The musical-with-puppets Avenue Q is going to be part of next year’s Citadel Theatre season. Having just seen it off-Broadway, I’m looking forward to it even more than I had been.
It reminded me of Rent ( in being about a small community of struggling young people in New York City, but not sad), of “St. Elmo’s Fire” (being about the anomie of post-graduation), and of, well, “Sesame Street” for grownups. This was a more effective mix than you might expect if you haven’t heard of the show. Three of the seven performers play humans, Brian a wannabe comedian (Nick Kohn), Christmas Eve a wannabe social worker (Sala Iwamatsu), and Gary Coleman yes that Gary Coleman (Danielle K. Thomas). The other four performers operate various Muppet-like characters, while on stage in full view mimicking their alter egos’ gestures. Darren Bluestone plays Princeton the lead, as well as Rod who bears a distinct resemblance to Bert-from-Sesame-Street. Veronica Kuehn plays Kate Monster the other lead. The other two puppeteers are Maggie Lakis and Jason Jacoby.
It’s a fun show, the songs are catchy, the humour is topical and sometimes pointed (“Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”), and the characters’ problems are very easy to identify with.
As someone who grew up with Bert and Ernie, and then who enjoyed speculating on their slashy subtext, I particularly enjoyed the subplot of Rod and his roommate Nicky, and how the writers managed to find both a happy same-sex romantic ending and a respect for non-sexual friendship. I couldn’t think how that story would work out, and it did.
There was one bit of audience interaction that made me wish for once that I was sitting on the aisle – especially when their pass-the-hat came up with a Metrocard.
Avenue Q is playing at New World Stages, a new-looking complex of five underground performance spaces just north of Times Square on 50th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues in New York City. There are often discount tickets at TKTS. And it will be playing at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton next winter. I’ll be there for sure!