To steal a joke from the Lopez/Whittey/Marx megahit musical at Lyric Stage, “If you rearrange the letters in [AVENUE Q] it spells [box office gold].” The big Q just opened yesterday and it’s already been extended through June 24th.
The Lyric Stage version does what the Broadway show can’t. Lyric gives audiences an up close and personal experience with the most adorable puppets this side of Sesame Street. In fact, AVENUE Q manages to send up the PG rated television show and pay homage to it at the same time.
I’m too old to have seen Sesame Street as a child. Howdy Doody thrilled my generation (Maybe that explains the sixties!) but anyone under fifty, if my math holds up, grew up counting with Kermit and Big Bird. The creators of AVENUE Q did. They originally wanted to write for the Muppets. When the Henson Company was not interested, they made their own puppets---and any resemblance to the real characters is intentional. The plunder pays off!
Their puppets are outrageous, irreverent and plenty blue. (For you youngsters out there, blue means x-rated.) My theater companion went wild over their audacity. He’s the right age to remember how sweet Henson’s puppets were, even the crankiest of them. (OK. Miss Piggy is the exception.)
What I discovered to my astonishment is how much emotion is conveyed (or rather, imposed via the magic of theater) on those little puppet faces. They seem to be registering indignation, hurt, even surprise. I swear I saw those little devil id puppets scrunch up their teddy bear noses in mischievous delight. The credit, of course, goes to director Spiro Veloudos and the Lyric puppeteers.
Music director Catherine Stornetta gets lovely singing from the entire cast, with special mention to Erica Spyres for Kate Monster (the “fur” person who teaches tolerance for all sentient beings, including those with fur! This animal lover rejoiced!); and to Phil Taylor for the really grumpy Trekkie Monster; and to humans Harry McEnerny V, Jenna Lea Scott and Davron S. Monroe.