I first heard the song “It Sucks To Be Me” as a college freshman. My friend Ryan and I were in his dorm, pulling an all-nighter before our first semester finals. Obviously we found about 10 billion ways to
procastinate keep ourselves awake. One of them was listening to soundtracks from our favorite musicals. College: the only time in life when you can belt out songs from Rent, Wicked, and Rocky Horror and no one will look at you funny b/c they’re all too busy weirding it up themselves. We found songs from a show called Avenue Q that I’d heard of and was desperate to see as soon as I found out puppets were starring in it. Hearing the songs sealed the deal.
Scratch that, knowing that one of the characters in the show is Gary Coleman after he’s hit rock bottom and become the superintendent of some crappy apartment building sealed the deal. Fast forward 10 years (holy f***, WHYYYY), and I’m FINALLY watching the UK touring cast perform Avenue Q… and it’s even better than I’d hoped.
Avenue Q hit home for me far more than I ever thought a show about puppets could. Every character — the humans, the monsters, and the puppet-humans — is trying to find happiness. Princeton is a college grad who’s just moved to the big apple and wants more than anything to find his purpose in life. Kate Monster is a kindergarten teaching assistant hoping to advance in her career…and find a boyfriend. Brian’s been laid off, and wants to be a comedian for a living (but his act kinda sucks). His fiancee, Christmas Eve (lol) is a Japanese-American therapist with no clients. Rod is a closeted gay investment banker whose best friend and roommate, Nicky, keeps trying to persuade him to come out. Trekkie Monster is a shut-in who does nothing but watch internet porn all day. And Gary Coleman…is Gary Coleman.
Everyone knows and loves each other, and tries to help each other out in their own ridiculous ways. But there are other characters, like the Bad Idea Bears — who always try to convince people to do the worst possible thing — and Lucy The Slut — a Girls Gone Wild veteran, and…puppet — who constantly complicate things. Eventually, everyone takes responsibility for who they are and what they want, and figure out that it’s best not to force anything; every feeling and situation, the good and the bad, are only ever “For Now” anyway.
The songs are hilarious. I liked all of them, but my favorite is still “It Sucks To Be Me.” Runners up are “If You Were Gay” and “The More You Ruv Someone.” Some songs are about hard truths, like “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” (self-explanatory) and “Schadenfreude” (about how other people’s misery makes you happy). I found out that Kate Monster is my spirit animal. Her songs were full of heart and made me think about those times I liked someone new and drove myself crazy over it. My favorite Kate Monster tunes were “Mix Tape” and “There’s a Fine, Fine Line.”
I was going to say how impressed I was with the actors who played multiple parts (Richard Lowe, Sarah Harlington, and Stephen Arden), but honestly, I was impressed with everyone. Especially with how well the cast worked together! There are parts of the show where both puppets voiced by a single actor are in a scene together, and another actor/crew member has to operate one puppet while the actor who does the voice for that puppet speaks for them (and controls a different puppet at the same time). I don’t know if I explained that well, but it was pretty awesome to see. The timing of speech and mouth movements was always perfect, and I thought that was so cool. It just showed how hard they all worked, and how talented they are.
Also, Avenue Q is a perfect example of how, just because something is full of furry, colorful characters doesn’t mean it’s for kids. Avenue Q is like The Book of Mormon with puppets. (One of the co-creators/writers of Avenue Q actually co-created The Book of Mormon, so…yeah.) It even has a puppet sex scene that lasts the length of an entire song. Not a family friendly show, unless your family consists entirely of folks over the age of 18. But if one of your family members is a toddler who smokes cigars and has a mustache, that’s probably OK.