AVENUE Q REVIEW
Saw Avenue Q last night. Herein is my review and thoughts.
WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Overall, I thought it was a very clever , witty , and well-done puppet musical. However, I did not love it as much as I hoped I would, as much as I felt I could have and should have, and I have to say that I left with a bit of a lamentation for the play I glimpsed at , but sadly did not see.
FIRST THE GOOD STUFF
The book is very clever, and the songs are pretty catchy, but not in a particularlly memorable way. The performances were all superb (and I saw the B cast--three of the cast members were not the originals (including John Tartaglia (who plays Princeton and Rod), Jordan Gelber (who plays Brian). The understudies were all excellent, and the main characters (esp. Stephanie D'Abruzzo and Rick Lyons (who also created the puppets) were all very good. Rick Lyons is a great puppeteer and a great singer! And so is Stephanie D’Abruzzo. And the understudy Barrett Foa. In fact, they are all quite good!
THE NOT SO GOOD STUFF (which was still pretty good)I left the play feeling a little dis-satisfied. It wasn't so much the cost (though at $91.25, I could have bought 4-5 months of NetFlix (30-60 movies easy, or an entire subscription to a small theatre in Providence. If I'd paid half price I would have been very pleased with the value ratio. But hey, that's what Broadway costs, and it was not the price that stuck in my craw so much.
I did not feel that the production lived up to its possibilities, and had a much too narrow scope.
Perhaps I expected too much from the hype, but I really expected it to explode and expose musical theatre traditions in the way that the Lion King did (and I did not like the Lion Kingeither-- but that's a different discussion.
The music was catchy, but not in a particularly memorable way.
The book was very clever and witty, but not astoundingly so.
The characters were drawn well, but weren't more than foam deep.
The plot was okay, but rather sacharine, without lots of surprising twists
. The acting was very well done, but... okay, no buts about it, the acting was just well done! :o)
I felt that the play does not tie up all all of its loose ends in a satisfying way. There were some very interesting concepts, that didn't get explored as far as they should, and just got kind of left behind.
In general, I felt the directors/writers/producers went for the lowest and easiest fruits on the theatrical tree, and never got to the really beautiful and tasty fruit up at the top. So in the end, they've produced a filling and satisfying pie, but it was not the most amazing pie in the world. It was a rather ordinary pretty good pie.
HERE ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF WHAT I MEAN:A) The show is loosely based on Sesame Street, and some of the parodic trappings were present. (There is a song based on Schadenfreude (pleasure at the misfortune of others) and two TV monitors do a little Schadenfreunde word dance that's pretty funny) But it could have been used in a much more pointed and caustic way, which would have changed our relationship to the characters and even to the unfolding story.
B) Another great concept are these two "Bad Idea Bears" who urge Princeton on to make foolish mistakes. They are half in his imagination (a bell rings everytime they come on) They are a device for comedy (which they should be) but only a device for comedy, and oh too clearly-- their come-uppance at the end was not earned (and their presence and the world they represent was not maximized.) Having them do their thing was great-- but I wanted a suitably evil ending for them (which we did not get)
C) There was one dream sequence where the scale of the puppets is dramatically changed, and you see for one second a gigantic puppet look up and over the whole set. Suddenly the large set is tiny, and the scale of all of our doings is brought into question for that moment. It was a great moment, and I wished that there were 20 or 30 moments of wonder like that (what Daniel Stein would call "Magic Moments"-- flashes of inspiration and virtuosity, where the mind falls in love with the image. But there weren't. Just a lot of funny puppet bits.
I am sounding rather like a negative nelly about this play. It's good,and worthwhile and funny, and you should go, and you will laugh and have a great time. Probably you won't even notice anything of what I've been talking about. Or completely disagree.
But when you get a taste of the great wine, the mediocre to good wine you've got in your glass seems a little vinegary and sour.
I'd love to hear your opinions about it. Feel free to comment in my nifty new "comments section"