Did you watch Sesame Street as a kid? The hilarious Broadway musical Avenue Q is the perfect grown up version, complete with full puppet nudity. The show won Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Original Score at the 2004 Tony Awards, and the music and lyrics are catchy, irreverent, and universal. Having seen the Broadway Across Canada production a couple of years ago, I was eager to see what Arts Club’s version would be like.
There are many parallels to be seen between Avenue Q and Sesame Street. Bert and Ernie are roommates Rod and Nicky, the Cookie Monster is Trekkie Monster, a grumpy, porn-obsessed bachelor. Some of the show’s familiar devices are also used, such as sounding out words one syllable at a time to introduce a new concept.
The other puppets in the show include Princeton, who is trying to find his purpose in life. He delivers the opening line: “What can you do with a BA in English?” His love interest, Kate Monster is also trying to find her purpose while spending her days as a teaching assistant for Mrs. Thistletwat. Things seems to be going well for Princeton until he decides he needs some time alone to find his purpose and he gets involved with performer Lucy T. Slut.
The non-puppet characters include Gary Coleman, the superintendent of the apartment block on Avenue Q, the aspiring comedian Brian and his Chinese wife, Christmas Eve, who is a therapist with no clients. Christmas Eve’s strong Chinese accent seemed a bit difficult to sustain throughout the show, but she is very funny as she imparts her wisdom and provides therapy to a few of the Avenue Q residents.
It can be a bit hard to get used to watching the puppets instead of the people manipulating them, but once you get into the story, this becomes less distracting. The songs are what really carry this show. With titles like “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” “I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today,” and “The Internet is for Porn,” how can you go wrong? “Schadenfreude” also stands out as the cast sings about taking pleasure in the misfortune of others.
I also loved the Bad Idea Bears, who coax Princeton into buying a case of beer when he has no money, and convince Kate Monster that she should chug a few long island iced teas on a work night. Each character starts out thinking that their life sucks, spends some time looking for their purpose, and ends up accepting themselves and taking control of their life.
Arts Club Theatre Company presents Avenue Q on tour from October 4 to November 15, and on the Granville Island Stage from November 20 to January 3 2015. For more information, visit artsclub.com.