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Avenue Q at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco

by VM Brasseur on August 26th, 2007

In 2004 Avenue Q took the six Tony Awards, including the coveted “Best Musical.”

The Tony Award. Given to puppets. What is this world coming to?

Thanks to my friend Jen, today I finally had the chance to see the puppet show which took the world by storm three years ago. I did not enter the theatre entirely unprepared, as I was already very familiar with the Broadway cast album. That means that I knew something of which the people next to Jen and me were ignorant. To wit:

Do not bring your child to see this show, even if there are puppets involved.

Puppets swearing. Puppets making off-color jokes. Puppets singing about the pain of others. Puppets having explicit puppet sex. I haven’t seen such shenanigans since Meet the Feebles, I tell ya.

Still, since I already knew the cast album none of this came as a surprise to me. In truth, I came into the show expecting that I wouldn’t like it. Sure, there are a couple of clever songs in there, but once you’ve heard them and recognize that they’re merely capitalizing on the shock value of a puppet singing about porn those highlights lose their luster. Sophomoric Muppet mashups, little more.

As you can probably guess from the “expecting” in the above paragraph, I did in fact enjoy the performance. Sure, some of the songs are childish. Sometimes the book goes for the cheap laugh. But, really, what’s wrong with that? We all need a cheap laugh from time to time and it seems like today was one of those times for me. Also, there’s substance hidden in that smut. The show hits you over the head with substance, unless you can’t get past the fact that you’re watching puppets. Heavy-handed, yes. But in this vapid world of ours one must be grateful for substance where one can find it.

Judging a show by the cast album is like judging a black and white photo of a painting. You don’t have the entire picture, so you can’t really know what you’re talking about until you’ve seen the original. The production on this performance was very good. I respect that the human cast members were able to perform such good puppetry while also acting and singing (and sometimes dancing). The set was well managed. The flat panel TVs which occasionally dropped into view were very effective additions to the performance rather than the distractions I expected them to be.

Aside from the fact that I already knew the songs, this show surprised me. I did not leave it light of heart (it’s not that sort of a show, however amusing it may be at points), but I did find myself enjoying it when I did not expect to. If you are above the age of consent and not easily offended, you may wish to seriously consider seeing this show when it rolls into a town near you. Just, um, don’t bring your kids.

2 Comments
  1. suomynona permalink

    Did the kids stick out the whole show?

  2. I don’t remember seeing him (it was a boy, around 10 or 11yo) after the intermission. 🙂

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