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Avenue Q


Calliope
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I went to see this muppet musical with a couple of fellow BGO-ers on the Friday before Christmas (hello jfp and MisterHG!) so they might pop in with some comments of their own. I had a thoroughly good time, though it’s hard to know where to start in describing a musical that features – I have to say this upfront, since this swayed our decision to see it – puppet sex. So I’ll start there. There are puppets in this Sesame Street spoof who have sex. Quite athletic, believable sex, right on stage, while the other characters joyfully sing and dance around them, insisting, You can be as loud as you like when you’re making love!

 

But the fun in the plot starts much earlier. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it when the first puppeteer (dressed in grey to indicate that you’re not meant to pay him any attention) appeared on stage, moving orange-skinned new college graduate Princeton into Avenue Q. But once Princeton’s packing boxes joined him in singing What do you do with a BA in English? I knew that these were fabric people I could identify with. Poor Princeton, looking for a purpose, having studied literature, I do so relate.

 

It’s a very enjoyable show – you’ll like it most if you remember the Cookie Monster – here converted into Trekkie Monster, with an addiction for porn instead of cookies – and Bert and Ernie – here revealed in all the fullness of their sexual confusion (come on, admit it, you always had suspicions about Bert!) and Gary Coleman. It’s a show with a story, crazy as it might seem, about how we live now. There were times I just about cringed. Sometimes when someone has a crush on you, Kate Monster sings, they’ll make you a mix tape to give you a clue. What woman can’t see herself in that? (Or in the way she feels about her love-rival, named Lucy the Slut?) And then there is the cheery truth recognised in songs like Everyone’s a little bit racist, real pathos in the Bert-character’s insisting that he has a girlfriend, who lives in Canada, and perhaps funniest of all, the Bad Idea Bears (two pastel-coloured teddies who pop onto stage with suggestions about what Princeton should do with the last of his money – spend it on beer – and in one outrageous scene, playfully waving a noose at him and sulking off when the temptation is rejected.) And silly as it might seem, there’s real character growth from the opening song It sucks to be me to the finale where puppets and humans together realise that all their problems are only for now. I’d recommend it to anyone. But be warned – the puppets have sex.

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I went to see this on my birthday back in July and I agree it is hugely enjoyable although I guess some more prudish types might have difficulty with the explicit puppet on puppet action. The clear presence of the puppeteers on stage also takes a little getting used to.

 

In many ways, it reminded me of what has been said over the years about TV shows like "South Park" and "The Simpsons" - that it is depraved and morally corrupting but in fact it is extolling the virtues of community, tolerance etc. Plus its very funny.

 

It's also educational. I learned that, whilst I thought the internet was for discussing books, it is, in fact, for porn.

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I adored Avenue Q. I was hesitant when told the basic premise but went along with the group. But the whole thing was superb. As Kimberley said, the strength was in portraying very real characters, even though some of them were made of fabric. I loved the way the puppeteers (and puppets did swap puppeteers from time to time) added to the expressions of their puppets with their own faces and postures. There was a cartoony quality, but grounded so much in real life.

 

The star if the show for me were the bad idea bears. Again, Kimberkey has summed up their role - championing very, very bad ideas. They spoke in childlike, innocent voices and looked as though butter wouldn't melt. And when they didn't get their way, they would sigh in unison aaaaaawwwwwww! and when they did get their way, they would synchronize a yiiiiippppppeeeeeee! They were like my 7 year old godson and his 5 year old sister.

 

Also, Gary Coleman (the janitor character, not the actor turned janitor) was superb, with his cheesy grin trying to make the best of a bad deal.

 

And finally, the message at the end should uplift anybody, no matter how bad their life might be - "it's just for now".

 

*****

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