Avenue Q, the long-running 2004 multiple Tony Award winner (best musical, best lyrics, and best book) opened at the Lyric Stage here inBoston on May 11 for an eight week run. Such is its popularity that the theatre’s management extended the show for an extra two weeks even before it débuted. The house was full, the audience enthusiastic and on the young side.
Avenue Q draws its material from popular culture, most particularly the children’s television show, Sesame Street, which it sends up. It mocks its political correctness with songs like “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” “Schadenfreude,” and “The More You Ruv Someone,” sung complete with a clichéd and farcical accent by the Japanese-Korean character Christmas Eve, as for example:
The more you ruv someone
The more he make you cly
As in Sesame Street, large hand puppets interact with human beings. Unlike the “real” Sesame Street, the puppeteers are visible, frequently giving the impression that the puppets are their alter egos. However, their human characteristics vary. Kate Monster is a Hollywood girl next door type while Treckie Monster – a spin-off of Cookie Monster – is a character out of a fairy tale, except for his obsession, watching porn on the Internet. Strangely, the child star Gary Coleman of Diff’rent Strokes – now deceased – is a human character, the superintendent of a dilapidated apartment house.
The puppets, like the Muppets, are stereotypical and so is the storyline of Avenue Q. The plot, such as it is, revolves around a group of youngish college graduates dealing with identity issues, love, sex, ambition, money problems, and “purpose.” The play is a little reminiscent of Rent and its predecessor La Bohème. Youth dealing with the downsides of reality, but here with a happy ending.
In this production, a few references are localized for laughs. Christmas Eve and her husband Brian decide to better themselves by moving to Everett, a small shabby city outside of Boston.Massachusettssenator Scott Brown is the butt of a quip originally meant for George W. Bush.
Scene designer Kathryn Kawecki borrows cuteness from Sesame Street, yet gives her set the look of an old city neighborhood gone to seed. Upstage, there are many-windowed red brick buildings, with a central courtyard. As in the TV show, there is a street sign, this one marked Avenue Q. Upstage right is a television screen that displays word games and cartoons evocative of Sesame Street.
The songs are pleasant and sometimes funny, the choreography a little flat. The cast is young, energetic, and enthusiastic, if somewhat uneven in performance. Davron S. Monroe, in the role of Gary Coleman, stood out for his charisma as did Jenna Lea Scott, the production’s Christmas Eve. While I found the show’s often smutty humor sophomoric, I was a minority. If Sunday’s audience is typical of those to come, the Lyric will have a hit on their hands.
The Lyric Stage Company of Boston
Music and Lyrics by Robert Lopez & Jeff Marx
Book by Jeff Whitty
Directed by Spiro Veloudos
Music Director Catherine Stornetta
Choreographer Ilyse Robbins
Puppets Conceived and Designed by Rick Lyon
Scene Design Kathryn Kawecki
Costume Design David Cabral
Lighting Design Frank Meissner, Jr.
Sound Design, Arshan Gailus
John Ambrosino, Elise Arsenault, Harry McErny V, Davron S. Monroe, Jenna Lea Scott,
Erica Spyres, Phil Tayler