Avenue Q review

rosebud 28 October 2009 10

Avenue Q – Think Sesame Street muppets turn 18 and have too much spare time on their furry paws. They have work or find jobs to pay the rent while still pursuing their dreams. They exist in a contemporary adult New York and have to contend with all its temptations, pressures and expectations.

Sitting down, way up the back of the Canberra Theatre, I had no prior knowledge of this show nor any real idea what it was about. I was pleasantly surprised by the tip top theatre craftsmanship but disappointed by the crappy content at its heart. I was also so far back that I couldn’t see the screen at the top of the set which was integral to some aspects of the show.

Sadly, while impressed by the individual parts of this production, I found the sum of the whole to be less than satisfactory.

The smarmy self referential humour was lacking in depth or originality, relying mostly on stale stereotypes and the ‘ohh, you can’t say that’ factor. I kept waiting for something really fresh and new to come up, but was disappointed.

For instance, the female characters were either smart girls suitable as girlfriend material or sexy dumb blonde sluts fit only to root. The male characters were goofy yet lovable, the gay character was a total fairy and the black character had rythym! I also found it very hard to suspend my disbelief as the actors sang and danced around the stage while holding up the dismembered half bodies of muppets which were stuck on the end of their arms. The song ‘Everyone’s a little bit racist’ was ridiculous and insulting and the finale celebration of mediocrity in the song  ‘For Now’, was banal.

It wasn’t all bad admittedly. Like I said, it was fantastically skilled theatre craftsmanship – the lighting was incredibly accurate and supported the stage action, the actors gave it their all, the sets were very good. And a few songs made me giggle a little, ‘It sucks to be me’, a refrain most people feel at some stage of their lives, and ‘My girlfriend who lives in Canada’ by the puppet Rod (an erstaz Bert from Sesame Street)  who is in deep, deep denial about being gay and being terribly attracted to Nicky – the character based on Ernie.

I believe I was in the minority in the audience to feel like this though with everyone around me cacking themselves stupid.

3 stars out of 5.

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10 Responses to Avenue Q review
kcdl kcdl 12:10 pm 11 Nov 09

*MAJOR spolilers*

I loved it. You aren’t the first person I’ve seen give a not so glowing review. All the times I’ve seen bad reviews it seems the reviewer has missed the point of the show.

Apart from being pure fun there is a strong central theme to the show that reoccurs in several songs and scenes. The theme is that good and bad aren’t quite as distinct as we make out. We all have thoughts that may be considered un-PC or mean but being a good person isn’t about not having those thoughts but not acting on them or if we do learning from our mistakes. We can have two opposing thoughts at the same time. We generally deny these things about ourself. What makes Avenue Q different is that it isn’t apologetic about these things and doesn’t pretend to be PC. It recognises the importance of PC-ness while saying if a joke it makes isn’t PC RELAX you aren’t perfectly PC either even if you think you are.

If you were gay: Nickey is saying he will accept his friend’s sexuality while making absolutely sure that nobody think he is gay. He is accepting of his friend’s sexuality while at the same time being uncomfortable with being associated with it. Unlike Seinfield he doesn’t qualify it with “not that there is anything wrong with that”. It shows you can be accepting of something without necessarily agreeing with it.

Everyone’s a little bit racist: Humans are built to make generalisations. It is basically how our brain is able to make sense of a complex world without having to make sense of a new situation as if you’ve experienced it for the first time. As such we make generalisations based on race. An enlightened person realises when they are making such a judgement and will wait for further info to see if it is justified. However well all make mistakes. For example: What made you think of Gary Coleman as the “The Black Guy with Rhythm” instead of “The Ex Child Star from Diff’rent Strokes”? I didn’t personally think he had any more rhythm than the rest of the cast…it’s musical for crying out loud! It is saying their is a blurry line between making a generalisation and ACTING on that generalisation. Yes stereotypes are often based on some reality though it may be a misperception of a cultural idiosycrasy that doesn’t occur in your own culture. You could choose to ignore all cultural stereotypes upon meeting a person but you may well find that you are considered culturally insentitive rather than enlighted!

The more you ruv someone: Sometimes we hate the people we love. Love and hate are both forms of passion and sometimes one follows the other very closely.

Schadenfreude: No matter how good you are sometimes we can’t help but feel happy when a bad thing happens to somebody else. Why do you think the concept of hell was invented? You’ll notice in Hollywood happy endings the bad guys get their cumupence. Sometimes the person is pefectly good but seeing that others aren’t perfect makes us feel better about our own faults.

The Money Song: We often pat outselves on the back for giving to a charity. In other words we do good things for the selfish reason that it makes us feel good. Does that make us bad? Would we be better people if we gave mechanically and felt nothing for having done something selflessly?

The song For Now doesn’t really fit this theme but I’ll talk about it. I don’t see how it is a celebration of mediocrity. For Now is basically saying that life is fleeting and all things good and bad won’t last. It is saying enjoy the moment, seize the day. It isn’t necessarily saying “give up on your dreams” but “your dreams may not be a reality at the moment but this moment won’t last forever and nothing else will either.” That may sound mediocre but that’s life.

As for the stereotypes all the characters serve a purpose. Lucy the slut represent sex and Kate represents true love. In the search for his purpose Princeton loses sight of what he already had and felt less fulfilled than he was before. If Lucy had been a realistic character and a potentially suitable girlfriend the impact of him going with her instead Kate would be less. You are meant to feel sorry for Kate and mad at Princeton for being stupid. I should also point out that Lucy the slut was a sexually aggresive female that actually acted in a stereotypically MALE way, so in fact she isn’t really a stereotypical female and she wasn’t just a promiscous woman with low self-esteem. She simply knew what she wanted and knew how to get it, the slut label is society’s but not necessarily what she is. She definitely came out on top relationship wise with Princeton – he was the pathetic clingy one.

Rob was quite camp (though if you think he’s a real fairy I suggest you get out more, I’ve got MUCH camper friends). The whole point was that everybody knew he was gay but him. If he wasn’t a stereotype the humour of nobody being surprised would be lost.

Holy crap that turned into an essay!

Chop71 Chop71 12:23 am 30 Oct 09

I saw it in London last year……. loved it

Primal Primal 6:19 pm 29 Oct 09

Saw the Saturday matinee last weekend and loved it… runs pretty close to the Broadway version with just a few updates and tweaks. Michala Banas’ understudy, Natalie Alexopoulos, did a first-class job in the lead!

(“Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” is a great song. I will not hear a bad word against it!)

anonymous gungahlian anonymous gungahlian 4:51 pm 29 Oct 09

bubzie said :

I was there tonight, and the youngest seemed to be 17, i suppose it’s up to the parents really…is your child mature enough for this?

(says the one who spent the whole time giggling at the sex-scene..)

I have just turned 15. I wanted to know if I would be able to see it, my Mum and Dad might be going.

hopeful hopeful 12:07 pm 29 Oct 09

Saw the show in Sydney – the whole audience was in fits of laughter. Very funny, very clever.

Jim Jones Jim Jones 10:04 am 29 Oct 09

I saw it in Sydney a while back and thought it was great fun.

Spectra Spectra 9:58 am 29 Oct 09

I saw Avenue Q last year in London and thought it was fantastic. While I can’t speak for the local production, I heartily endorse the show in general.

Are there even restrictions by the government for things like that? Is it a similar system for seeing movies at the cinema? (This question probably sounds really stupid to some.)

Perfectly reasonable question – there’s no ratings system for live theatre, and as far as I’m aware age restrictions on the audience are, from a legal perspective, at the sole discretion of the theatre putting on the show.

bubzie bubzie 11:05 pm 28 Oct 09

I was there tonight, and the youngest seemed to be 17, i suppose it’s up to the parents really…is your child mature enough for this?

(says the one who spent the whole time giggling at the sex-scene..)

MWF MWF 7:19 pm 28 Oct 09

I reckon the puppet sex scene might be a bit much for most kiddies, I couldn’t imagine trying to explain some of the positions to my 12 year old. However, my kids are quite familiar with the songs “The Internet is for Porn” and “It Sucks to be Me”.

When we got home they grilled us for rundowns on the entire show, I left out the puppet sex scene…..

The puppeteers were very skilled, using their bodies morph-like (is that a word?) with the movements they made the puppets do.

The live band/orchestra was really tight. We listened really hard for mistakes and found very few, it was difficult to believe the band/orchestra was live.

I wouldn’t take my kids to see it, but by the time they are old enough to appreciate the “wrongness” of the thing, they will have seen enough of it on You Tube to be mega fans.

That’s why Avenue Q is funny, it’s so very wrong 🙂

anonymous gungahlian anonymous gungahlian 6:50 pm 28 Oct 09

Hmmm, you don’t make it sound as good as all the other reviews that are going around about it and what I have heard. I guess everybody has different tastes though. Does anyone know what the minimum age to get in is, when it says “Not for Kids” on all the adds. Are there even restrictions by the government for things like that? Is it a similar system for seeing movies at the cinema? (This question probably sounds really stupid to some.)

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