- Avenue Q
Music and Lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx
Book by Jeff Whitty
Directed By Jason Moore
Produced By Robyn Goodman, Jeffrey Seller, Vineyard Theatre and The New Group at the National Theatre
Reviewed by Ronnie Ruff
Imagine a show that takes the concept of the wildly popular children’s show Sesame Street, and get its puppets to talk to you about how much it sucked to be fresh out of college and on your own – without a date, much less. This is what Avenue Q brings to the National Theatre for its short run (ends Dec 9th) before heading to Charm City.
Welcome to Avenue Q, New York, NY where the rent is cheap and the neighbors are friendly. Who lives on this low rent block? We have an out of work comedian and his psychologist wife with 2 masters degrees, a closeted log cabin republican and his laid back straight roommate, a sweet kindergarten teaching assistant, the new guy in town who abruptly loses his job, and a surf monster who is addicted to porn and lest you think this group is incomplete, Gary Coleman is the building super! (No it’s not really Gary).
Subjects such as interracial marriage, coming out of the closet, and the prevalence of porn’s domination of the web are all explored. First and foremost though, Avenue Q is a classic love story between a boy and a girl. Now of course the boy will do something to drive the girl away allowing for the wonderfully sweet ending that we all know is coming. Avenue Q does not disappoint. The ending is just fabulous.
One of the great things about this touring production is how well it recreates the excitement and spectacle of the New York production. I was very impressed with the set design. Glowing neon stars and brilliant lighting light up the dull façade of the aging row houses on Avenue Q. What seems to be just a place for the characters to live transforms into a bar, wedding chapel, hospital room and even the Empire State Building where a penny and a puppet meet with some disastrous results.
Nearly all of the cast are veterans of the Broadway or the Las Vegas companies. Kelly Sawyer is just fantastic as the teaching assistant who forgets to show up on her first day in charge of the kiddies because she has a wild romp with Robert McClure (the newcomer to the neighborhood). There is nothing quite like wild puppet sex to keep you from showing up for work. Carla Renata portrays Gary Coleman a building manager with a slight chip on his shoulder left over from child star pain. Her voice is fresh and powerful and her portrayal as Mr. Coleman is right on.
One of the show’s standouts is Christmas Eve (Angela Ai) who pushes every Asian stereotype to the limit. Her spectacular wedding dress with embedded Christmas lights is alone worth the price of admission along with her sarcastic little ditty “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” where Ai sings about the ugliness that is in all of us. As good as ‘Racist’ is, I thought “The Internet Is For Porn” was hilarious, (check out the videos here.) My vote for best song is the toe tapping “It Sucks To Be Me” that will have you humming its chorus all the way home (sing along here.)
Avenue Q tells us that it really feels good to give instead of receive. Years after receiving the Tony for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book, Avenue Q is still giving! If you long for those days when you hit the streets running after getting that degree or you just want to see how funny it looks in retrospect, get on down to Avenue Q.