Puppets tell the story in ‘Avenue Q’
Posted Oct. 12, 2007

Erin Konrad
Arts Editor

Yes, there are puppets in the musical “Avenue Q” – but don’t confuse it with “Sesame Street.”

This Tony-award winning show is full of adult situations and topics that range from hiding in the closet to racism.

The production, which opened at the Ahmanson Theatre in downtown Los Angeles on Sept. 6, is described as a homage to Jim Henson’s Muppets.

But creators of the musical took it a step further with songs that highlight the real world, as we know it.

The cast consists of seven performers who all use puppets to act out their characters.

Several even juggle more than one puppet at a time.

At first the action is confusing – it’s difficult to determine whether the audience is supposed to be watching the puppet move or the actor who’s making it move.

As the production progresses, the performances become seamless and the people behind the puppet’s movements work effectively to create realistic scenes.

The set was simple, with a façade of a dingy apartment building in the poorest neighborhood of Manhattan located on Avenue Q.

The lighting utilized allowed the set to be altered to different scenes without actually moving any sets.

This gave the production a great continuity and flow, which would have been hindered had the scenes been stalled to change sets.

The apartment building’s superintendent is the former child actor Gary Coleman (played believably by Carla Renata) that provides the show with a running joke using Coleman’s real-life misfortunes.

The main puppet is Princeton (Robert McClure), a new college graduate who has just realized that he has not found his ‘purpose’ in life.

Princeton falls in love with Kate Monster (Kelli Sawyer) who is discouraged by her history with love.

The show follows their relationship – and yes, there is puppet sex – told you this wasn’t “Sesame Street.”

Other characters include an unemployed comedian and his fiancée, Christmas Eve, an immigrant Japanese therapist without any clients, and a closeted gay man, Rod, who refuses to admit his homosexuality.

He even sings a hilarious song, “My Girlfriend, Who Lives in Canada” in which he tries to convince his friends that he has a girlfriend who they have never even heard of.

One of the best features of the musical are these candid, witty and sometimes off-color songs.

An audience favorite was “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”, in which the characters describe how it doesn’t mean that people go “around committing hate crimes/Look around and you will find/No one's really color blind/Maybe it's a fact/We all should face/Everyone makes judgments/Based on race.”

Other songs that left the audience laughing were “It Sucks to Be Me”, in which the characters describe why their lives are horrible (bad jobs, bad boyfriends, etc.).

Noteworthy songs for college students in the audience are “What Do You Do With a B.A. in English?” and “I Wish I Could Go Back to College” where two of the main characters reminisce on the days of meal plans and afternoons sitting in the quad.

The incredibly talented cast was another reason “Avenue Q” was successful in impressing the audience.

Standout actress Sawyer, who not only played Kate Monster but also Lucy the Slut (the actual character’s name), showed unbelievable range in her songs and her ability to switch between characters quickly.

The show will be closing Oct. 14, but is still playing on Broadway.

So if you haven’t found your purpose either, go see “Avenue Q.”

Despite some graphic puppet situations, the show is definitely an experience to remember.

Erin Konrad can be reached at ekonrad@ulv.edu.

Exhibit dissects technology

Puppets tell story in 'Avenue Q'

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