Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Traveling To Avenue Q

Saw Avenue Q tonight...Awesome, Awesome, Awesome... Think RENT but with puppets... and not the Team America type but the sesame Street/ Muppet kind! Its hard to explain the smile across my face, a broadway musical of muppets that both made me laugh and cry... Here are some excerpts from the Toronto Star...

Near the beginning of Avenue Q, the Tony Award-winning musical that Dancap Productions is bringing to the Elgin Theatre starting next Tuesday night, the cast of the show – humans and puppets alike – break into a song called "It Sucks to Be Me."

It's a neat way of letting us know several things at once:
1. The show is going to be about the feeling of disenfranchisement that many young people have today.
2. It's got a ribald sense of humour.
3. It's definitely not your grandpa's puppet show.

It's safe to issue a warning: if you don't like your puppets any racier than, say, Lamb Chop, you've stepped into the wrong theatre.

The creation of the songwriting team of Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, along with book writer Jeff Whitty, "the little musical that could" has been dazzling audiences for more than five years on Broadway, plus a still-hot run in London (and a disappointing one in Las Vegas). At last, Toronto gets a turn with a production touring North America. It all started because Lopez and Marx wished their friends liked musicals more. "We wanted to figure out why all the people we liked didn't like the same shows we did," says Marx from his New York home.

"We finally figured out that it was when characters started singing that they got turned off."

Since vocalization is a vital part of every musical, that would seem to be an insurmountable problem. Not to these guys.

"Animated cartoons and puppets have inherent permission to sing," explains Marx, "because you know they're fake. Once Miss Piggy starts singing, all rules cease to exist."

"The secret is the transference that the use of puppets allows. It's just like the masks in Greek theatre," he said on a rehearsal break in New York. "To anyone who understands the history of theatre, it's just like it was in ancient Greece, when – if you wanted to insult or satirize the people in power – you did it behind a mask so you could pretend to be innocent."

And so the puppets in Avenue Q can mock George W. Bush, get drunk and have one-night stands with inappropriate partners (like the succinctly named Lucy the Slut) or indulge in watching X-rated videos. In fact, one of the show's funniest numbers is called "The Internet is for Porn," with the unforgettable line, "Grab your dick and double-click."

Performed by puppets, the lyrics are at once more shocking and more acceptable – not to mention hilarious.

But there's a serious side to puppet transference as well, which Marx is anxious to point out. "My favourite part of the show," he says, "is Rod, the gay character, going through his journey of noticing that everyone around him has a partner and admitting to his therapist that he's lonely and wishes he was in a relationship.

"I love that the audience immediately roots for this gay puppet to live his life and wants him to be happy."

And although the second night of its Toronto run will also mark the start of its sixth year on Broadway, the show seems as relevant as ever.

"I'm really proud of this show," boasts producer McCollum, "because as the world gets crazier and crazier it still stays true."

How do you write a musical about racism, homophobia, sex, poverty and porn and also make it screamingly funny?
Create a cast of potty-mouthed puppets to do the dirty work for human writers and stars.

Note: All images and text (not specified) is copyrighted by Christopher Cushman. This site does not specify or denote the sexual orientation of any model and as such please post your comments accordingly.

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