By Molly and Dan
Avenue Q is a hysterically witty original musical that has been playing on Broadway since 2003. It is the story of young people finding their way through life and love in New York City, told with puppets in a sort of sarcastic, "adult" Sesame Street-like interpretation. With a genuinely catchy score, fun characters and an insane sense of humor, it's easy to see why Avenue Q is still a hot ticket on Broadway. I saw the show when it first opened 6 years ago with the original cast and had a fantastic time. At that time, I was very familiar with the soundtrack (as in, I couldn't stop listening to it because it was so damn entertaining) and it didn't hinder my experience (contrary to Dan's, as you can read below). I recall at one point laughing so hard I was crying to such an extent that I couldn't even see what was happening on stage. I haven't seen the show since and I suppose a lot could have happened in the 6 years since Avenue Q opened, but I truly feel that at this show's core is a whole lot of heart and a brilliant adventure in storytelling.
I saw Avenue Q on Broadway shortly before it won the Tony Award for Best Musical (beating out Wicked in an upset). The race that year was extremely heated...Avenue Q mounted an aggressive campaign, urging Tony voters to “vote with their heart," implying that most of them liked Avenue Q the best but might vote for something else (eh hem, Wicked) for business reasons. All of this was happening when I saw the show, and coupled with the fact that my family had seen the show without me (how dare they!) several months before, made seeing it seem more like a duty than a pleasure. In other words, the show had been built up so much by that point, beginning from the initial off-Broadway run at the Vineyard Theatre, that I don’t know that it could ever have lived up to the hype.
Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy the show because I did. But I saw it alone, and Avenue Q is definitely a show to see with other people. I also knew a lot about the show going in, including (much to my dismay) some of the key jokes. Unfortunately, many of these jokes are in the songs, and not just in the song lyrics, but in the song titles. I had tried not to listen to the music before seeing the show, but it is hard to escape reading the titles of songs- they're often listed in articles about the show, and of course they're in the program. I’m sure that others won’t mind this the way I did, but if you haven’t seen it yet and are thinking about it, I’d urge you to try hard not to read too much about the show.
Of course, Avenue Q has a lot more going for it than (often off-color) humor; the book is quite smart, and refreshingly “un-PC." At the same time, as “radical” as some thought the content was at the time, the show is constructed in the manner of a traditional musical comedy, making it easy to understand why it has had such a long run on Broadway. I’m actually listening to the recording again as I write this, and Avenue Q has a great score–one that is immediately accessible with the first encounter, but still enjoyable after repeated listenings. I think it would appeal to anyone who has ever been young and poor and unsure of what to do with their life...which is probably anyone over 18. (As far as taking kids, I personally think it would be fine for anyone in high school, but parents should be warned there is some mature content, including language and sexual scenes). However, one of the best things about Avenue Q was the original cast, especially Ann Harada and John Tartaglia. Five years later, I’m not sure how the show is holding up, shows sometimes have a tendency to degrade over time and I haven’t heard much from people who have seen the show recently. But I have thought often about returning, probably trying the lottery for $21.25 front-row tickets. If I do, I’ll be sure to post an update.
(Avenue Q plays at the Golden Theater, 252 West 45th Street. Performances are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm and 8pm, and Sunday at 2pm and 7pm. Tickets are $66.50-$121.50. 12 rush tickets at $21.25 are raffled off before each performance...for more info click here. Visit telecharge.com for tickets and check out avenueq.com for more show info including US tour dates.)