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‘Avenue Q’
at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center

2010 May 20

Q . . .

Cyou tuh.

“Avenue Q” is cute.

When recent college graduate Princeton arrives in New York City with an English degree, he has dreams of making it big. But just before he is to start his new job, he gets a call that his position has been eliminated due to recent downsizing. Mourning his fate, he breaks out into song with “It Sucks to Be Me.”

But it doesn’t suck just to be him. Apparently, it sucks to be everyone else in one apartment building on Alphabet City’s Avenue Q, as dwellers all join in one-upping the other on why it sucks even more to be them.

Modeled after “Sesame Street,” most of the characters down on Avenue Q are nearly life-size puppets handled by actors who appear onstage with them. The actors move their bodies in unison with the puppets, most of whom have only upper torsos.

As well as puppets, there are a couple of people: Bruce, a fat, white, frizzy-haired unemployed, sloppily dressed Jewish comic, a clear takeoff on Bruce Vilanch; Christmas Eve, a Japanese psychotherapist who has only one client; and Gary Coleman, the black has-been actor of “Diff’rent Strokes” who is the superintendent of the apartment where most of the characters reside. This mixture of the show’s characters and ultra-liberal puppets provide the perfect setup for the song “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.”

Other characters include Rod, a closeted gay Republican banker puppet and his roommate Nicky; devilish bears who persuade Kate Monster and her love interest, Princeton, to get drunk and have sex; Lucy, the sultry, loose chanteuse interloper who seduces Princeton; and Trekkie Monster, who says the Internet is for porn. Well, come to find out, to Kate Monster’s amazement, most everyone in the neighborhood loves Internet porn too.

Interspersed throughout the scenes, a screen drops down with numbers, letters and words with short lessons similar to those shown on “Sesame Street.” Except these are adult lessons, like how to spell the word “commitment.”

There is some profanity in the show and a scene in which puppets Rod and Kate have wild, passionate sex, so this is not a kid-friendly puppet show. But on Tuesday at the opening at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center near Atlanta, there were more young people in their 20s than I normally see at the theater. If this type of humor is the catalyst that brings young adults to the theater, this city needs more of it.

“Avenue Q” won three 2004 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score, beating out close contender “Wicked” for all three. “Avenue Q” is a cute, funny, smart show, but on opening night there was a problem, which not only I and my companion experienced, but also the people around us, as we overheard quite a few people during intermission say they could not understand all the words the characters spoke. More so than a sound problem, it seemed to be an annunciation problem.

“Avenue Q” has played around the world, including Hungary, Turkey, Brazil, Italy, Israel, Australia and England.

The national touring company of “Avenue Q” performs through Sunday, May 23 at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center in Atlanta.

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