Homosexuality, existentialism, bigotry, racism, sluts who steal your boyfriends, post-college quarter life crises, unrequited love and more first world problems… heavy issues to tackle in any art form, but there is one musical, yes, musical, that manages to deliver that and more in the form of crass cursing puppets in a parallel world known as Avenue Q. Nothing is taboo here, and forcing songs like “Everybody Is A Little Bit Racist” on your audience is a brilliant way to bring people with holier-than-thou-attitudes right down to earth.

While Avenue Q will please all 16 and up (recommended viewing age), the real target audience are the 20-30-somethings who grew up with Sesame Street.

Now, after Sesame Street left us to the vicissitudes of life (when we were like 7), we went on with school and college and got a job and struggled to figure out who we were in this cruel world… we were met with heartbreaks, disappointment and failures and an overarching desire to do something special.

And we return to Avenue Q where we meet the familiar puppets of our childhood days in grown-up form. Avenue Q is a crazy halfway house where the puppet (and human) occupants embrace all of life’s shit in merry song and dance – nobody is quite going anywhere, the puppets are poor for the most part without much sense of ambition or direction. Their superintendent is Gary Coleman of “Whatchutalkinboutwillis” fame who embodies the be-nothin’-gone-nowhere individual who used to be full of dreams and potential as a kid…

Because that’s where most of us are in our lives, let’s face it. As a kid you spent sunny days on Sesame Street convinced it’s going to be great to be an adult because that’s when your dreams come true because as Kate Monster says “nobody would want to grow up otherwise”. And when you do graduate from college and head out into the real world, that’s when you figure out you’re not some unique individual. Avenue Q recognises this and embraces the sober reality of mediocrity in this surprisingly feel-good musical with racy tunes.

Before I caught Avenue Q I have to admit I wasn’t entirely sold by the premise. I thought cursing puppets? Please, my discerning sense of humour probably is probably above this infantile… heh. That was pretty good. Hahahah. Can they SAY that shit?! Hahaha. Oh man. I fucking love this show.

It took me about a minute to fall in love with it. The musical introduces us to this world through the eyes of a fresh college grad, Princeton our protagonist who is determined to find his “purpose” in life, and is consequently burdened by the weight of his existential crisis. He is unfortunately too self-absorbed to be likeable (yah, I know I’m talking about a puppet). Through him we meet the other characters who reside in this neighbourhood. Rod is a homosexual deep inside the closet and madly in love with roommate Nicky (no prizes for guessing which Sesame Street characters these guys were modelled after), and Kate Monster is a furry monster puppet in love with Princeton. There’s also Lucy T. Slut, Trekkie the loveably perverted grouch, Gary Coleman the lucked-out super and the extremely funny “oriental” landlord Christmas Eve to provide hilarious matter of fact observations through song at every turn.

The talented cast sang beautifully and I marvelled at the way they managed to slip into their different puppet characters with such dexterity. The stage set was simple but sufficient for the purposes of the musical and sound quality was perfect in Marina Bay Sands Grand Theatre.

Avenue Q manages to balance humour with crassness and introspection and manages through the use of puppet intermediaries, and brings it expertly to stage through song and dance. Shit, this feels like some PhD insight into something that really is quite a simple premise – funny singing puppets dammit.

And so what if you haven’t got it all quite figured out and have no purpose in this devastatingly dissonant existence? This play will console you. The faster you accept it the happier you’ll be, which is the take-home message in the final song, “For Now”… “Relax, Let life roll off your backs, Except for death and paying taxes, Everything in life is only for now!”

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Interview with the Cast of Avenue Q (Singapore edition)

Bibo

Q: Who is your greatest inspiration?

A: I’d say that my parents are my inspiration. Growing up as an only child made me really close to them and the way they’ve supported me in my endeavors as an actor has meant a lot.

Q: Do you guys have any pre-concert rituals? 

A: We just try to stay loose and relaxed backstage; not get too worked up about the show. It’s a common sight to just walk into Jaime’s and my dressing room during open house and find the two of us laughing our heads off about the most random things.

 Q: Do you feel you have become ‘funnier/more humorous’ in real life as a result of acting in Avenue Q? 

A: Not just acting in Avenue Q, but acting in general I think has made me more open in real life. There’s really no such thing as a quiet actor haha!

 Jamie

Q:  Who is your greatest inspiration?

A: My greatest inspiration is love. The opportunity to love and to be able to do what you love is very rare and precious, and so should never be taken for granted. To be able to give the gift of love, whether it be to a friend, a parent, a sibling, a lover or a stranger, is something that we should all be ready and make sure that we are willing and able to do.

Q: Do you guys have any pre-concert rituals? 

A: My preshow rituals contain some consistent routines, with a few new ones thrown in depending on the role I’m playing. Mostly it consists of warming up and vocalizing, laying out my costumes and checking my props, having a coffee and a cigarette while I mentally run through everything I have to do for the show. A short intense prayer before I go on stage always helps calm my nerves and reinforces my confidence.

Q: Do you feel you have become ‘funnier/more humorous’ in real life as a result of acting in Avenue Q? 

A: I definitely feel more humorous after Avenue Q! Playing Brian is such a departure from the usual roles that I play; and channeling his persona has helped me be generally lighter in mood and I find myself taking myself a lot less seriously with each day I spend in Avenue Q. I’m also surprised that there are times where I even crack a joke or two; even more so when people actually find them funny!

Director: Chari

Q:  How did you work with puppets as the main characters? 

Having puppets in the show required lots of intensive preparation and puppetry workshops for the cast.  We were involved with those as well to be sure that we had the puppetry principles down so we could effectively use the puppets in the storytelling.  All the cast members and even stage crew were constantly building on the details to breathe life into the puppets.

Once we were staging, we really were intent on treating the puppets as ‘humans’ as real parts of the story.  On Avenue Q, puppets and people simply live with each other and interact with each other as we do in real life.

Date: 27 September 2012 to 7 October 2012
Venue: Marina Bay Sands, Grand Theatre 
Timings:  Tues – Fri 8pm | Sat to Sun 2pm and 8pm

Tickets can be purchased online at www.baseentertainmentasia.com or www.marinabaysands.com/ticketing, by phone at +65 66888826 or in person at Marina Bay Sands Box Offices.

Editor’s note: The show is suitable for individuals 16 years old and above as there is some mature content and homosexual references.