“Avenue Q” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ March 11, 2010


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

“Avenue Q” debuted on Broadway in 2003 and dazzled audiences with its delightfully entertaining puppets who made pointedly hilarious comments about contemporary life. It’s taken too long to get this funny show to Valley audiences but it finally arrived Tuesday at ASU Gammage in a sharp production that gets across the musical’s pithy humor while capturing its uplifting effervescence. The message is simple. In the face of today’s confusing and conflicting life styles and foibles, it’s possible to carve out your own unique life.

For the show to entertain, though, every barbed word uttered by the puppets, their handlers, or other cast must be heard distinctly. The touring production’s inadequate sound system and ASU Gammage’s poor theater acoustics make mush of too many funny moments, but it doesn’t ruin the musical.

“Avenue Q” is the concept of Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx who also wrote the catchy songs. Their idea was to have mouthy but bluntly honest puppets play everyday characters on a rundown street in an outer New York City borough. Created by Rick Lyon, these puppets say and do whatever they think because they are adorable and can get away with anything.

It allows them license to mouth off about everything in real life including sex, racism, the internet, ethnicity, morality, life’s purpose, love, being gay, a college degree’s purpose, and making money. The puppets don’t beat around the bush. They have active and vibrant sex lives although some are frustrated at not being able to meet a mate. They have interesting names like Princeton, Kate Monster, Lucy the Slut, Rob, Nicky, and Trekkie Monster that tell the audience about each of them. Some work, some look for work in a competitive job market, some just play, but they have ideas about everything and their directness makes their comments political, topical, and hysterical.

These puppets confront the things that plague us all. But they find humor in their predicaments and develop clever solutions to most challenges. A warning, “Avenue Q” has its share of raunchy dialogue.

The performers who manipulate the puppets become them as focus goes totally to the puppets. Only Lisa Helmi Johanson, who plays the bossy and overbearing Christmas Eve, has such a distinctive accent that many of her lines, when heard, can’t be understood.

Avenue Q” is a wonderfully entertaining show that takes pointed and amusing jabs at contemporary life to create a delightful, but very adult, entertainment. The show continues through March 14. For tickets, go to the ASU Gammage box office, any Ticketmaster box office, or order online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: A