When I first reviewed Avenue Q six years ago, upon its Broadway opening, my only qualm was that the intricacy of the master puppetry and the finely tuned performances was lost on the big stage. So it’s my pleasure to report that this little gem of a show, having moved a few hundred feet off the Great White Way, looks and plays better than ever.
Is it a good or bad thing that the show’s theme of young adults confronting a hostile world has become more, not less, relevant? Certainly, when Princeton, the kinda-sorta hero, is let go from a job he hasn’t even started, it rings more true than it could have in the earlier ’00s.
As Princeton’s human hand, Seth Rettberg brings energy and charm to the role that made John Tartaglia a star. In his other role, as the Republican investment banker Rod, he’s just as whiny and tightly coiled. I’m not sure, but if my memory serves, the audience this go-round gives a much louder cheer when Rod finally comes out of the closet.
As his slacker roommate and secret object of lust Nicky, Cullen Titmas has real golly-gee rubber face and voice reminiscent of characters from the Three Stooges to Kramer. The rest of the cast is equally good in their roles, with Anika Larsen a standout as Kate Monster, Princeton’s girlfriend; and as Lucy, the neighborhood slut.
Nor has the bite been taken out of numbers like "Schadenfraude," celebrating the way we take pleasure in others’ suffering; or "Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist." And the technology may have changed, but "The Internet Is for Porn" rings even truer today.
Best of all, the transfer to New World Stages allows for greater intimacy with the players, both puppet and real. Avenue Q is a super-clever takeoff on Sesame Street, with cutesy-pie puppets drinking, swearing and screwing.
The young creators really managed to come up with something new, to reflect the cynicism of their generation. Seeing this a few months after the current revival of Hair only points up how differently young adults see the world.
If you haven’t taken a ride to Avenue Q, what are you waiting for?