Sidling PBS’s beloved “Sesame Street,” unconcealed puppeteers, puppets and human actors lament to learn that what “Sesame Street” taught us – we’re the cat’s meow and the world is our oyster – is a hoax. Life as latter 20s and 30-somethings is not easily launched on the sunny side of the street. The real world imposes limitations to a populace where the playing field is even. In other words, you’re really not that special. Adults scramble and sacrifice, lose and learn, and rise and fall in order to fail and succeed, often on repeat.
Staying solvent in New York is not an easy task for Princeton, the show’s principal character. The college graduate arrives in the world’s busiest city, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready for success. However, his tiny budget saddles him to the borough of Queens’ Avenue Q – because Avenue’s A through P are too expensive. Job hunting is tediously unsuccessful as noted by the song, “What Do You Do With A B.A. In English?” followed by “It Sucks To Be Me.”
But all is not that awful. “Avenue Q” is home to a colorful cast of neighbors. Kate Monster, the girl next door who secretly desires Princeton; Rod, the Republican investment banker and closeted gay; Lucy, the lovable slut donning a “what Madonna would look like chubby” costume; Trekkie, the internet entrepreneur infamous for surfing the net for pornography; Lavinia Thistletwat, the unlikeable kindergarten teacher who deserves her name; Nicky, the beloved good Samaritan; and Gary Coleman, the buildings superintendent who is as Gary Coleman as Gary Coleman. Peach, Boy Bear and Girl Bear a.k.a. Bad Idea bears, complete the fur-friendly cast.
Live denizens include Brian, an unemployed want-a-be comic and Christmas Eve, Brian’s Japanese, double MBA, therapist fiancée. While addressing sex, alcohol and pornography, the characters struggle through issues surrounding careers, relationships and the meaning of life. Vignettes include Princeton’s pursuit for employment; Kate Monster’s desire to build a Monsters-sori School – get it “Monsters-sori” school; Rod’s search for courage to proclaim his homosexuality; Christmas Eve’s rally for patients and Brian’s commitment acceptance to marry his fiancé.
And no puppet show would be complete without puppet sex. Yup. Laugh out loud puppet sex.
“Avenue Q”’s cast of characters express their secret longings in songs such as “I Wish I Could Go Back to College,” “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist,” “Fantasies Come Through,” “There’s A Fine, Fine Line,” “The Money Song,” “School for Monsters,” “I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today,” and “Schadenfreude.”
The dialogue is funny. The live actors are great, the singing is super and the comedic timing is spot on. The talented ensemble delivered first-class entertainment affront a quirky – yet perfect – stage design. The puppets are amazing. Although not recommended for children – I would even caution against youthful teenagers – I highly recommend “Avenue Q” for anyone in need of an evening of humor and levity.
The cast features Marc Caro as Princeton, Kay Marian McNellen as Kate Monster, Forrest Reed as Brian, Jeremy Andrew Williams as Rod, Trevor Johnson as Nicky, Ciarlene Coleman as Christmas Eve, Taylor Henderson as Gary Coleman, Oliver Caro-Willcox as Boy Bad Idea Bear, Daryl Daley as Girl Bad Idea Bear, Jack Connard as Trekkie Monster / Mrs. Thistletwat, and Ferril Gardner as Lucy The Slut.
The production team includes Jennie Gray Connard as director/choreographer; Kirk Valles as musical director; Joe Fitzpatrick Jr., as puppet master; Bill Connard as producer and set designer; Jack Connard and Josh Olmstead for lighting, design and sound. Band members include Kirk Valles, PVBovee, Sharon Martin and Steven Brown.
Originally conceived by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, (music and lyrics) “Avenue Q” was originally conceived as a television series. Developed as a stage production in 2002, “Avenue Q” has been awarded three Tony Awards including Best Musical and ranks 24th on the list of longest running Broadway shows.
Director Jennie Gray Connard notes: “When I saw ‘Avenue Q’ in Las Vegas in 2005, I knew I wanted to someday direct the show. My beloved Muppets were back and on stage…grown up adults in adult content or adult books. But they weren’t just naughty. They were real and poignant and insightful and vulnerable.
I was an instant fan of the writing and the clever tie-ins to ‘Sesame Street.’ The score was perfect … you can hear the influence of ‘Sesame Street’ songs in every tune. ‘Avenue Q’ tells a story for a generation that grew up with Jim Henson and his ever-growing cast of fuzzy characters. Go back to your childhood and get slammed right into life through the eyes of some deep, innocent, lively characters who are just trying to survive life on ‘Avenue Q.’”
Where: OB Playhouse and Theatre Company, 4944 Newport Ave.
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 31, Sept. 1-2, Sept. 7-9, Sept. 14-16; 3 p.m. Sept. 3, Sept. 10, Sept. 17.
Info: 619-795-9305, www.obtheatrecompany.com.