Avenue Q is One Raunchy Trip

"What do you do with a B.A. in English?"

This opening line in Avenue Q resonates with recent college graduates, thrown into the real world, where no one wants to hire them and outlooks are bleak. But Avenue Q isn't just for the jaded twenty-somethings. The musical comedy's messages of unfulfilled potential and a search for purpose strike a chord with audiences of all ages. 

The musical is essentially Sesame Street for the adult crowd. It takes place in an alternate New York, where puppets and people coexisting is normal, and both "species" have to grapple with the real-world issues that arise when striking out on your own for the first time. Princeton, a recent college graduate, moves into Avenue Q, and meets the other inhabitants, who appear to be struggling to make it in the real world just as badly as he is.

The use of LCD screens and bright and chipper musical numbers offers an inventive way to deal with adult and very real issues in a comical way. Songs like "everyone's a little bit racist" and "the internet is for porn" deal out the truth in ways that are a little easier for the audience to swallow.

Throughout the musical, it becomes increasingly easy to overlook the fact that you're emotionally connecting with what essentially are pieces of fabric. During a particularly touching scene, a member of the audience had to remind everyone what they were watching by yelling "they're puppets!" Yet some of the most emotionally moving moments come from the puppets. This is especially true of puppets Princeton and Rod, played by Robert McClure.

Avenue Q does not try to mask the puppeteers. Instead, they are integrated into the performance. You do no focus on the fact that you can see the people behind the puppets, because they're meant to be seen. McClure does an excellent job of straddling the line between actor and puppeteer, brining nuance to both of his characters without disappearing behind them. The rest of the actors also deliver successful performances, and even the Zonya Love, who filled in for Danielle K. Thomas as Gary Coleman, made you feel like she performed the role every night.

You may not look at puppets in the same way after watching the musical. In fact, I never thought I'd see puppets doing the things they were doing, and I'm not sure I want to see them doing these sorts of things again. But that's precisely one of the places where Avenue Q draws its humor. The musical is definitely intended for mature audiences, and people with a sense of humor. You may not find a whole lot of deeper meaning in this musical comedy, but anyone looking for a few laughs and yearning for a return to those Sesame Street years is sure to leave satisfied.

Avenue Q will be playing at Warner Theatre through Feb. 15, as part of the Broadway Across America program.

Avenue Q
Warner Theatre
513 13th St. NW, Washington, D.C.

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