Short on legs, but long in personality, this Muppet-monster musical aimed at adults takes the Sesame Street formula and satirically turns it on its head with wicked, brutal humor, the kind of which one might find on The Family Guy. For those of us who grew up learning the fundamental basics like the alphabet and numbers from our puppet friends, there’s been no handheld critter to turn to when solving life’s biggest challenges.
Who do we go to find answers to such stumpers like “What can I do with my English degree?” “Am I gay?” “Am I a racist?” “Is it wrong to watch online porn?” “Is it love…or am I just wasting my time?” “Should I go back to college?” “Am I special?” and “What’s my purpose?” Where Big Bird, Count Von Count, Bert and Ernie failed us—Princeton, Trekkie Monster and Lucy the Slut more than shore up the lack of puppet-imparting wisdom with streetwise sense on Avenue Q.
Finally! A musical that takes us back to childhood by reminding us how to get through the daily crap and bullshit with peppy numbers, cheerful animations and cute, cuddly talking heads. DOMA Theatre Company’s 2012 season closer lands them on firm footing, (ironic with its menagerie of legless characters), in an intimate setting that compliments this kind of show and rivals the bigger venues with its up-close and personal effect. Remember watching Saturday morning cartoons with your nose inches from the TV screen? Award-winning Richard Israel directs as if he had that guilty pleasure in mind and it works so well in this space, every audience member feels directly connected to the action and advice given onstage.
A condensed, but fairly faithful recreation of the Broadway set by Staci Walters puts the colorful characters right at home as they burst through windows, chat on the front stoop and beg for pocket change in the street. Peopling Avenue Q is happy-go-lucky super, Gary Coleman charmingly played by Benai Boyd, the odd couple of Christmas Eve, a blunt Asian counselor and wannabe comedian Brian, terrifically paired by Janelle Dote and Chris Kerrigan. The non-humans monstering the walkups are Republican Rod struggling with his sexuality, Trekkie Monster, a porn-obsessed curmudgeon, the evil Bears, Nicky—Rod’s clueless roommate, Lucy the Slut, single, sweet Kate Monster and the newest resident of the block, Princeton, fresh out of college, wide-eyed and searching for his purpose.
As anyone knows, finding one’s purpose involves a lot of trial and error, hurt feelings, miscommunications, self-doubt and other mature misgivings. On Avenue Q, personal quests take on hilarious proportions with feel-good numbers like “If You Were Gay,” the un-politically correct, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” and down and dirty tunes complete with full frontal puppet nudity in “You Can Be As Loud As the Hell You Want (When You’re Makin’ Love)” or very frank “The Internet is for Porn.” Nothing is off-limits so unless you want your kids to learn about the birds and the bees vis`-a-vis´ nude puppets, leave them at home with a babysitter.
Unrequited love, jealousy, and sex abound but not without tender moments of passionate feeling, insecurities and manipulations. One of the sweetest ballads is Rod’s midnight pining in “Fantasies Come True” and Kate’s heartbreakingly eloquent “There’s a Fine, Fine Line.” A collective hard swallow follows the widely felt sentiment, “I Wish I Could Go Back to College.”
The road to self-discovery is bumpy between creditors calling, overindulgence and a pair of tempting Bears…life is tough but like its child-age appropriate predecessor, “Avenue Q” does offer a moral and some suggestions on how to get through each and every day…even if it means only living “For Now.” The underlying message is as simple as The Golden Rule, but for egocentric populated masses, probably one best served by a muppety monster.
It’s easy to overlook the outstanding cast giving these puppets personality and voice because they let their furry stars take center stage. The coordinated effort, choreography and ability to share the spotlight with an inanimate object and give it individuality while singing and dancing deserves the standing ovation this cast received on opening night. Danielle Judovits shows her amazing vocal range especially in Kate’s ballads, Mark Whitten and puppet coach Libby Letlow display perfect comedic timing, and Chris Kauffmann shines with boyish infectiousness as Princeton and Rod.
Whether you need career advice, a kick out of the closet, emotional clarity in relationships or just wanna relive your childhood, DOMA’s “Avenue Q” is the place to be…for adults.
Now you can resume watching your porn.
Runs through Dec 16
Fri & Sat @ 8pm
Sundays @ 3pm & 7:30pm
The Met Theatre
1089 N. Oxford Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90029
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