There's someone like you on Avenue Q

By anne
January 1, 2008 - 12:45.

I loved Avenue Q at the opening line. But then, I’m biased. Having graduated from a small liberal arts college with a degree in Slippery Slope to Poverty, I appreciated the humor in college grad Princeton’s lament: “What do you do with a B.A. in English? What is my life going to be?”

I’d heard that Avenue Q is a Sesame Street for grownups—that is, puppets interacting with real people to solve problems in their neighborhood and in their personal lives (including, for us adults, issues of a sexual nature). That’s true, but it’s more than a parody. Avenue Q explores what it means to compromise for the sake of relationships and community, yet remain true to yourself.

The plot follows puppet-boy Princeton (Robert McClure) and his newfound love, Kate Monster (Kelli Sawyer), starting out in life as most of us do—with dreams only slightly outsizing our doubts.

Life’s little realities come to light as, one by one, the residents of Avenue Q compete for sympathy in the hilarious “It Sucks to Be Me.” The award goes to Gary Coleman of TV’s Diff’rent Strokes (Carla Renata). Yes, that Gary Coleman is the token celebrity on Avenue Q, receiving merciless taunting about his failed acting career from lyricists Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx. (Need I mention that irreverence is a virtue on Avenue Q?)

Several songs in this musical-for-people-who-hate-musicals give voice to the dark side of humanity, in a delightfully innocuous way. To wit: “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist,” “The Internet Is For Porn,” and “Schadenfreude” (a German expression for happiness at the misfortune of others).

Trust me, this stuff is hilarious—unless you are the type who gets offended at South Park or Kids in the Hall. If that’s you, do NOT see Avenue Q. Save your money for Disney World on Ice.

The best part about Avenue Q isn’t the lyrics, though, even for an English major who STILL isn’t sure what she’s going to be. The best part is the gutsy vocals and the ambidexterity of the cast. Puppets and their masters appear on stage together with no attempt at ventriloquism; it works because it’s so completely honest. Their inside-outness gives the characters vulnerability and therefore a greater complexity than Sesame Street could achieve. The set is fun, too. Picture a rundown New York City apartment building as an advent calendar. You’ll know what I mean when you see it!

Avenue Q runs through January 13 at State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis. Tickets $27-$67 ($28 for students, advance purchase only).

Note: State Theatre recommends this production for age 13+, but as a mom, I would not bring anyone under 17. There is strong language and sexual content. The CD is marked “Parental Advisory” for a reason. Now you know.

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