Hand-job puppets need love, too 

Absolutely the most clever aspect of Avenue Q — the surprise 2004 Tony Award winner for best musical — is how faithful it remains to the form of a bouncy children’s show while radically changing the content. So while we indeed have the advertised evening of muppets, anagrams, and counting songs, we’ve also an evening of cunnilingus, internalized homophobia, and racial invective. Happily, this volatile mixture never feels didactic, even when updating the über-moralizing Sesame Street for the 21st century: Adults may have bigger problems than rubber duckies, but puppetry will still see us through!

The plot concerns a recent college graduate, Princeton, who manages to wander into the upbeat children’s programming world of Avenue Q. He encounters there a host of similarly lost souls, including a mixed-race couple, an ambiguously gay couple, a single monster schoolteacher, and an Oscar the Grouch manqué. A double love story allows the shows creators — Robert Lopez, Jeff Whitty, and Jeff Marx — to explore any number of contemporary social taboos, including internet porn, racial stereotyping, and the concept of “pussy” in a non-feline capacity. The score is bright and clever, with nods everywhere to children’s music, from its insistently repetitive vamps (“It Sucks To Be Me”) to its inappropriately chipper lyrics (“Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist”). An evil Care Bear psychomachia is the best thing to happen to allegory since Dante.

The cast is super. Many are holdovers from Broadway, and thus display an easy command of the material, foam or otherwise. Robert McClure is especially winning as Princeton and the super-closeted Rod, but Carey Anderson more than holds her own as both the straitlaced Lucy and her buxom nemesis, Lucy the Slut. Anna Louizos’s jack-in-the-box set provides the perfect playground for Jason Moore’s constantly surprising direction: This is the best-directed show to blow through the Majestic in ages.

I would make one change, however, if I could, to the script. I caught the show in NYC shortly after it opened, and even then the evening’s string of Gary Coleman jokes — yes, he of Diff’rent Strokes fame — felt forced and even passé. Child actors are an easy (even cheap) target, and Gary Coleman seemed a baffling choice. In 2008, the Coleman jokes strike me as even more dated and irrelevant.

Judging from the number of walk-outs on opening night, I sense that other San Antonians would make rather more radical changes to the script; ironic send-ups of race and sexuality are — to put it mildly — a tough sell in the Alamo City. So it’s up to you, dear Current Reader, to take up the slack: If you want to avoid a theatrical fate worse than death (e.g. a return of Riverdance) please stampede to Majestic Box office and grab a ticket before Sunday. Broadway Across America stepped up to the plate by booking a show that’s witty, fresh, and timely; it’s time to do our part and join the queue for Q

 

Avenue Q

8pm Tue-Fri; 2pm & 8pm Sat; 1pm & 6:30pm Sun

Through Oct 12

$19.75-$65.75

Majestic Theatre

208 E. Houston

(210) 226-3333

majesticempire.com


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