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Singing puppets? Only in New York

March 08, 2010

Moving to New York: These four words just might make up the most sought-after phrase for American 20-somethings looking to start their lives.

For some, moving to New York is a rite of passage, in the same way that renting your first apartment is or landing your first job. But for many, the most romantic, most inspiring idea they have ever had – moving to New York – often becomes a startling reality-check when they discover the spare bedroom they found through a Craigslist listing looks suspiciously like a closet. Is this the New York life they imagined?

For the characters of “Avenue Q” – the Tony Award-winning Broadway show coming to ASU Gammage March 9-14 – life in the Big Apple is a constant struggle, especially when you are competing in the job market with a bachelor’s degree in English, like the main character "Princeton." Singing “What Do You Do with a BA in English?” Princeton journeys to New York to find his purpose in life, along with an affordable apartment. And, from here, hilarity ensues.

“Avenue Q” is a snarky musical for grown-ups who might not like musicals and who might not feel “grown up.” The show – comprised of people and puppets – is a comedic homage to a classic children's television show which ushered several generations of children into a fun, vibrant urban environment, where making friends and dreams come true was as easy as learning how to count to 10 in Spanish.

But things don't come so easy for the characters of “Avenue Q” – a musical named for a fictional street, nodding to Manhattan's oft-teased, less attractive neighborhoods of Avenues A, B, C and so on. The characters become cynical, the relationships awkward, and the dreams begin to feel out of reach in what looks like a rude awakening to adulthood.

Not meant for children, the musical features characters such as "Nicky," a slacker; "Rod," a politically conservative investment banker who is coming to terms with being gay; "Trekkie Monster," a reclusive porn addict; and "Gary Coleman," the former child star from the sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes” and apartment building superintendent.

The cast and puppets sing about everything, from average starting salaries in New York to holiday coping mechanisms (drinking). All funniness aside, “Avenue Q” – now on its second national tour after eight years of performances around the world – manages to address such issues as race, homosexuality, finding love, and coming to grips with the realities of adult life. In addition to singing and short animated video clips, there even is some nudity – puppet nudity.

So, if you’re thinking of moving to New York (be realistic, think it through), or would like to revisit your days of being broke and optimistic (from the comfort of your cushy theater seat of which you now can afford to buy), or you are just plain curious about how a cast of potty-mouthed puppets can be the stuff of Tony Awards (they don’t give ‘em out to just anybody), then visit the ASU Gammage box office to buy tickets to one of the March 9-14 performances.

You are guaranteed to leave the theater still laughing – or quietly humming along to the self-deprecatory tune of “It Sucks to Be Me."