How many albums written in the style of children’s music require Parental Advisory stickers? From my first-hand knowledge, only one.
It’s far too simple to call Avenue Q a send-up of Sesame Street. Sure, Avenue Q has puppets singing in an inner-city neighborhood, teaching audience members valuable lessons about life.
But the lessons taught in Avenue Q? Some of them aren’t for children. Not yet, at least.
Adults, however, need the wisdom Avenue Q offers. When debating the issues of the day, it’s far too easy to take the stance, “Nobody’s perfect, so let’s just get along.”
Avenue Q fully acknowledges the first half of that statement — no, no one is perfect — but it encourages listeners to take responsibility for their imperfections.
And the best part? The show uses humor to make its point.
“Eveyone’s a little bit racist, sometimes,” Princeton and Kate Monster sing, “Doesn’t mean we go around committing hate crimes.”
About people who make judgments on race, Princeton explains, “No, not big judgements like who to hire or who to buy your newspaper from … Just little judgments like thinking Mexican busboys should learn to speak goddamn English!”
You know, sometimes I wish some white people around these parts would learn to speak goddamn English, too. Ooops, was that just a little racist?
Gary Coleman (Yes, that Gary Coleman, played by Natalie Venetia Belcon) says so: “Bigotry has never been exclusively white.”
Kate gets a rude awakening from Trekkie Monster about the Internet (“The Internet Is For Porn”, a song that makes good use of the “in bed” suffix appended to fortune cookie readings.)
Kate: “I’m glad we have this new technology”
Trekkie: “For porn”
Kate: “I got a fast connection so I don’t have to wait”
Treekie: “For porn”
And in “If You Were Gay”, Nicky (modeled after Ernie) attempts to reassure Rod (modeled after Bert) he’d be all right having a gay friend.
“If you were queer/I’d still be here/Year after year/Because you’re dear/To me”. That’s kind of rhyming seems modeled after Stephen Sondheim.
And on “Schadenfreude”, Gary Coleman explains to a homeless Nicky in Act Two that it’s human nature to feel good about the misfortune of others. Gary sings, “‘Cause when people see us/They don’t want to be us/And that makes them feel great.”
Avenue Q can get a bit raunchy too.
“You Can Be Loud as the Hell you Want (When You’re Making Love)” starts out with some loud love-making from Kate and Princeton.
Princeton: “Don’t put your finger there!” Beat. “Put your finger there!”
And on “Special”, Lucy the Slut “can tell just by looking that you are especially hard for me!”
Comedy and music is a hard balance to achieve, especially since music often suffers at the expense of the laugh.
Avenue Q strikes the right balance by setting biting, sobering humor with the easiest melodies to sing.
After you hear Trekkie Monster chime “Why you think the Net was born? Porn! Porn! Porn!” it’s hard to forget.
At the same time, it’s also easy to relate the show’s songs to real-life scenarios.
In Austin, Texas, there are homeless people who panhandle by freeway intersections. That’s schadenfreude right there.
And once I met someone who got squicked by homosexuals, and he didn’t turn out to be a dumb bully — he was a well-educated dweeb whose ass even I could pound.
That’s not quite the lesson Avenue Q expounds, but hey, recognition is the first part addressing a problem. And this show shines a warm, bright light on a number of social ills.