October 24, 2009

"Avenue Q" is at Home in Its New Address

The cheeky little musical Avenue Q ran for six years on Broadway, arm wrestled the Tony for Best Musical away from the bigger and glitzier Wicked, and convinced legions of twentysomethings that Broadway could be a fun place for them to go. But somehow my twentysomething niece Jennifer managed to miss it.  So she was delighted to hear that just five weeks after Avenue Q closed on Broadway, the show was reopening at New World Stages. Judging by the response at the performance we attended, it could enjoy an even longer run off-Broadway. 

The show is, famously, a parody of "Sesame Street", complete with a multi-ethnic cast of characters, puppets, and cheery message songs.  Except that Avenue Q’s characters are potty-mouthed, the puppets sexually active, and the songs about the dilemmas twentysomethings face like finding meaningful jobs, committing to relationships and coming out of the closet.  Jennifer kept nodding and sighing in recognition as the things she and her friends are experiencing unfolded on stage. She loved the show.

I had a good time too.  I saw the show back in 2003 and so I already knew all the jokes but I still laughed at most of them anyway.  And I didn’t even notice the new production’s smaller set or even the smaller orchestra. I even found myself liking some members of the cast more than the originals. It can’t be easy to act with a sock puppet on your hand but Anika Larsen is thoroughly engaging as both good-girl Kate Monster and the Miss Piggyesque vamp Lucy

The laid-back atmosphere at New World Stages, the one-time cineplex that was converted to a theater complex a few years ago, is a perfect venue for Avenue Q.  People queued up at the bar before the show to order drinks, including a fruity sangria, that could be taken to their seats. In another part of the lobby, people milled around chatting about shows they were going to see that night and might see some other night (The Toxic Avenger was playing in the theater next door to Avenue Q's, Altar Boyz down the hall.)  Inside the
Avenue Q theater, waiters worked the aisles hawking drinks and CDs. Later as we left after the show, a singing duo serenaded a group in the bar area.  It all made going to the theater seem like a fun thing to do.  But you don’t have to be in your 20s to enjoy it, or to enjoy Avenue Q.

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