Avenue Q

My colleague Cathy had just been talking about it on Wednesday. She was going to NYC, and really wanted to see the show. On Thursday, there was review of it in the arts section of the paper, since it was playing through September. Thursday we snagged tickets and Saturday night we were at the show.

I hadn’t heard about it. “Oh yes, you have.” Truc reminded me. “I told you about it a few months ago.”

Somehow it hadn’t registered. Maybe she hadn’t used the magic words “The Muppets” meets “South Park.” And throw in the Gen Y angst of “Rent.”

The cons: It was cute and clever, combining Sesame Street puppets with the issues and social mores of today’s young adults. (There’s also a few regular human characters.) It succeeds in capturing the attention of its target audience: Us, the 20- and 30- something-year-olds. But, as Joe put it, it went for the low-hanging fruit on the tree: closeted gay Republican investment banker; struggling school-teacher; Ivy League grad who couldn’t start a dead-end job. And the biggest cringe: a Japanese woman who was therapist. Complete with bad ‘Oriental accent’, and a happi-coat. Gary Coleman might squeak by as fruit on a higher bough.

The pros: The songs were pretty catchy: “It sucks to be me,” ” The Internet is for p0rn,” “Everyone is a little racist”, “Schadenfreude”.
The puppets and the puppeteers were the best part: the nostalgia of Saturday morning TV and cereal channeled Cookie Monster, Grover, and even Ernie into new incarnations in this show. But on Avenue Q (which probably intersects with Sesame St. somewhere near a ferris wheel and a halfway-house), you could see the puppeteers on stage, dressed in shades of grey, visually unobstrusive, but really performing the singing and the puppeteering. They played different characters voices, swapped puppets around (very versatile) and their body movement and facial expressions mimicked and sync’ed up with their puppet characters. When the slut character puppet sauntered in a come-hither manner, so did the puppeteer.

It reminded me of the Joe Louis puppet theatre in Bangkok’s Suan Lum Night Bazaar (which may or may not be still there.) There, the puppets were Thai, performing episodes from the Ramakian, just like in traditional Thai khon and lakhon dance dramas. The puppets were maneuvered by on-stage puppeteers, who danced the khon moves in tandem with their puppets. (If youu ever get the chance, definitely check them out.)

Looking at the actor’s bios in the program, I think they were picked more for their acting skills, and probably taught the puppeteering as part of the gig. It’s amazing that even the Avenue Q puppets movements were stylized like those of Sesame Street; stiff arms that don’t bend, the shaking when they’re excited, etc. I can’t describe it very well in words, but if you’re familiar with Sesame St back then, and watched Avenue Q today, you’d know what I mean. Of course, no one on Sesame Street was ever seen having intercourse, so I’m sure they came up with a few new moves for that scene on Avenue Q.

Funny thing No. 1: We were going to have dinner at Bistro Clovis before the show. But they’re closed for summer break (those French and their August holidays!) We decided to go to Max’s at the Opera Plaza; they’re closed for remodelling. We end up at Trader Vic’s.

Funny thing No. 2: We ran into Rich and Gerri (my cousin and his wife) in the lobby before the show. We ran into Mako, Mike and Debbie in the lobby after the show. My social sphere is really small, so the coincidence/ odds are really amazing that this happened.


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