Review Summary: Well... before the end of it all, puppets will have sex.
How do you best explain the Drama Desk and Grammy nominated, Tony Award winning production from Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez? Well, envision for a moment a Sesame Street episode if it were to take place on the rough edges of New York City slums, rather than some welcoming street corner. Also, instead of being geared toward teaching children it was instead focused on the hardships of adult living, complete with swearing and drinking.
Add a pinch... scratch that, just smother it with an excess coat of dry wit and then drop any hint of political correctness altogether. While we're at it, go ahead and turn the entire episode into musical and, what the hell let's make Gary Coleman the superintendent. Why not, right? Oh, and yes, let's not forget that somewhere in the middle puppets would be having sex right before you during one of the numbers.
Welcome to Avenue Q.
Over the top, yes, but that seems to be exactly what Marx and Lopez were going for in this delightfully crude musical comedy. Running on Broadway since 2003, the story concentrates on a handful of puppet tenants living on Avenue Q (as opposed to the upscale Avenue A). The Sesame Street inspiration is apparent both in style and characters alike, including the porn-addicted Trekkie Monster and roommates Nicky and (the closet homosexual) Rod. Overall, the story revolves around the main character, Princeton, and his arrival into the neighborhood.
If it wasn't obvious already that this may not be for the easily offended, the song titles alone should be more than enough to indicate the type of humor found here. Granted, tracks like the back-to-back Everyone's A Little Bit Racist
and The Internet Is for Porn
very well may incite a giggle or snicker in some simply by being read aloud. That being said, this is something that needs to be taken lightly and appreciated as humorous, even at its most outrageous. Luckily this isn't very hard to do as the arrangements set are mostly so damn catchy that it's hard not to want to sing along.
Right from the beginning we're introduced to the main characters in What Do You Do With a B.A. In English?/It Sucks to Be Me"
. Along with Princeton there is the potential love interest Kate Monster, unemployed comedian Brian and his Japanese fiancée named Christmas Eve, the quarreling roommates Rod and Nicky. During this number the characters lament over their lives and argue over whose life sucks more than the others, but ultimately decide that the "winner" is superintendent Gary Coleman. Trekkie Monster makes his debut a little later by interrupting Kate Monster's hopeful jingle about teaching an internet class by grunting and bellowing "The internet is for porn! Why you think the net was born? For porn porn porn!
Throughout the performance the personal stories of the characters entwine, but occasionally will focus on one or two of them in particular. Princeton and Kate grow progressively closer further in, increasingly so during the drunken sex that starts off You Can Be As Loud As the Hell You Want
which also features Gary Coleman, who is voiced by a female role, singing a fiery and soulful solo number. It should be noted that the puppets actually engage in sex during the entirety of the song, contributing cries like "You can't put your finger there! Oh! Put your finger there!!
There are some classic lines in here, many sung and some spoken, such as Princeton's "just little judgments like thinking that Mexican busboys should learn to speak god damned english!
" or Schadenfreude
's declaration of pleasure in the pain of "straight-A students getting B's and Ex's getting STD's
". It's hard, however, to cite every notable line, song, or instance in Avenue Q
simply because of the surplus of hilarity here. For the most part every minute of this is spinning off some sort of inappropriate joke, quirky commentary, or just playing off of the clash between the borderline vulgarity of the content and the addictive, crisp presentation of a chorus jingle or ballad.
Concerning the chorus, which act both as singers and puppeteers during the show, the vocal ability here is top notch and exactly what you would expect from musical theater. On top of being so strangely humorous and blatantly overdone, everything seems so acceptable due to the wonderful score backing the whole thing. From nursery rhyme chimes to jaunty piano strolls, and extravagant portions of showtunes to cool lounge interludes, there is a spectrum here to match every odd twist and turn that occurs. This musical flexibility is what serves as the medium that makes the contrast between the abrasive content and the playful image so effective and perversely comedic.
There are a few weak spots here and there, including a few ballad songs that don't necessarily come off as funny but act more of a pause. Purpose
and There's a Fine, Fine Line
offer some introspective solos from Princeton and Kate respectfully and are of course impressive and by no means difficult to listen to. If anything, they may be a moment to catch your breath if perhaps you've been made to laugh a bit too hard from the past couple songs. Granted, opinion will differ from person to person and, though I personally think Avenue Q
is absolutely hilarious in some spots, I also consider myself to have a particularly dry, crude sense of humor myself. Though it should be listened to in good fun I could see the easily offended or overly sensitive finding this unappealing at best.
... but if you chuckled even once reading this review you should probably check it out.
What Do You Do With a B.A. In English/It Sucks to Be Me
Everyone's a Little Bit Racist
The Internet Is for Porn
There Is Life Outside Your Apartment