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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Avenue Q

What do you do with a BA in English?
What is my life going to be?
Four years of college and plenty of knowledge,
Have earned me this useless degree. . .

— Princeton

Avenue Q Old Glove
Kelli Sawyer and Lucy the Slut in The Old Globe's production of AVENUE Q
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
Avenue Q offers up an unorthodox premise: muppets who act like humans. As the flyers warn, expect strong language and full puppet nudity. This is not a show for PC Police, or those who expect the Tony Award winner of Best Musical to remain squarely PG. Call it Sesame Street on crack. Live-action South Park for adults. Or a fresh, heart-warming and hilarious Broadway hit, launching its national tour at San Diego's downtown Spreckels theater, all greased and polished up to take Southern California by storm. One word: GO.

In short, the plot centers on our muppet protagonist Princeton, who arrives on Avenue Q (all the other avenues were too expensive) a newly minted college graduate. As he struggles to adjust in the real world he finds it hard to grapple with sex, relationships, and especially the search for his ever elusive purpose in life. Luckily, he finds friends to help, ranging from Kate "Monster," a school teacher who points out that "not all monsters are related" in the extremely hum-able "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist", to bickering roommates: anal Rod and slacker Nicky (a fun twist on the rumor that Ernie and Bert were gay). As in Sesame Street, a few token human characters appear at all the right moments to offer sage advice (at the wizened age of 33).

This is a youth oriented show. Luckily, the Tony-award winning book (by Jeff Whitty) and Tony-award winning score (by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx) not only provide gut wrenching laughs but also ballads and heart-felt moments that are amazingly pure. The innocence inherent in a Sesame Street-like setting is the perfect foil to the hardened plot points (homelessness, racism, and pornography to name a few). Regardless of age, ballads that point out "there's a fine, fine line between a lover and a friend" are sure to resonate.

It's impossible to choose a standout in such a talented cast, featuring performers plucked mostly from the Broadway and Vegas productions. Angela Ai (Christmas Eve) is comedic genius with her timing, while the vocal talents of Robert McClure (Princeton/Rod), Kelli Sawyer (Kate Monster/Lucy/Others), and Christian Anderson (Nicky/Trekkie/Others) are outstanding. They have distinct cadences that differ from the Broadway CD and they choose to emphasize different lines, making the jokes fresh and playful.

Jason Moore's direction further ensures the touring cast does not lose the bite of the original. With an R-themed show, the fun inherent in pushing boundaries could easily be tempered to suit a show which will be touring cities far less tolerant than liberal and theater savvy New York.

Although the Broadway aficionadods will notice that certain lines have been changed or deleted (one of my favorites mocking Oscar speeches is gone from the caustic tuner "Shadenfreude," which would play especially well in Los Angeles), overall the show seems not only intact, but deliciously sprightly and every bit as clever as the first go around. In fact, the less you know about the New York production the better. The surprise of each impressively timed and boundary pushing joke, or set piece, or choreography, or character will surely bring tears of laughter to your eyes. Enough said.

If you can't make it to San Diego, the tour hits Los Angeles' Ahmanson from September 6th to October 14th. GO.

Editor's Note: The show has already traveled to London and to read the British reaction go here. And here's the link to reviews of the Off-Broadway and Broadway productions where you'll also find a list of the songs (which the producers did not want listed as part of the production notes) Avenue Q Off and On Broadway


AVENUE Q Directed By: Jason Moore
Music and Lyrics By: Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx
Book By: Jeff Whitty
Based on an Original Concept By: Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx
Choreographed By: Ken Roberson
Cast: Angela Ai, Christian Anderson, Minglie Chen, Robert McClure, Cole Porter, Carla Renata, Kelli Sawyer
Set Design: Anna Louizos
Costume Design: Mirena Rada
Lighting Design: Howell Binkley
Sound Design: Acme Sound Partners
Running Time: 2 hours not including a 15 minute intermission
Dates: June 30 — August 5, 2007. Tuesday— Sunday, with matinees on Saturday and Sunday.
Spreckels Theatre. 121 Broadway San Diego, CA 92101
Tickets: $21.50-87.50.
Tickets: Online through ticketmaster or by calling ticketmaster at (619) 220-TIXS; by calling 619-23-GLOBE; by visiting the Globe Box Office at 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park; or by visiting the Spreckles theater, box office hours at or by calling (619) 235-9500
Reviewed by Ariana Mufson on 7/14/07.
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