The New York Theatre Guide last reviewed the New York production of Avenue Q seven years ago, so we thought it was high time we re-visited Princeton, Kate Monster and co. at New World Stages to see if that fur-covered musical magic is still alive and well. I’m happy to report that Avenue Q is still right up my (Sesame) street!
In 2003, this musical comedy from the creative genius of Jeff Whitty, Jeff Marx and the now EGOT-winner Robert Lopez defied all conventions and broke the mold of modern musical theatre. Shows that followed, including The Book of Mormon, tip their hats in appreciation for these brave puppets, who paved the way. Its snowballing success from the original 2003 production at the Vineyard Theatre swiftly led to a Broadway transfer to the John Golden Theatre, where it played an impressive total of 2,556 performance over more than six years. After closing on Broadway, it reopened the off-Broadway New World Stages venue in October 2009 and it is still entertaining crowds at that same venue today.
The beauty of Avenue Q is the fact that every single person in the audience on any given evening will relate to something on stage. Most of us are familiar to a certain extent with “Sesame Street” and will appreciate the obvious parodies, especially the short pieces of animation played on the screens at either side of the stage. Gone are the cartoons about simple mathematical sums, however, as we find ourselves chuckling at videos about ‘one night stands.’ And seeing humans living in harmony (or disharmony) together on the same street joyously awakens the child within. But then, you are reminded how adult you have become, absorbing musical numbers about pornography, homosexuality, racism and that quest we all undertake on a daily basis – finding your purpose in life.
This clever cast of characters are ticking every box, we might be struggling with in our own lives. Whether it be unemployment, being single, or coming to terms with your sexuality, the chances are you will leave the theatre having completely identified with another human… or a puppet (and how often can you say that?!)
Although the show is over 13 years old by now, its essence refuses to grow thin over time, providing you have a talented cast to carry the script's humour and belt out those cheeky, politically incorrect tunes. In the case of the New World Stage cast, they certainly hit the mark.
A special mention goes to Elizabeth Ann Berg and Grace Choi for their performances as Kate Monster / Lucy the Slut and Christmas Eve, respectively. Although the ensemble cast has great chemistry and comic timing, these two performers were vocally on top notch last night, bringing the house down with the power ballad “The More You Ruv Someone” and the heart-warming “There's a Fine, Fine Line.”
Simply put, this show is a perfect choice for visitors in town, who would like a sample of New York ‘real’ life, led by the not-so-real neighbours of Avenue Q. We may all be wondering how the hell we got to this point in our lives and constantly questioning what our purpose is? But for now, I’m happy that a single evening’s purpose is well spent just to sit back, laugh and rejoice at the marvel of this modern-day musical.
(Photo by Carol Rosegg)
"They may have no legs of their own, but darned if those fuzzy creatures aren’t still standing, long after more full-bodied competition has bitten the dust."
Ben Brantley for the New York Times
"Avenue Q is still one of the hippest theatrical destinations in New York"
David Sheward for Back Stage
"Returning to its Off Broadway origins, the 2004 Tony winner shows no discernible signs of downsizing and no loss of heart."
David Rooney for Variety