Play Review: Avenue Q

I love plays yet I don’t go very often. However, I do not care much for musicals.

Avenue Q is a musical — with puppets, like those in Sesame Street. Huh? And how is that fun? I would never have picked this if it were left to me.

But Trisha bought the tickets and I must say — it’s been a long, long time that I have enjoyed a live play as much as this. I had a wonderful time. Thank you very much.

Avenue Q is a most unusual musical. There are seven “actors” in this play. Three of them are human actors, and the other four are puppeteers who control eleven puppets like those in Sesame Street. The human actors wear colorful costumes and they interact seamlessly with the puppets in the play. The puppeteers are humans dressed in gray, gray shoes, gray jeans, gray shirts or skirts and they wear no discernible makeup. The idea is that they are not really there and just blend into the background. The human actors completely ignore the puppeteers as if they were not even there.

As I watched, I found myself completely immersed in the story, following the colorful actors and puppets. I noticed that I was paying attention to the expressions of the puppets, and only occasionally I would  look at the humans controlling them, noticing their facial expressions  mimicking the puppets. To make matters more complicated, some puppets were controlled by two humans at the same time, like one controlling the right hand and the other the left, but always the same voice. This went further, when two puppets were on stage voiced by the same puppeteer but controlled by two different ones. If this all sounds confusing, you’re not alone.

Within the first song, however, I was so drawn into this story, into the custom written music, and into the puppets as believable characters, I just took it as such is the world. I would not have been surprised if I had walked out on the streets of Manhattan later and found people carrying puppets around. It would have made complete sense.

The story is one of coming of age, the culmination of the generations of children who grew up with Sesame Street, accepting of the neat and safe world of only good, and hope, and beauty, only to find out that there is betrayal, and porn, and unemployment, and flat-out bad luck. The first song is “It Sucks to be Me” and this is just a start.

I had a delightful time and I would recommend this show to anyone without any reservation. It’s glorious entertainment and it deserves all the awards it has received.

Rating: ****

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