Call me crazy, but there was something about seeing Avenue Q that reminded me of working at a church. I know that might be a reach, considering this musical has been described as “Sesame Street meets South Park,” but I’m serious. The similarity is this: in both places, you are dealing with a very familiar set of stories, and the dilemma is how to get them across in a way that’s fresh and new. Memorable.
How do you do that? Avenue Q turns to two tools that work very well: humor and surprise. We use those in church, too (although that’s probably where the similarities end).
If you’re not familiar, Avenue Q is about a set of very Sesame-Street-like characters – people and puppets – who inhabit a decidedly un-Sesame-Street-like neighborhood. Different characters in the neighborhood navigate through their various life experiences: starting out after college, romantic interests, careers – all of which is basically a backdrop for some hilariously shocking song and dance routines.
I do mean shocking, people. Even my husband gasped. We both did. We also both laughed a whole lot.
I’m not gonna lie – I don’t think this show is for everyone. If language bothers you or you don’t enjoy fairly crass humor, I wouldn’t go. I wouldn’t take your kids either. But I would also say this show IS for a lot of people. It is very funny, the characters are endearing, the cast is amazing and there are even real issues being brought up in all those boppy sing-along lyrics. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
One more thing: the truly interesting part of the show for me was watching how it happens. The puppeteers are actors, visible onstage. They each work multiple puppets, sometimes passing them off to each other mid-scene. A few of the puppets are worked by two actors at the same time in a sort of upper arm version of a three legged race. Each actor also does multiple voices, so at times two puppets are conversing, but one actor is doing both voices. It’s a kind of choreography, really – so different from other shows I’ve seen before, and simply fascinating to watch. This cast is so talented and have obviously put a ton of work into this production.
Have you seen Avenue Q yet? If so, what was your favorite part? (I love the Bad Idea Bears…)
The Arkansas Repertory Theater was kind enough to provide me with tickets to Avenue Q so that I could write about my experience. Opinions and applause are all mine. You can get tickets here or by clicking The Rep logo.