A fierce, funny, fabulously naughty ‘Avenue Q’

By Connie Bollinger
Contributing Writer
“Avenue Q”  is Sesame Street re-imagined. It has the same sly wit, the same hard look at human behavior, the same messages about acceptance and love, but for an adult audience. A very adult audience.

The Tony-winning musical takes a sometimes-shocking look at post-college age people struggling to be independent and responsible while being happy — kind of like “Rent” with puppets and without the heaviness.

With a book by Jeff Whitty and music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, they pull no punches. It is unabashedly politically incorrect and songs include  “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” “If You Were Gay,” and “Schadenfreude,” a German term for deriving pleasure from the misfortune of others.

Marx once worked on “Sesame Street,” as did three of the shows original puppeteers, including Muny favorite John Tartaglia.

The setting is an apartment building on Avenue Q, tells the story of who live there — Rod and Ricky (roommates with secrets), Kate Monster (substitute teacher), Brian and Christmas Eve (a stand-up comic and a therapist respectively), building super Gary Coleman (yes, THAT Gary Coleman), and internet porn enthusiast Trekkie Monster.

Into this little family comes Princeton, a young man with a brand new B.A. in English and a lot to learn.

Cast members include Andrew Keeler; Kevin O’Brien; Brett Ambler; Jennifer Theby-Quinn; Tori Manisco; Ileana Kirven; April Strelinger and Grace Langford. These performers are phenomenal.

First, they all sing beautifully. Second, they act right along with their puppets, their expressions perfectly reflecting the dialogue. Third, director Lee Anne Mathews has them weaving in and out of one another with astounding grace and precision, while operating their puppets and never missing a beat of the music, which is quite good under Charlie Mueller’s music direction.

This is an interactive show, with the performers sometimes using the aisles to make their entrances and exits. During “The Money Song” they come right into the audience to take donations for AIDS research.

The show is NOT suitable for children. There’s loads of profanity, sexual situations and inappropriate subject matter. There’s even a scene of enthusiastic puppet coitus. Yes, you read that right. Puppet Coitus.

A whizbang of a show, “Avenue Q” — after all, it beat “Wicked” for Best Musical” — will deliver an evening of fun and frolic.

“Avenue Q” is at The Playhouse at Westport through March 3. Tickets and more information are available at www.playhouseatwestport.com

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