[Review] It Sucks to Be You (if you haven’t watched Avenue Q yet)

We’re together
Here on Avenue Q!
We live on Avenue Q!
Our friends do too!
‘Til our dreams
Come true,
We live on Avenue Q!

“It Sucks To Be Me,” Avenue Q

Ending its extended run on September 14 (tomorrow!), the Arts Club has had major success in producing Avenue Q for theatergoers in an orgy of crude, sexual humour and somewhat uncomfortable truths.

We all live on Avenue Q! Source: Arts Club blog

Avenue Q is a musical conceived by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, and is essentially a parody of the old children’s show Sesame Street. The show revolves around a puppet named Princeton who had recently graduated from college and is trying to find his purpose in life. There, he also meets the residents, some of which include Kate Monster, a girl monster that has a dream to build a school just for monsters; Brian, an unemployed man in his 30s who wants to be a late-night comedian; Christmas Eve, Brian’s wife and a client-less therapist; and Gary Coleman, ex-child star.

I’ve always wondered as to how a show like this managed to be so popular and make it onto Broadway. The manner in which the subject matter is portrayed lightly and mocked heavily. I can’t even get past my parents by playing the soundtrack in the car due to its liberal use of profanity. Perhaps the musical is able to connect to the audience by providing what I call pseudo-escapism–where the viewer is able to leave their troubles behind temporarily, and yet at the same address said troubles in a comfortable setting. It also sets up a few scenes where it induces audience laughter due to shocking or awkward content.

The cast is also special in that it’s racially diverse to the point that there’s a song about how everyone’s a little bit racist. Considering the three human characters, there’s exactly one of Caucasian, Asian, and African descent each (other races were mentioned in the song disparagingly). While there are some stereotypical traits displayed (Christmas Eve’s over-the-top Engrish), the writers of the show are still able to develop the characters beyond being token minorities.

For the most part, the Arts Club incarnation stays true to the original Broadway version. The double-casting of actors stayed constant (e.g., the actor playing Princeton also played Rod) and a lot of the multimedia gimmicks (such as Lucy Theslut’s ECG and learning new words) were executed perfectly a la Sesame Street style. In fact, it was eerie how similar Andrew Macdonald-Smith (Princeton/Rod) sounded like John Tartaglia, the actor who originated both roles.

One thing I noticed were cuts to some songs. The omitted parts weren’t offensive in nature (and hell, once you’ve done “You Can Be As Loud As the Hell You Want,” you can do anything), so the rationale for shortening them is beyond me.

I was unfortunate enough to get a seat on the side where cast members couldn’t get to me for “The Money Song,” which was a shame because I had some spare change on me ready for this part, but all in all it was an amazing show, and I’m glad to have finally seen it in person.

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