I wasn’t expecting to thoroughly enjoy Avenue Q last weekend, in part because it had been hyped to me as being extremely funny, and when your marketing is all about how you’re a naughty adults-only take on a children’s show, the likelihood of being genuinely, naturally funny is diminished. Fortunately, those expectations were lowered the night before when a friend said it was enjoyable, but not as funny as he’d been led to believe. In my opinion, that is how one should head into the show. Expect to have a smile on your face, but not to laugh (unless you find any mention of homosexuality to be funny, like some others at my seating).
My initial expectation was that the actors/puppeteers would be invisibly clad in black, like Kuroko stagehands in Japanese theatre, but they stood alongside their puppets and emoted in sync. If a puppet character was confused, it would show in the body language and on the face of his handler. This peripheral vision trick worked really well, and indirectly lent the felt and fabric actors an emotional presence.
In the end, I was impressed by the Filipino cast’s performances (excellent female lead Carla Guevara comes off two years as Miss Saigon in London), the familiar set design, novel stagecraft, and great songs. It didn’t really matter that most songs weren’t as funny as the famous ‘The Internet is for Porn’, but they were still clever enough and definitely memorable for being so casually dark. Closing number, ‘For Now’, only offers a half-hearted promise of hope where others might be inclined to wrap on a high. Everyone’s a little dissatisfied with life, it says, but swallow your pride for now. When things are going ok, enjoy them for now. George Bush too, it commiserates, is only for now.