Campus has been abuzz with reviews of this weekend’s release of the spring musical, Avenue Q. Some of the accounts I’ve heard used to describe the reproduction of the three-time Tony winner are, “just weird,” and “hysterical.”
I have no theater knowledge outside of what I’ve learned in my Introduction to Theatre course this semester, for which I was required to see Avenue Q. Although I had heard that the musical was extremely funny and rated R, I’ll admit that I still wasn’t too thrilled to be spending my Friday evening sitting in Robsham watching, in essence, a puppet show. Plus, I definitely didn’t know what to expect and have hated every musical I’ve seen in the past.
However, Avenue Q was much more than a puppet show. The show is most famous for its controversial themes combined with the use of puppets, to seemingly provide for an adult version of Sesame Street. In fact, it seemed that the themes of the show gave an adulterated take on the themes discussed in Sesame Street. For example, the character Princeton is struggling with life after college and finding his purpose, evident in his song, “What Do You Do with a B.A. In English?”
I enjoyed that the musical dealt with adult themes such as beginning life after graduation. However, some of the more outrageous bits downplayed the themes, such as Trekkie Monster’s obsession with porn and the fact that Lucy the Slut was knocked unconscious by being hit by a penny thrown off the Empire State Building by Kate Monster. Parts like these explain why some might describe this show as strange.
That being said, I think for a musical of this type, it was a bit lengthy. There were so many small parts that could have been removed. For example, when the Bad Idea Bears convince Princeton to spend the very little money he has on beer. Although it provided some humor, it was irrelevant to the other ideas of the play. I know that I personally would have enjoyed the play more had it been shorter. Of course, that’s the opinion of a person who isn’t into theater.
On top of the themes discussed, I really enjoyed the musical aesthetically. To begin with, I found it incredible that the scene barely changed and minimal props were used, and yet it was not boring. The scene itself had many quirks, like doors and windows that could open and close, and the ability to stand on top of the background as if standing on a rooftop, that allowed for a lot of movement throughout the entire play. The characters even incorporated the audience into the play, taking “donations” (fake money given in the programs) from members of the audience in order to raise money for Kate Monster’s monster school.
Even more than that, though, every actor in the play was absolutely amazing. My mind is still reeling at their abilities to sing, move, talk, and make facial expressions as if they were acting normally, and on top of that, control the movements of puppets at the same time. It must have required tons of work to get both down, and yet it looked coherent and well-done at all times.
The use of puppets was also really interesting to me because I definitely think that it made up for most of the humor in the play. The dialogue was witty and the songs were funny, but the fact that cartoonish puppets were discussing themes such as racism, sex, alcohol, and porn made it much more humorous than if the characters were merely humans.
As I said before, musicals and I don’t get along too well in general. I didn’t find that I was ready to walk out on this musical, though. The musical numbers were witty and brief enough that I was kept entertained, not to mention that they told stories about the characters as songs in most musicals do.
When people asked me my opinions on Avenue Q, I admit that I used the term “weird.” However, the amusing dialogue and songs on top of the amazing performances by all the actors made it weird in a good way.