WARNING. This review is not for children. Although I do not get down to the specifics as we see in the musical, children are smarter than we give them credit for and are likely to figure out some puppet anatomy and hear about subjects meant for adult human and puppet ears only. So just to be safe, this review is adults only—human, human puppet, or monster puppet.
Haddonfield Plays and Players’ production of AVENUE Q, The Musical was hysterical. If you haven’t seen the show before, think Sesame Street for adults. This R-rated version is a spoof of Sesame Street. That’s about as close as it comes.
HPP’s version was well-acted, well-directed and well-sung. Everything about this production felt right, the sound, the lights, the music as well as the talent acting, singing and puppetry on stage. There’s obviously more so read on.
AVENUE Q was the winner of three Tony Awards including Best Musical and written by the composer of THE BOOK OF MORMAN.
As the play opens, we see an innocent puppet human, named Princeton, with a worthless English degree trying to find his purpose… He finds himself on Avenue Q. The earlier letters were more expensive. Of course, he is accompanied by his puppeteer, but we don’t see him. Well, we do. He’s not invisible. He brings the emotion, the voice, the song and the acting. Princeton makes friends with fellow human puppets, monster puppets and humans—including one Gary Coleman, representing those seeking a purpose–who peaked early; Gary is the superintendent of the apartment building. I’m getting ahead of myself.
I’ve seen the play before—a very good production, in fact—so I didn’t think I could be surprised again, but I was. I think it was the same kind of love a child gives to Sesame Street. He or she sees the puppet characters and knows they aren’t real, but is pulled into the puppet fantasy world because that’s where fun resides, where it’s great to be a kid.
AVENUE Q is just a little past puberty and to the right. It’s where adults are fondly pulled into a fantasy puppet world and see adults mingling with puppets, doing and talking about adult subjects. Puppets are doing the indescribable…would you believe seeing a nude puppet can make you uncomfortable enough to laugh? It will. Technically, this review can’t be R-rated. But there was a lot of adult puppet screaming in ecstasy.
A different stage, a different director, and different actors can’t help but do what live theatre is supposed to do. Put a unique mark on the art for every show. I sat there smiling at the R-rated, adult version of Sesame Street, but it wasn’t because of how it was rated. I think, like everyone else in the theatre, I had the “Sesame Street Syndrome.” I was compelled to accept this fantasy world and join in the fun. Could it be any more obvious? Still, you can’t help yourself. You can’t keep from laughing.
An interesting thing happens when the actor is able to act as the puppet and the puppeteer—or is it the other way around? When the actor makes the puppet’s situation believable (while still controlling the puppet), the puppet comes to life, with a story, memories, and emotions. The actor/puppeteer disappears in a way.
The actors/puppets talk and sing about adult issues. The song titles are a hint: “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” “The Internet is for Porn,” and “You Can Be As Loud As the Hell You Want (When You’re Making Love).” Of course, with puppets, you can have a real melting pot from rat puppets to box puppets as well as the usual array already discussed. The idea of racism becomes ridiculous. Princeton, a human puppet falls in love and has sex with a monster puppet. Two human male puppets living together have a discussion about homosexuality; one roommate accepts that his roommate probably is without question while the other claims to have a girlfriend in Canada. So, it really is about acceptance.
AVENUE Q is a fun show, but intended for the older members of the family. Haddonfield Plays and Players did a terrific job putting it together on the Haddonfield stage. Venue makes a difference and I think it helped. The stage was large enough to allow the actors space to act. Yes, they are supposed to be “invisible,” but it is because we see their expressions when the actors act that we transfer the emotions to the puppets. Great job everyone.
AVENUE Q, THE MUSICAL
Music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx
Book by Jeff Whitty
Content Advisory: Avenue Q contains strong adult language, mature themes and
full puppet nudity. It is recommended for adults and older teens.
Oct 24 – Nov 16, 2013
Specific Show Dates and Times
October 24 – November 16, 2013 (Fri/Sat 8pm; Sun 2pm)
Haddonfield Plays and Players
957 East Atlantic Avenue at Crows Woods
Haddonfield, NJ 08033