[Singing Through Life] Avenue Q @ Las Vegas

Avenue Q at the Wynn

Otherwise known as the show that stole Wicked’s Tony for Best Musical

Before I go into the review, there are few things to keep in mind. Avenue Q was barred from a national tour as part of the agreement with the Las Vegas production at the Wynn. Therefore, the only way to see Avenue Q, outside of Broadway, was taking a trip to Vegas. I saw the cut version of the Vegas production; the 90 minute version with no intermission. I was told by a colleague that the show used to be the full and uncut version. By uncut, I refer to the cut verses and songs. Las Vegas has a funny way of having shows run without intermission so that patrons can spend more time in the casinos. I recall seeing Avenue Q in March 13, 2006 at the Wynn in Las Vegas. My brother and I saw the show on a whim. Being just barely under 21, there was not much for us to do, but maybe hit a show or two.

I first became acquainted with Avenue Q by way of a college roommate. She hailed it as the best show ever. I sampled a few songs with interesting titles: “The Internet is For Porn” and “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.” I admit, I guffawed and chortled at the idea that these were puppets acting raunchy and politically incorrect. However, the act got old really fast when otaku and geeks started singing “The Internet is for Porn” at every other anime related event. The song soon lost its shock value and wore out.

Given that Avenue Q is overplayed and overdone, and has a fandom that consists the theatre equivalent of “weebs” (what the anime community calls wannabe obnoxious otaku – see SNL for example) who probably never heard of Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music,” I wanted to see Avenue Q with an open mind, ignoring the gruesome fandom it created. It is possible to enjoy a type of medium while ignoring the fandom.

I saw the Vegas production in its last months. Unfortunately, due to low ticket sales, the show was canceled two months after I saw the show. The plot is simple; Princeton, a puppet, fresh out of college seeks what his purpose is in life through the help of his puppet (and human) friends. Hilarity ensues. The play is a parody of PBS children’s shows like “Sesame Street.”

The Vegas production has also imported a few members of the original Broadway cast. Rick Lyon plays Trekkie and one of the Bad News Bears. While his voice is better known for “The Internet is for Porn,” he is an amazing puppeteer and very talented between switching between the perverted, uncouth Trekkie and the silly uppity Bad News Bear. The one actress that really stood out was Brynn O Malley as Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut. Compared to the original, I really got a sense that Kate and Lucy were two different characters. Overall, the ensemble was really good and very funny. Tonya Dixon was also memorable as Gary Coleman. One can wonder if the joke can work now after his passing.

When I mention the cut version, the following songs had to be cut / changed:

“There is Life Outside Your Apartment” (cut)
“I Wish I Could Go Back to College” (replaced with “There’s a Fine, Fine Line”)
“Mix Tape” (shortened – there’s only three songs on side B now)
“You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want” (shortened –  I noticed a verse was missing)
“The Money Song” (shortened –  Christmas Eve and Gary Coleman don’t have their part in it)

The production was held in a small theatre, customized to fit Avenue Q’s needs. Avenue Q is not a large scale production, but it does have its moments. The giant Kate Monster still gives me nightmares to this day. While Avenue Q’s humor can be appreciated, it can get stale really fast. I’ll admit to liking “I Wish I Could Go Back to College” and “Purpose,” but the raunchy humor can get repetitive and loose it’s shock fast. No doubt that the Las Vegas ensemble was superb and put on a fine performance, the show itself is very overrated. I measure the awesomeness of a show if I feel like seeing it again. With Avenue Q, my satisfaction can be met just by one viewing.

Overall, if you are the least bit curious about Avenue Q, check it out just so you can say you have seen it once. The show is now licensed for universities and regional productions. Avenue Q have its moments and there are more songs than being racist, outing a friend, and taking care of business. Otherwise, if you are tired of it, you can move on to other shows. Avenue Q is good, but not great. My issue lies within the fans of the cast recording – the fans who have not seen the show or any other shock-and-awe show – who assume this is Broadway being a bad wittle boy when it has been done before and better.

– Eri

erica @ scarlet-rhapsody.com

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