“‘Avenue Q’ is ‘Sesame Street’ if ‘Sesame Street’ was about sex, drinking, racism, and growing up,” says the show’s director Jake S. Stepansky ’17. Adapted from the Broadway musical of the same name, this rendition of “Avenue Q,” running March 10th and 11th at the Oberon, reflects the anxiety, vulgarity, and vulnerability that come from entering adulthood. Yet despite the musical’s crass humor and biting satire, Stepansky hopes to highlight the genuine optimism at its core.
The show’s story begins when a young college graduate moves into an apartment on an unnamed city’s Avenue Q with big dreams but only a bit of money to sustain them. He befriends the colorful inhabitants of the neighborhood, learning life lessons and what it means to be an independent, self-sufficient, and occasionally desperate adult.
While the show is certainly a dramatic thematic departure from “Sesame Street,” many of its major characters are represented by puppets of a similar style. The play’s seven actors even received training from professional puppeteer Jon Little, who taught them how to breathe life and emotion into their felt puppets. The resulting characters have the potential to be far deeper and more complex than one might expect from a puppet show. For example, Brooke E. Sweeney ’17 plays Kate Monster, a down-to-earth puppet who yearns to create a school for monsters and find romance. “She questions herself in a lot of things and…realizes that her dreams might not come true,” Sweeney says. “I think everyone relates to that, feeling down, at one point in their lives…but she goes forth, puts her head up, and keeps marching on.” In the world of “Avenue Q,” even puppets have real-world issues.
The musical’s songs are intended to give a irreverent spin to the show’s “Sesame Street”-like style. “Everyone’s a Little Racist,” “The Internet is for Porn,” and “You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You’re Makin’ Love)” are a few of the songs featured. These lyrics might sound brash coming from a puppet, but the cast hopes that the songs will successfully convey the struggles of entering adulthood. In addition, music director Isaac L. Alter ’16 says that the classic Broadway sound of “Avenue Q’s” music is bound to entertain listeners. “It has a range of emotion, going from happy to sad, and…it accentuates the emotions that characters are going through,” he says.
Stepansky believes that those emotions will ring true with audiences. “Avenue Q is a bitingly funny satire of the ‘Sesame Street’ ethos. It deals with issues of love and relationships, racism and hardship, and sexuality,” he says. Despite the weight these themes carry, Stepansky says the characters’ optimism and lighthearted sense of humor will come out on top. “I think that people will leave feeling that their outlook on life is a little bit brighter.”
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