Return to Avenue Q

As typoattack mentioned, we saw Avenue Q. Here is the review I handed in.

For whatever reason, most people see puppets and puppeteering as a medium geared primarily towards children. The rampant popularity of the very child-geared Sesame Street is most likely responsible for much of this feeling. The Muppet Show, while very appealing to adults and occasionally bordering on risqué, is still child-friendly. As these two shows constitute most of the average person’s experience with puppets there is nothing to Because of this preconceived notion, Avenue Q catches the unwary viewer off guard with its mature topics and racy presentation, especially because it looks so much like the Muppets on the surface. Even knowing that the show contains songs such as “The Internet is for Porn,” “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” and “If You Were Gay;” actually seeing puppets perform these and other songs is absolutely hilarious because only seeing it actually happen can prepare you for it. Somewhat ironically, the seed of the Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez’s idea for this show was a Muppet movie starring Kermit that Brian Henson did not approve and Avenue Q grew from there.

The show opens with a smiling sun rising, leading into a cheerful animated short with cheerful music and depressing lyrics to set up the tone of the show that continues throughout the majority of the show where the characters joke about serious issues. Oftentimes such joking undermines the goal of a message; however, the whimsical nature here does not at all and the show doesn’t cross the line into being disrespectful. Instead, its parody comes through and mocks the mindset of modern society. One of the greatest instance of the whimsical nature of the show is when the cast sings “The Money Song” and shatters the fourth wall and goes into the audience holding hats to ask for spare change for an in-show charitable cause. During both performances of the show that I have seen, a character has stolen a purse from an audience member and paraded around with it during this song, mocking the owner, then returning it safe and sound. The internal “guts” of the musical follows this sadness on top of cheerful theme. The overarching plot follows it too with a cheerful and happy first half followed by a sad and depressing second half.

The puppeteering adds an interesting twist to the show. For one, it removes the puppet characters from being familiar and makes the audience look at the characters differently. This effect is enhanced when the different kind of puppets that the play uses are analyzed. The two main characters, Princeton and Kate Monster, are the least moveable puppets. They are single-rod puppets where the puppeteer can only control the mouth and one arm. This lessens the largeness of their personality because they are physically capable of doing fewer things. Double-rod puppets have more mobility and they all have bigger personalities than the single-rod puppets. Some of the most memorable characters in the show are double-rod puppets. However, the biggest characters of all are the live-hand puppets that require two puppeteers for full functionality. The biggest of these is Trekkie Monster who is an adult parody of Cookie Monster from Sesame Street. Due to the small cast of the show, the puppeteers never control just one puppet and the casting often means that one actor voices two on-stage puppets at the same time while not controlling one of them.

Unfortunately, of the two performances of the show I have seen—December 31st 2009 and February 9th 2011—the performance actually decreased in quality. That is not to say that the performance was poor, only that I was disappointed. The acting in the latter performance was generally inferior, by returning actors and new actors alike, with only a handful of exceptions. Nevertheless, the show remains strong and anyone who wants a few good laughs should go see it at the New World Stages. The most cost-effective method to go see this show is to buy rush tickets at the box office when it opens for $30. These tickets offer front row seats, which are not the best seats in the house because they are far below the stage level although not enough to strain the neck.

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