Saturday, June 23, 2012

REVIEW: "Avenue Q The Musical"

The cast of “Avenue Q The Musical” at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts. Photo by Pati Bekken

If you ever wondered what “Sesame Street” would be like if it was geared toward 20-somethings, “Avenue Q The Musical” is the answer.

The show, which opened Friday, June 22, at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, 400 Culver St. in Saugatuck, is a puppet-peppered comedy that pulls the right strings for laughs with edges rough enough to cut into bitter reality — all with catchy tunes such as “It Sucks to be Me” and “The Internet is for Porn.”

Pay special attention to Courtney Stokes who sings for Kate and the Mae West-inspired Lucy — her voice is amazing!

The show runs through July 15 at 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 7 p.m. Sundays. The show is at 2 p.m. on the final Sunday, July 15.

Tickets range from $26 to $39.75 and are available at the box office or through

The actors appear on stage carrying their puppets. Video screens on both sides of the stage show the occasional “educational” short. Can you spell hilarious?

“Avenue Q” will be familiar to anyone who grew up with Jim Henson’s muppets Ernie and Bert, Cookie Monster and Prairie Dawn. In this neighborhood, though, the fuzzy monster resident equivalents are Nicky and Rod (the former, played by Francis Kelly, is the messy Ernie while Rod, played by Joe Carroll, is the GOP-backing banker we all knew as Bert) and Trekkie Monster played by Francis Kelly who doesn’t eat the chocolate chip sweets but instead devours online pornography. Courtney Stokes plays the innocent, optimistic Kate.

There’s no Mr. Hooper, Bob or Maria to round out the non-puppet cast, but instead the building superintendent is the child actor Gary Coleman played by Natalie Renee who sings a great “Schadenfreude,” wanna-be comedian Brian, played by Sean Patrick Fawcett (who wears a “Peanuts” shirt in one scene — talk about mixing it up in the classic children's animation genre!) and his wanna-be therapist wife-to-be Christmas Eve played by Christine Bunuan who sings “The More You Ruv Someone” with all the stereotypical linguistic twists and lisps.

Welcome newcomer Princeton, played by Joe Carroll, fresh out of college with a bachelor’s degree in English wondering how he’s going to make a living and what his purpose is in life.

Some of the cast of “Avenue Q The Musical.” Photo by Pati Bekken
The plot unfolds like a “Sesame Street” episode with a few “Electric Company” flashes to teach strong lessons through song about sexuality (get ready for “If You Were Gay” and “My Girlfriend, Who Lives in Canada”), homelessness (“The Money Song”), promiscuity (acting out and singing “You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You’re Makin’ Love)” and the serious “There’s a Fine, Fine Line”) and racism (“Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”).

Don’t be fooled by the cynicism. Like the children’s show it emulates, it has sugary-sweet moments and a happy ending, even finding the fortunes of Lucy the Slut going bust because of a lucky penny so the promiscuous puppet can find God.

Be prepared for some puppet nudity and intercourse, several f-bombs and middle-finger salutes. It’s OK to laugh because we’ve all been there on “Avenue Q,” minus the puppets.

— Follow Jim Hayden on Twitter@SentinelJim.

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