“Avenue Q” Blogger Night

There are few activities I enjoy more than catching up with my blogger friends (and meeting new bloggers) and thanks to the folks at Avenue Q we were invited for a special blogger night performance of the show on January 19. The group of us converged on New World Stages, where the little show that could recently played its 500th performance (off-Broadway; all totaled, it’s been open almost 8 years!). The musical surprised everyone in September 2009 when its producer Kevin McCollum announced it would move from Broadway to off-Broadway (where it first ran in 2003) and that’s proved to be a lucrative transfer and shows no signs of slowing down.

The cast is mostly comprised of veterans from the show’s Broadway and national tour companies. Anika Larsen, who was making a return to the show that very evening, is just delightful. She’s a phenomenal performer, but she is someone who is also clearly a teaching artist as evidenced by her clarity and intelligence in the post show q&a. Jonathan Root brings a compelling sincerity to Princeton/Rod that gave both puppets unexpected depth. Jed Resnick was on as Nicky/Trekkie Monster and gave a phenomenally funny performance, showing us that he should be more than the understudy.

The show works on a number of levels, but it is fascinating is how its simplistic portrayal of urban life is so reflective of what many in the audience are currently experiencing, or have experienced in his or her own lifetime. Using a platform similar to Sesame Street and the pastiche of its lesson songs as a starting point, it gives perspective on the various crises that infiltrate adulthood – dream job, money, relationships, etc. There seems to be a little bit of Princeton, Kate, Rod, Nicky et al in every one of us. Plus, I find the subversive puppetry in general to be hilarious. What was most interesting – I still the show quite funny, but on a repeat viewing (and knowing the book) it was the poignant moments that really stood out to me (esp. Larsen’s “Fine, Fine Line” and “I Wish I Could Go Back to College”).

After the show, the bloggers were invited to meet with the cast and ask questions and pose with various puppets. Larsen talked about the rigors of auditioning for the show, which includes a 2 day puppet intensive. The actors gave considerable insight into how much preparation and rehearsal goes into acting with a puppet – it impacts movement, staging and character – and they must be aware of how to present the puppets. I noticed cast member Ruthie Ann Miles who plays Mrs. T and one of the Bad Idea Bears, was manipulating the puppet as an extension of herself; even out of character the muscle memory remains.

The blog event was, in my estimation, a wonderful way for the show to present itself to those of us participating in social media (and I know other shows are following suit), though I have one suggestion for this and other shows looking to do the same: have a pre-show meet and greet so we can meet some of the other bloggers. It’s a thriving atmosphere and there were some people I know only through their tweets and blogs who were in attendance that I would have liked meeting.

This trip to Avenue Q marked another first – I took my non-theatergoing brother to the show with me. He’s never been one for the musicals, but I also thought Q would be a good first show for him (and other bloggers at the event agreed). His brief assessment: he got into it at the beginning, felt the second half of the first act lagged and really picked up steam in the second act.  Overall, he liked it very much.

The show is offering a great discount through May 26, 2011: With the code AQBLOG12, can get tickets as low as $55! You can bring the code to the New World Stages box office, mention it over the phone, or plug it in at Broadway Offers.

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