Avenue Q – The National Tour
Music & Lyrics by: Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx
Book by: Jeff Whitty
Directed by: Jason Moore
Produced by: Work Light Productions
At The Bank of America Theatre
Funny and clever as ever, Avenue Q stops in Chicago for a limited engagement.
Most Broadway aficionados are already highly familiar with the Tony-Winning Smash-Musical, Avenue Q. I will admit at the beginning of this review that I hold a slight bias to this show because it is my favorite musical. I first heard the soundtrack back in 2004 and have nearly memorized the entire score. With its catchy rhythms, brilliant lyrics, and often hilarious observations of everyday life, it is in my opinion the best musical of the twenty-first century. For one week, the touring company is setting up shop at the Bank of America Theatre, so if you have yet to witness this side-splitting show now is your chance.
The story follows a young college graduate named Princeton, as he heads out on his own to find his purpose in life. He rents out an apartment on Avenue Q where he falls for a beautiful young monster named Kate. The story is set up like an adult version of Sesame Street, with a pair of roommates named Rod and Nikky that hearken back to Bert and Ernie, a porn obsessed parody of Cookie Monster, and loveable bears the spew torrents of terrible advice. The performance is done with actors carrying the puppets of their characters which gives a surprising depth to the show because you simultaneously see the actor and the puppet going through the same emotions. The songs are full of lyrics that will make you hold your jaw open in shock, then force you to laugh at the truth behind what was said. With song titles like, “Everyone’s a little bit Racist,” “The Internet is for Porn,” and “It sucks to be Me,” it is definitely not your average musical. What is unexpected about this show is the emotional depth it has. Rod’s journey to confront his homosexuality and Kate Monster’s heartbreak at the end of the first act are truly affecting moments. If you have listened to the soundtrack before you need to see the entire show because the book is just as smart and funny as the score. Even though I have seen this play before and memorized the soundtrack, I found myself laughing continually. This cast has great comedic timing, knowing when to speed through a line or hold a pause at just the right moment.
The only people who shouldn’t see this play are small children because the subject matter is so raunchy at times. It is funny, the older I get the more this show makes sense to me because I graduated from college last May and have been struggling in the world ever since. I have only seen this play one other time, and this production is definitely stronger than the touring company from last year. I am delighted to see this show back in Chicago. Last year was the first time since then that this show was seen in Chicago since the pre-Broadway engagement, so the fact that it is here a second year in a row is a treat within itself. It is only here for this week so if you were like me and missed the pre-Broadway engagement in 2003 and the tour last year, get yourself down to the Bank of America Theatre and see this show.
At Bank of America Theatre. 18 W. Monroe St. Tickets $25-75, Call 1-800-775-2000, Visit Broadway in Chicago Box offices (24 W. Randolph St., 151 W. Randolph St., and 18 W. Monroe St.), or visit www.ticketmaster.com. Group Rates Available. Tuesday, Friday, Saturday at 8:00 PM; Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday at 7:30 PM, Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 PM. Running time is approximately 2 Hours with 1 15-minute intermission.