so long to get here.

The script is largely inspired by ‘SESAME STREET.’ Most of the characters in the show are puppets. In contrast to the tv show, the actors who operate the puppets are clearly seen. It’s delightful to watch the human facial expressions and body actions paralleled by the puppets. The set depicts several tenements on a rundown street known as Avenue Q, in New York City. Many of the characters are pure parodies of Sesame Street. The major difference is that the “Q” characters are young adults facing adult problems who sometimes use profanity.

The story is about a bright-eyed college graduate named Princeton who finds himself in a search for purpose. When Princeton moves onto Avenue Q, he encounters a group of delightful misfits including Kate Monster, a lovelorn kindergarten assistant, who falls in love with Princeton; Nicky, a good-hearted slacker who lives with Rod; Rod, a closeted gay Republican investment banker; Brian, an out-of-work comedian, engaged to Christmas Eve, a Japanese psycho-therapist; Gary Coleman, yes, the former child actor; Trekkie Monster, think a porn obsessed Cookie Monster; and, Lucy T. Slut – a slutty night club singer.

The songs are delightful. They include "What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?,” "It Sucks to Be Me, " "Purpose," "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist," and "I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today."

Many of the topics and song lyrics brought sustained laughter because of their connection to the audience. For instance, during the song “For Now,” which lists things that are only going to be around for a short time, the name “George Bush” was sung. The audience broke out in prolonged applause and cheering.

What about the advertised porno inclusions? Yes, there is some swearing and the use of “those” words. And, yes, there are puppet sex acts. However, except for those with severe red state attitudes, the viewers will find the going-ons fun, not perverse.

The touring production is excellent. The cast is strong and the staging and special effects are well conceived.

Audience favorites included Robert McClure, who performed the roles of Princeton and Rod. This is a talented young man, who was in the Broadway production of the show, has an excellent singing voice, great acting skills and a compelling stage presence. Kelli Sawyer (Nicky, Trekkie Monster) has a strong singing voice and interacted well with McClure. Angela AI was delightful as Christmas Eve and Carla Renata made for a great Gary Coleman.

Capsule judgment: ‘AVENUE Q’ is a total delight. Go, you’ll have a great time!