AISLE SAY Philadelphia


Music, Lyrics and Original Concept
by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx
Book by Jeff Whitty
Choreographed by Ken Roberson
Puppet Design by Rick Lyon
Directed by Jason Moore

Reviewed by Claudia Perry

Warning: Puppets have entered the building! Warning: Due to adult situations (like full-puppet nudity) this show is not for everyone: Avenue Q - translation "Sesame Street for 20 Somethings" or "Muppets Gone Wild." But hold on, "Avenue Q" has not been authorized or approved by The Jim Hensen Company or Sesame Workshop and for good reason. These puppets say nasty, cynical things about people and the world; they have sex; they run around trying to find themselves and their purpose in life and enjoy internet porn! Hey, they sound just like young, unhappy adults!

Composer/Lyricists Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx had an original concept to write three episodes of a Sesame Street parody for adults. This turned into a full scale musical with a book by Mark Whitty. It centers on Princeton, a college grad who comes to New York City with big dreams and a little bank account. He can only afford to live way out on Avenue Q where everyone else is looking for the same thing he is -- a little love and a "purpose" in life.

Like Sesame Street does, this show combines puppets with live actors and animated shorts. But unlike Sesame Street, we get to see the puppeteers right on stage alongside the puppets. For me this is a total plus because personally, I find the puppeteer more interesting than the puppet. A human face has a much bigger range of emotion than any type of marionette, so I tend to watch the actor and not the funny thing attached to their arm. But, there's no doubt about it -- if you like to see puppets in funny, but decidedly naughty, adult situations, then you'll love "Avenue Q". There are very funny songs like, The Internet is for Porn, You Can Be As Loud as The Hell You Want and There is Life Outside Your Apartment, and catchy ones like For Now

. There are several very talented performers who not only have to sing and act but work the puppets as well. Robert McClure does double duty as both the lead puppet Princeton and the closeted gay, investment banker, Rod, and does an awesome job of switching voices and personas. Kelli Sawyer is superb as both Kate Monster, the sweet substitute teacher puppet and Lucy, the sex bomb. Minglie Chen is just adorable as Bear, a sweet voiced little Care Bear look-a-like that tells everyone to do bad things! David Benoit does a great Trekkie Monster voice reminiscent of Cookie Monster - only Trekkie's vice is porn not cookies. There are also actors who do not work puppets such as Angela Ai who is very funny as the character Christmas Eve and Carla Renata who portrays a down on his/her luck Gary Coleman.

The super realistic set by Anna Louizos contrasts sharply with the other over the top, make-believe elements in this production. She's crafted a street scene that is a dead ringer for one you'd find in New York in Alphabet City on the Lower East Side. Video screens drop down from time to time to give us little animated lessons in counting - such as counting Night Stands. Five Night Stands, Four Night Stands, Three Night Stands, Two Night Stands - One Night Stand. Ha, Ha. Yes, there are a lot of laughs in this show - but like the catchy song says,

Each time you smile.
 (only for now)
It'll only last a while
 (only for now)
Only for now
Life may be scary
But it's only temporary
Only for now!

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