The young folks spent the day running around NYC, riding the Staten Island Ferry, and spending time in Central Park. The old folks spent the day tethered to their laptops.

We met up at the apartment and walked up to our favorite restaurant, the Peking Duck House in mid-town. We had a fantastic meal there (no surprise), including having the one person in our group who was previously not a fan of seafood taking seconds.

We got there extremely early (Lois is always the overly cautious one), and that worked out. It was an unusually leisurely meal for the Duck House (which typically serves more quickly) and it all worked out perfectly. You can see how satisfied we all looked at the end of the meal:

They called for rain starting early evening, but it held off. That worked out too, since we got to walk from the Duck House to the theater, with no precipitation.

We had tickets to see Avenue Q at the Golden Theater on 45th Street. We got there at about 7:52 and were comfortably seated long before the curtain went up (or rather the lights went down, since there was no curtain) at 8:05 like most Broadway shows.

Setting the record straight, I exaggerated by saying comfortably seated. There’s nothing wrong with the Golden Theater, but we’re pretty spoiled by the Gershwin Theater (where we’ve seen Wicked seven times!), which is so much more comfortable, so much more spacious (leg room), and so many more seats…

Our goddaughter saw Avenue Q a number of years ago. She enjoyed it, but warned us that it was off color. That’s code for Lois should stay away! Both my godson and I were more than a little worried about her reaction, even though neither of knew exactly how off color the show would be.

The very first number is cute, but also sets some expectations in that regard. The words it sucks to be me are repeated too many times to count. It didn’t offend me, but I was already a tad worried about Lois. Completely due to chance, Lois and I ended up at opposite ends of our seven seat block, so we caught each other’s eye a few times, but didn’t talk about the show until it was over.

Without giving away anything material (trust me), Avenue Q is essentially an adult version of Sesame Street. In other words, it is done in the style of Sesame Street, and is meant to educate, while being playful (only this time, in an adult sense). The education is meant to teach some life lessons, but they use other techniques that are more traditional Sesame Street (as in teaching the meaning of some words).

As with Sesame Street, some of the characters are puppets, and some are honest-to-goodness humans. Different than Sesame Street, the puppets are controlled by humans who are on the stage acting alongside the puppet they are controlling, and singing and speaking without trying to pretend to be ventriloquists. It works perfectly well, so even if my description sounds cheesy, fear not!

Every single actor on the stage was excellent. There wasn’t a weak voice or performance among the group. The two leads, Howie Michael Smith and Sarah Stiles are fantastic. Great voices, great acting and great range (they each control multiple characters). That said, to repeat, the entire cast is superb, and you should check each of them out on the cast page.

Here are the two leads, then a photo of some other cast members:

The humor in the show is largely tongue-in-cheek, and goes over well with the audience. Lots of bursts of uncontrollable laughter from people all around us. But, an over-the-top focus on sex and sexual themes. Not innuendo, but rather explicit stuff. Keep in mind that they can do things with puppets on the stage that actors couldn’t get away with. Nuff said.

That kind of stuff doesn’t bug me, in any way, even when it’s completely gratuitous. I love comedy/humor in most forms. I believe I’ve said in the past that I like it even when it isn’t funny, as long as I can project where they were heading, if the unrealized destination would have been funny.

In this case, it also didn’t bug me at all. But, it was more than just over-the-top. It was actually vulgar at times, and I imagine that it offended a number of people (including Lois) though many (not including Lois) wouldn’t be comfortable admitting their discomfort. Even the vulgarity was good for cheap laughs, and the audience as a whole most definitely laughed heartily even at those jokes!

I tried not to look around too much, but I heard some people say something about kids being in the audience. I hope there weren’t too many (or rather any!). If parents brought young children to this show, thinking it’s only a puppet show with singing, they were sadly mistaken, and abrogated their parental responsibility to investigate the show in advance of bringing their kids. Of course, if they did, and still brought their kids, their judgment needs to be checked in other matters as well (in my opinion).

From very early on, it was entirely obvious that this was not going to be a PC (Politically Correct) show. For that, I applaud them completely. In my opinion, the PC in this country is out of control. Not wanting to offend entire groups of people is laudable. But, the same people that feel it’s verboten to say something against this particular group, have no shame in knocking something else (oh, let’s say Republicans or Christians).

Avenue Q takes no prisoners, and shouldn’t!

That said, they also take the obligatory shot at President Bush (only one, which was in itself impressive restraint!). The crowd whooped it up like they had just heard the funniest joke in their life! It’s fine, and wasn’t over-the-top in any sense.

That said, I found it incredibly ironic. Basically, the complaint is that life under W’s rule is horrible, and we simply can’t wait to get out from under it. I realize that at a minimum, at least half of the country feels this way, perhaps even more. So, it’s a legitimate point of view, right or wrong. But, in this case, it’s written by people who have a very successful Broadway hit on their hands (a Tony winner!), it’s being delivered by actors who are starring in a Broadway hit, and being received by people who can afford to take their dates/families/friends to a Broadway show, all in the midst of these horrible economic times.

Yes, the lives of all of those that shared this very clever joke all seem terribly in shambles at this time, entirely due to W’s iron-fisted madness!

Unfortunately, I really worry about the half of the country that thinks their lives will be immeasurably better when either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama become President. The magical thinking that goes on, that a President exerts such power to change things (in either direction) simply discounts what our government and economy have become and how they work. Oh well…

In and around all of the jokes, there are actually some very deep insights about life, and the plight we all experience as we grow up and make our own way. I’m impressed with the way the writers deliver those lessons (to those who are paying attention) in a subtle and lighthearted manner.

Bottom line: A very clever show, wittily written, with good songs, great singing, excellent harmonies, lots of funny dialog, top-notch acting and great puppeteering. If you don’t mind vulgarity (at times), and lots of focus on sex (even when it’s not vulgar), and you aren’t offended by non-PC jokes, you will really enjoy this show. I did, even though I can totally understand why some others might not.

When we got out it was raining. It was coming down reasonably steadily, but it wasn’t too cold, and it wasn’t windy (so the rain was coming straight down rather than blowing in your face), so we walked home (cutting through Grand Central as we did the night before). Given all of the weather predictions, so far, it’s held up remarkably well.

Another excellent day!

Tags: Avenue Q, Broadway, Comedy, Food, Peking Duck House, Politics

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