The Broadway Theatre League of Binghamton, NY and the Broome County Forum present, Avenue Q!
I have been listening to the Original Broadway Cast Avenue Q soundtrack for quite some time now, but I had yet to see the play performed. When I heard that the North American tour of Avenue Q was coming to my local theatre, The Forum, my best friend and I bought our tickets and counted down the days until we were finally in front of the stage.
For those that do not know, Avenue Q is about “real life”. A young man named Princeton arrives on Avenue Q and rents an apartment there from Gary Coleman. Princeton has finished college and now hopes to find his purpose in life. He becomes friends with his neighbors who all have their own problems and dreams. There is Christmas Eve and her fiancé, Brian, who does not have a job and Christmas Eve is a therapist without clients. Nicky and Rod are best friends and roommates, but Nicky is silently in love with Nicky. Trekkie Monster is obsessed with porn. Then there is Kate Monster who wants to open her own Monster school.
Everything seems to go wrong for everyone on Avenue Q, and Princeton learns that it is just a part of life.
One more thing, a number of the characters from Avenue Q are puppets.
The actors carry the puppets around with them and are not hidden from the audience. This might sound strange, and you would think that you would be distracted by the actors instead of watching the puppets. That does not happen really, and when it does, it still works because the actors use facial expressions that fit the character. Facial expressions that the puppets lack. It all comes together wonderfully, and it is a very interesting and unique way to perform a play.
You see, Avenue Q is basically Sesame Street for adults. When my friend and I were walking out of the theatre, we overheard someone say that the play was “Sesame Street on heroin” and we laughed. The play uses TV screens to teach you words, spelling, and life lessons much like Sesame Street does on its hit show. Except you are learning to spell words like ‘schadenfreude”, instead of “cat”. There are characters that are puppets, and characters that are human, who interact together like it is perfectly normal. The character Trekkie Monster is Cookie Monster, except where Cookie Monster loves cookies, Trekkie Monster loves porn. Nicky and Rod are supposed to be Bert and Ernie, two characters who have often been considered gay.
This is not a play for the young. There are touchy subjects like porn, and homosexuality, and yes, the puppets even have sex on stage. My friend and I were talking with our neighbors at the theatre and we were joking around about all the older people who were there. Many of them buy season tickets to the Forum and just show up at the shows, and we wondered how many of them actually knew what they were coming to see.
The show itself was amazing and even more hilarious than I expected. It was great to actually know what happens during the songs, and to be able to see the entire story. The cast was wonderful and very talented. Brent Michael DiRoma did a perfect job as Princeton and Rod. He has a very nice voice, and a great sense of humor. Jacqueline Grabois played Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut and her voice shined. Jason Heyman took on three roles in one play, Nicky, Trekkie Monster, and one of the Bad Idea Bears. He used three different voices, and not a one sounded the same. Usually, the part of Gary Coleman is played by a woman, but not here. Nigel Jamaal Clark took on the role and channeled Coleman perfectly.
The standout though was Christmas Eve, as played by Lisa Helmi Johanson. Not only did her voice blow me away when she sang “When You Ruv Someone”, but she was absolutely hilarious. She stole the stage every moment she was on it, even if she was just dancing a little in the background. I was almost rolling in the aisle, laughing my head off, when she came out on the stage wearing a very poofy wedding gown that lit up with Christmas lights.
Avenue Q, despite its crude humor, is filled to the brim with great life lessons that everyone, young and old, should learn and follow. The song “If You Were Gay” teaches us that the people who really love us and care about us will accept us as we are. “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” is one of the best songs with the best lesson to be learned. Some of lyrics go: “If we all could just admit that we are racist a little bit, even though we all know that it’s wrong. Maybe it would help us get along.” And, finally, the very important lesson taught to us by Trekkie Monster is that “The Internet is for Porn”.
Even though I was not on Broadway, and the small Broome County Forum is nothing like Broadway, The North American Tour of Avenue Q was amazing. I did not need the “great white way” because the wonderful actors and their dead-on performances brought Broadway to me.
If you want to see Avenue Q, the tour is continuing all over the country. Visit their website here and find out when they are coming to your town. Once you are finished checking out the website, I wonder what you will do after, hmm?