Review Summary: And at the end of the day, there's nowhere to go but home to Avenue Q!
Don’t you wish that real life was like Sesame Street
? That everyone was nice and caring, that racism wouldn’t exist, and that every day would be a new adventure that would surely end with a happy ending? Well, it sure as hell isn’t like that. Instead, it’s a lot more like Avenue Q
, a Broadway musical which mixes Sesame Street
-styled puppetry with real-world problems.
Indeed, it’s fairly obvious that the show was designed to imitate Sesame Street
: the puppets are a nod to the work of Jim Henson, porn-collector Trekkie Monster and roommates Rod and Nicky mirror the Cookie Monster and Bert and Ernie, respectively, and much of the music (such as ‘The Avenue Q Theme’) mimics Sesame Street
stylistically. Indeed, numerous Avenue Q
performers came from the Sesame Street
cast. The difference, however, is that in Avenue Q
, unlike in the naive, idealistic Sesame Street
, there isn’t necessarily a happy ending, just like in the real world.
The musical tells the story of Princeton, a college graduate with a useless B.A. in English. Princeton settles in the titular street in hopes of finding his purpose in life. Along the way, he falls in love, helps fund a school for monsters, and meets Avenue Q’s many colorful personalities, ranging from superintendent Gary Coleman to whores and porn addicts, who help him realize that one must accept hardships and disappointments and live life to the fullest irregardless.
Fairly quickly, though, the focus of the show shifts from Princeton to the community as whole. Every character, such as Japanese therapist Christmas Eve and failing comedian Brian, is well-developed and becomes, despite his (numerous) flaws, lovable and relatable. By the end of the musical, the viewer begins to feel like he is, and always have been, a part of Avenue Q
This story is told almost entirely through song; most of the action is set to tunes that mix traditional Broadway mannerisms with children’s show-influenced stylings. This results in some of the catchiest and most interesting music on Broadway. The sadistic ‘Schadenfreude,’ in which Gary Coleman and Nicky sing about how they get pleasure from the pain of others, is particularly well-written.
One of the stronger aspects of the score is how well it fits the events it accompanies. An example of this is the musical’s most infamous number, ‘The Internet Is For Porn,’ which begins with schoolteacher Kate teaching a lesson on the internet to the sound of Mozart-esque harpsichord meanderings. However, Trekkie Monster soon appears and begins to sing praise to porn with the aid sleazy, jazzy piano melodies.
is held together by bitingly-witty humor; indeed, it might be, with the exception of The Book Of Mormon
(written by the same composer) the most clever Broadway production in recent memory. Everything from love to racism and prostitution is made fun of. However, as crass and as lewd as the humor gets, it manages to stay good-natured; even Christmas Eve’s stereotypicar Asian accent can hardly be seen offensive in context.
Beneath the facade of crude humor and puppet sex, Avenue Q
is a simple, kindhearted story which manages to both entertain listeners and teach a lesson.