As I entered the packed theatre to see the triple Tony award winning Sesame Street parody, Avenue Q, there was a vibrant energy of opulent anticipation.
With the beginning of the show fast approaching, I had an unfounded preconception that I was about to witness a bawdy, vulgar and lubricious puppet show and in dialogue with my neighbour, it became clear he shared my sentiment. I felt this was going to be quite an edgy encounter that did for puppetry what Fritz the Cat did for cartoon.
My preconceptions were however soon dispelled because although the show did have its share of vulgarity, there was also an emotive dimension to the performance that I wasn’t anticipating but worked because it made the production more cohesive and gave it a degree of levity, which in turn gave the performance heart.
Avenue Q is set on a run down apartment building and chronicles the adventures of its inhabitants through love, coming to terms with your sexuality, and finding a ‘purpose’ in life.
There are some great characters such as the porn obsessed pervert, Trekkie Monster who is based on Sesame Street’s the Cookie Monster and the highly strung closet homosexual Ron and his housemate Nick who are Avenue Q’s very own Bert and Ernie. The Sesame Street comparisons were not just made abundantly clear through the actual performance but relations between the two also stretched to behind-the-scenes with four of the original cast members having been a part of the Sesame Street team- perhaps owing to their desire to flex their creative muscle in something a little more divisive and to move away from edu-tainment.
My particularly favourite characters were the under-used Bad Idea Bears who brought a darker flavour to what was generally quite a gentle affair. They were the Luciferian voice of puppetry seduction that tanked up the protagonist, Princeton, with Absinthe dacaries and tried to talk him into buying a crate of beer because, ‘it works out chea-per.’
The most prominent aspect of the performance was the wonderfully penned songs such as ‘What do you do with a BA in English’ and ‘the internet is great… for porn!’
Pertinent some might think.
The show originally opened in 2003 off-broadway and within 4 months, was showing on Broadway to packed audiences and has enjoyed parallel success here where it ran for 5 years in the West End and is currently undergoing a national tour.
All in all, Avenue Q was a wonderful night of entertainment full of sharp humour, hilarious songs and puppets engaged in quite explicit coitus. My neighbour and I didn’t get the vulgarity we were expecting but we were both smiling on to the streets singing about the wonders of the internet.
The production is currently on a UK tour. Check the website for details.