Theater

Avenue Q, New World Stages

"Is there anybody here it doesn't suck to be?"

Avenue Q

New World Stages

Cast:
Kerri Brackin
Grace Choi
Ben Durocher
Jason Jacoby
Nick Kohn
Dana Steingold
Danielle K. Thomas

Creative Team:
Robert Lopez & Jeff Marx (Music and Lyrics)
Jeff Whitty (Book)
Rick Lyon (Puppets Conceived and Designed)
Anna Louizos (Set Design)
Mirena Rada (Costume Design)
Howell Binkley (Lighting Design)
ACME Sound Partners (Sound Design)
Robert Lopez (Animation Design)
Gary Adler (Incidental Music)
Cindy Tolan & Adam Caldwell (Casting)
Ryan Conway, Ken Davenport (General Manager)
Juniper Street Productions (Production Manager)
Christine M. Daly (Production Stage Manager)
Sam Rudy Media Relations (Press Rep)
Brian Hertz (Musical Director)
The Pekoe Group (Advertising/Marketing)
Stephen Oremus (Music Supervision, Arrangement, and Orchestrations)
Ken Roberson (Choreographer)
Jason Moore (Director)

Image courtesy Avenue Q website

March 5, 2018

When Avenue Q premiered in 2004, I was reading Catcher In The Rye. Holden Caulfield, that sardonic, cynical youth calling the world phony.

My classmates loved it. Holden gave them a place to put their anger and their acne and their discomfort and posturing and figuring out of self.

I hated it.

I held onto optimism with youthful desire to make the world a better place. I wanted to be an astronaut and discover new planets, giving our sardonic youths something to (literally) look up to. To me, Holden represented all the potential failure and ennui that waited in the wings when we gave up on our dreams. Open it a little too far, and you'd get sucked in.

Half a country away, a wholly different kind of story was unfolding on Broadway stages, and if I'd read Avenue Q instead of Salinger I might have kept the door closed for a few more years. Like Catcher In The Rye, Avenue Q is filled with sarcasm and youthful yearning. "You're not special," they state, unabashedly, and we laugh because it's true.

The show is, admittedly, dated. "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" felt like an excuse for the hateful rhetoric that's currently surrounding politics; a song that puts air under the wings of people who want to be openly bigoted. Maybe "The Internet is for Porn" shocked audiences in 2004, when the world wide web expanded like a mysterious and wild frontier, but now it left me thinking, "uh huh, so what? find me a person in this room who hasn't used the internet for porn in the last 48 hours."

Yet, despite this, many themes felt remarkably relevant. Unemployment in New York City, looking for purpose, the knowledge that your life is basically one big, fat, disappointing failure. At times I realized that my millennial mentality had been bottled up, splattered on a page, and sung through the voices of very adorable puppets. Maybe things aren't so bad after all, I thought, if I can find satisfaction in a puppet singing about the very things that keep me up at night.

The show itself satisfied me, particularly the precise choreography of puppet and actor expressions melding into one strange hybrid creature. Maintaining "puppet voice" while belting vocals at the top of your lungs should be included on a list of actor resume skills (how does Dana Steingold stay so nasal??).

And of course, the puppet sex scene had people rolling on the floor. The internet is for porn? Well.....how about a puppet show instead?

I wish I had seen Avenue Q as a teenager as the flipside to Catcher In The Rye. It would have granted me optimism in the face of teenage angst. I'm not special, you're not special, but we need to find people who make us feel special. That's the trick.

He'd probably find it phony, maybe Holden Caulfield would have smiled a bit too.

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