Arts Reviews

Avenue Q Reviewed

By Amy Somensky Jan 15, 2005, 10:57 GMT

New York: Think Sesame Street for generation X or recent college grads. That is Avenue Q in a nutshell. Add to that a dose of charm, charisma and a touch of South Park and you have it. Oh and did I mention puppets.

Every college graduate has been there. Armed with a degree in hand you are thrust into the real world with slightly more knowledge than you began with. You ask yourself the question what do you do with a BA in English (feel free to insert any other useless major)? Princeton has just graduated and is searching for his purpose in life. He began at Avenue A, but everywhere was out of his price range until he arrives at Avenue Q. A place that just happens to have a place for rent. In his stay at Avenue Q, Princeton, sort of falls in love, gets utterly lost trying to find his purpose, has a one night stand, is visited by the bad idea bears,  falls into a deep depression, and mopes around his apartment.

Kate Monster, Stephanie D'ABruzzio, Princeton, and John Tartaglia
Did I mention that Princeton literally has two heads. One, a hand puppet and the other that of the always visible man who brings him to life, John Tartaglia. Princeton is joined by puppets, Kate Monster: the smart, pretty teacher and sometimes girlfriend of Princeton, who can’t seem to keep a boyfriend, voiced by Stephanie D’ABruzzio; Rod: the very much in the closet Republican also voiced by Tartaglia; Trekie Monster: the hermit who has an affection for porn; and Nicky: Rod’s roommate. Both are voiced by Rick Lyon. Living alongside the puppets are humans; Christmas Eve, the Japanese therapist who tried to work in a Korean deli and whom has not quite mastered the English language played by Ann Sanders; her unemployed fiancée Brian played by Peter Linz; and Avenue Q superintendent, Gary Coleman played by Natalie Venetia Belcon.

The creators of Avenue Q, Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx, and Jeff Whitty obviously grew up in a childhood filled with Sesame Street. I bet you can still remember the words to the theme song -- and that is just what they are betting on. The influences are everywhere. Rod and Nicky bear a striking resemblance to Bert and Ernie, and Trekie Monster can’t get enough of porn instead of cookies. The brilliance of the story is that these elements are familiar but are given such a unique spin that you can’t help but be charmed by them. Animated segments are used to give the audience the words and lessons of the day including commitment, and the use of bedroom furniture to illustrate a one night stand. More than anything else, the bad idea bears are hilarious. They show up when Princeton is in the most need of guidance. Instead of showing him the right way they give him the worst ideas possible, like their names say. When Princeton’s parents send him money to help him out, they tell him to buy beer with it, and when he is at his lowest they supply him with a rope to hang himself -- thankfully he doesn’t take their advice.

It Sucks To Be Me
It’s in the show’s infectious and hilarious tunes that the show takes off. The music is rooted in Broadway and children’s television, but the lyrics are clearly adult which can be inferred from their titles, “Everyone Is a Little Bit Racist,” “The Internet Is For Porn,” “Schadenfreude” (which is also a word of the day), “The More You Love Someone/ The More You Want To Kill Him,” “You Can Be As Loud As the Hell You Want (When You’re Makin’ Love),” and “It Sucks To Be Me.” I would advise not being familiar with the recording since it diminishes the laughs.

Rick Lyon not only supplies the voice for several puppets, but also serves as the creator. These oversized hand puppets bop back and fourth on the hands of their counterparts, but Lyon, Tartaglia, and D’ABruzzio are so adept at their craft that they seem as if they are an extension of their hands. Several human performances also stand out. Ann Sanders and Natalie Venetia Belcon are hilarious as Christmas Eve and Gary Coleman.  

The show does have a few pitfalls. It’s first act is way too long, and the plotline wanders at times.

The musical will feel familiar to a younger audience especially one who has grown up with Sesame Street. Being a recent college graduate, I can certainly relate to the feelings of helplessness and uselessness felt by many of the characters in this musical, which is saying something since most of them are puppets. That goes to show the depth and care that the creators have gone to create this charming musical.

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